Iconic buildings get green makeover

Story highlights

  • Tower Bridge in London is being retrofitted with LED light bulbs that will reduce its energy consumption by 40%
  • The project will be completed by the start of the 2012 Olympics, which are aiming to be the greenest ever
  • Other famous buildings to be retrofitted with green technology include Sydney Opera House and the Empire State Building

One of London's most iconic landmarks is being given a green energy makeover as part of the city's preparations to host the most environmentally friendly Olympic Games in history.

Tower Bridge, which has spanned the River Thames for over 100 years, is being retrofitted with an LED lighting system that will reduce the structure's energy consumption by 40%, according to the City of London.

The project will be completed by the start of this summer's sporting extravaganza and will cut it's electricity bills, making the bridge cheaper to maintain and operate.

But while the new-look lighting will go some way to accentuating the structure's unmistakeable features, one green building expert believes retrofitting famous monuments can do more than just add to their aesthetic.

"These high profile projects can highlight the importance of retrofitting and cause people to think about installing renewable energy systems on the micro level," says John Alker, director of policy at the UK Green Building Council.

"Relatively speaking, Tower Bridge will save a small amount of energy but this could translate into a quite significant proportion if people can be persuaded to follow," he adds.

In recent years, other famous landmarks have adopted a similarly proactive approach to reducing their carbon output.

The Vatican City, the Empire State Building and the Sydney Opera House have all employed low-energy solutions in one form or another.

Alker is enthusiastic about the benefits of retrofitting famous landmarks, but warns that a balance must be found so that the integrity of historic buildings can be maintained.

"You have to be particularly sensitive, particularly to the facade of the building" he says.

"But in many cases much of what can be done -- like improving insulation, replacing windows and making air conditioning more efficient -- doesn't necessarily have to be visibly noticeable or negligible on the aesthetic value of the building," he adds.