London is aiming to transform its green credentials by 2012 as everything from the London bus to Tower Bridge is given an eco makeover in time for the Olympic Games. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, pledged yesterday that the capital will see hundreds of green projects come to fruition in time for the opening ceremony on 27 July.
Mr Johnson said: "I want London to look its very best in 2012 as the eyes of the world are upon us. The games are a unique opportunity for London to secure its position for another generation as the best big city in the world."
Across the capital a series of major new initiatives are already underway to bring low-energy lights to London's most famous buildings, ensure homes in the Olympic boroughs are as eco-friendly as possible, and even to ensure that officials and athletes can travel using a fleet of electric cars.
London Councils, which represents all of the capital's boroughs, says its members see 2012 as the ultimate shop window. "All boroughs see 2012 as an opportunity to show their local area off to the world," said a spokesman. "From eco-schemes to park and street make-overs, 2012 has provided a useful goal for councils to work towards and deliver improvements that will last long after the Games have been and gone."
However, some experts say boroughs run the risk of simply labelling every project a "2012 project".
Simon Mills, head of sustainability at the City of London Corporation, said: "There is a danger with people simply labelling projects as being part of 2012 – we saw the same thing in 2000. These have to be legacy projects for London to bring us into the low-carbon economy. However, that said, there are a lot of excellent legacy projects being proposed."
The Games have already begun to touch almost every aspect of life in London. London's road network is already seeing dramatic changes put in place for the Games.
The £225m London's Great Outdoors project has already led to initiatives such as the diagonal pedestrian crossing at Oxford Circus, and a redevelopment of Brixton Town Square. By 2012, Exhibition Road, Piccadilly and Pall Mall will see major changes to traffic flow.
However, it has become a double-edged sword for Londoners as Thames Water increases its disruptive roadworks programme ahead of the Games. But Transport for London has pledged the capital will remain roadworks free (apart from emergency work) during the Games.
Even the capital's trees have been affected. The re:leaf project has 9,500 of the 10,000 new street trees it committed to plant by 2012. John Armitt, chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, claims that sustainability has been key to the plans to build the Olympic Park as well.
"Our targets include re-using and recycling 90 per cent of waste, delivering over half the materials needed by sustainable transport, using natural remediation methods to clean soil, barges to take away segregated waste through newly dredged waterways and only legal and sustainable timber sourced through a supplier panel," he said.
"We wanted to lift the bar for the industry and set new sustainability standards and our contractors and suppliers have more than risen to the challenge. We hope that this project becomes a beacon for the planning, design and delivery of future large-scale projects."
THE PROJECTS TURNING LONDON GREEN FOR 2012
An eco-light makeover for Victorian icon
One of the world's most famous landmarks is to be turned into a giant eco light show under plans backed by the Mayor of London.
Thousands of low-power LED lights are set to be installed along Tower Bridge as part of a project by the City of London Corporation, City Hall, EDF and GE.
Currently Tower Bridge has traditional, static floodlighting. However, the new plans, which are yet to receive planning permission, will use LED lights, and will allow staff to alter which parts of the bridge are lit up, and even what colour lights are used. "This will enable Tower Bridge to respond to special events in a unique and spectacular manner,"the City of London Corporation said.
Citelum, the firm designing the lights, has previously worked on projects at the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, the Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur and the Eiffel Tower.
More importantly, by replacing the high-powered fluorescent lights, the team behind the scheme hopes it will reduce the energy consumption of the bridge by 40 per cent.
The work is scheduled to start in September and be completed by spring 2012, in time for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, believes that the hi-tech lighting could make the bridge into a focal point for the capital in 2012. "I want London to look its very best in 2012 as the eyes of the world are upon us," he said.
"Tower Bridge is one of this city's most stunning landmarks, recognised the world over and therefore deserving of a star role in these year-long celebrations."
A sparkling example of green power
The EDF Energy London Eye was among the first of the capital's landmarks to "go green", when an LED lighting system was introduced as part of its 2009 refurbishment.
It saves 69 per cent more energy than the previous version and allows operators to use easily the LED lights in synchronised displays – such as on New Year's Eve.
Previously, the Eye was lit by fluorescent tubes, and required the manual installation of gels to produce coloured light for special events. However, it now has more than 640 lights, each of which can be individually controlled, and they can be seen from a mile away. Even the pods on the Eye were redesigned to make them "greener" – the £12.5m capsule-upgrade project reduced the Eye's electricity consumption and the use of refrigerant gas in its climate-cooling system has been reduced by 20 per cent.
Nick Varney of Merlin Entertainments, which operates the London Eye, said: "We are proud to be involved in this initiative and to have the opportunity to work with EDF Energy to help to make the London Eye, and London itself, more sustainable and environmentally responsible in the future. The London Eye is a unique attraction and a contemporary icon of London and the UK, so there can be no better way to get this important message across."
EDF has also guaranteed that every unit of energy used by the EDF Energy London Eye is matched with energy generated from low-carbon sources.
Network of stations for recharging
2012 could become a showcase for electric and hybrid vehicles, with everything from the family runabout to the London bus changing beyond all recognition.
Key to the plan is Source London, a network of recharging stations. Although it currently consists of only 150 points, by 2013, according to Mayor Boris Johnson, London will have more electric charging points than petrol stations. More than 1,300 publicly accessible points will be scattered across the capital – in residential streets, supermarkets, car parks and leisure centres.
Experts say the move is critical to the widespread adoption of electric cars in London.
"Source London's roll-out of more charging points means electric vehicles are going to become very familiar indeed," said the motoring journalist Quentin Willson.
For consumers, 2012 will also see the widespread availability of cars like Nissan's Electric Leaf, billed as the electric car suitable for the family. In early tests it has performed very well and won dozens of major motoring awards. EDF Energy has also partnered with Toyota and Mercedes-Benz to bring electric vehicles to both businesses and consumers in London in trials funded by the Government's technology strategy board.
Even the London bus is going green, with a hybrid replacement for the Routemaster set to arrive on the capital's streets early next year.
Last week Mr Johnson unveiled the first bus, currently being tested in Bedfordshire before being introduced to London roads early next year. In fact, the Mayor has pledged that by 2012, all newly commissioned buses will be hybrid vehicles.