Royal Institution’s historic building set to become environmental exemplar with £4.35m support from GLA

The Royal Institution is set to receive £4.35m funding from the Greater London Authority, it was announced by Deputy Mayor of London Shirley Rodrigues today.

The facade of the Royal Institution building
Image credit: Tim Mitchell

Speaking at an investors’ event for Undaunted, the climate change innovation centre launched last year through a partnership between the Royal Institution (Ri) and the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, Deputy Mayor Rodrigues said that the funding would be utilised to environmentally refurbish the Ri’s historic building in central London, drastically reducing its carbon footprint.

The refurbishment works will begin to set the Ri building as an exemplar of what can be achieved with older building stock, demonstrating the large-scale retrofit projects which will characterise how London and many other cities achieve their zero emission targets. As a Grade I-listed building with parts dating from 1705, the Ri’s home in Albemarle Street represents the stiffest challenge to retrofit, being more challenging than new build and more relevant to London.

Speaking to an audience of clean-tech investors, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues, said: “I am excited to announce a £4.35million grant to the Royal Institution to retrofit and refurbish its historic headquarters as part of the Mayor of London’s support to create the capital’s leading hub for cleantech activity.

“Improving the energy efficiency of buildings is just one of the ways we can work towards a net zero London by 2030. London is a beautiful city with some stunning buildings but many of the older, listed buildings have very poor energy efficiency. I hope this demonstrates that London is leading the way when it comes to retrofitting older buildings.

“The new home of Undaunted will be a centre for some of the most innovative businesses and start-ups tackling London’s environmental challenges. It will be a place for people to come together and develop initiatives to build a better, 

greener and more prosperous city for all Londoners.” 

Katherine Mathieson talking at the Undaunted Demo Day
Image credit: Dan Weill

Welcoming the grant funding from the GLA, Director of the Royal Institution, Katherine Mathieson, said: Climate change is the greatest challenge of our age. It is vital that we tackle the causes, while mitigating and adapting for the damage that has already been done.

“And while the need to act is urgent, the GLA’s generous funding support demonstrates that it’s not too late to take action. It will help us make our historic building an exemplar of what can be achieved with older building stock. And what a message that sends from London to every city and town in the UK, about what might be done with each and every existing building.”

Professor Mary Ryan, Vice Provost (Research and Enterprise) at Imperial College London, said: “At Imperial, our vision is to accelerate the world to sustainable, zero pollution. That means finding practical innovations that can make a difference on a scale never seen before. Undaunted will show the world what can be achieved when scientists, investors, businesses, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and the public work together to tackle climate change. We are proud to work with the Royal Institution and the GLA on this vital and urgent work and welcome this funding to make Undaunted’s home at the Ri sustainable and fit for the future.”

Deputy Mayor Rodrigues was speaking in the Ri’s iconic Theatre – where John Tyndall first publicly revealed his work to identify greenhouse gases in the mid-nineteenth century – at an event tackling climate change by increasing the potential and accelerating the speed with which cleantech start-ups take their climate change innovation to market.

Seeking to secure investment during the event, start-ups being supported by Undaunted’s Greenhouse programme – such as NetZeroNitrogen, developing a product to eliminate synthetic nitrogen fertilizer’s estimated 1 billion+ tonnes of CO2e annual contribution to global warming; and CO2CO, addressing climate change with atmospheric carbon dioxide removal – are aiming to develop commercially viable solutions to the climate crisis.

Also speaking at today’s event was Pierre Paslier, CEO and co-founder of Notpla – a start-up which received support from Imperial’s predecessor to the Undaunted Greenhouse – which last week won one of just five prestigious Earth Shot Prizes awarded annually, for their development of a seaweed-based alternative to plastic packaging.

The GLA funding has been awarded to the Ri under the Mayor of London’s stated commitment to achieve Zero Net Carbon status for London by 2030. As the home of Undaunted – revealed at today’s event as the new name for a Centre for Climate Change Innovation – the GLA’s support will ensure that the Ri is environmentally fit for purpose. Through the refurbishment works, the roof of the Ri building will be insulated, the existing gas heating will be replaced with an all-electric heat pump system, and all windows will be replaced or repaired with secondary glazing added.

Subject to the necessary planning permissions and listed building consent from

English Heritage, the works are due to be completed by October 2025.