£1bn needed to make theatre buildings sustainable


November 9, 2021

New research by consultancies AECOM, Avison Young, Bristow Consulting and Buro Happold for Theatres Trust has revealed the extent of the work needed to make the UK’s theatre buildings sustainable.

Matching the current state of theatres against the costs of recent refurbishment projects, the research group has revealed that making a typical 600-seat theatre fully sustainable and accessible will cost £11m. Analysis of 100 representative UK theatres estimates that £1.1bn is needed to make them sustainable and suitable for modern audiences.

However, the research, which was presented at the Theatres Trust Conference 21 Making Theatre Sustainable, shows that this level of investment in 100 theatres would bring huge benefits, saving 6,500 tonnes of CO2 per year - the equivalent of 9,700 return economy flights to New York 2 - as well as £3.3m annual revenue savings for the UK’s theatres / an average of £33,000 per theatre.

Finance is the major obstacle to theatres improving their building’s carbon footprint. In a separate survey 86% of theatres responding said it was a major challenge, with this figure rising to 92% in historic theatres. As a result, 24% of theatres have not made any green improvements to their buildings in the past 15 years and, of the 70% who had, only 20% had energy savings as the primary reason for refurbishment.

To help theatre buildings become more sustainable, Theatres Trust has spearheaded the Theatre Green Book project, along with the Association of British Theatre Technicians and Buro Happold, and it has been co-ordinated by architect and Theatres Trust interim chair Paddy Dillon.
The initiative has the backing of all the leading UK theatre sector and sustainability bodies, including SOLT/UK Theatre, Julie’s Bicycle, Federation of Scottish Theatre, Creu Cymru and Theatre and Dance NI.

The Sustainable Buildings volume, published last week, will be accompanied by a toolkit to guide theatre operators towards prioritising the most effective works to carry out on their individual buildings.

Paddy Dillon, interim chair of Theatres Trust, and co-ordinator of the Theatre Green Book, says: “This shows the scale of the task we face in equipping our theatres for the climate emergency. These are some of our best-known and best-loved public buildings. Our world-leading theatre sector depends on making them fit for purpose. It’s essential we work together to find solutions to this urgent challenge.”

Theatres Trust director Jon Morgan comments: “The theatre sector recognises there is a climate emergency and there is the will for change, as has been shown by how positively the Theatre Green Bookproject has been embraced across the sector. Funding this vital work is the major hurdle, a problem that has been made even more challenging by the pandemic, but the Sustainable Buildings volume of the Theatre Green Book will help theatres focus their resources on the most impactful works.

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