The Building Conservation Directory 2022

PROFESS IONAL SERVI CES 1 13 C AT H E D R A L C O MM U N I C AT I O N S T H E B U I L D I N G C O N S E R VAT I O N D I R E C T O R Y 2 0 2 2 HOW GREEN IS YOUR THEATRE? Environmental improvements to historic performance venues EDMUND WILSON T HE DEMOLITION of old buildings has, for a long time, been justified by the idea that meaningful improvement means replacement with something that is new and more efficient. In the face of this argument, historic buildings have relied on legislation and public support to justify their existence, rather than their environmental credentials. However, recent research has shown that the majority of a new building’s carbon footprint is not carbon consumed in its operation by heating and lighting, but in the embodied carbon used in its construction. With only a small proportion of the building stock being replaced every year, the buildings with which we will face the crucial years of the climate crisis are the buildings we have now. These striking facts have helped shift thinking from replacement towards the necessity of improving the carbon running costs of the existing building stock. Urgent action on the climate crisis does not mean a rush to construct new buildings. Given the scale and complexity of upgrading nearly every aspect of existing buildings, there is a danger that the sheer size of the task could translate into complacency or inaction. Old buildings are inefficient to run, consuming huge amounts of fuel to provide levels of comfort they were never designed for. The problems of heating, cooling and ventilating historic theatre buildings to modern standards are only magnified by the size of the spaces involved. Their size, combined with current expectations of comfort, make these buildings some of the most expensive and energy intensive to run. How the environmental efficiency of existing performance venues might be improved was the subject of the Theatres Trust Conference in 2021, Making Theatre Sustainable. The event saw the launch of the Theatre Green Book, an invaluable guide for theatre owners and operators on how to improve the environmental performance of their venue. Edited by Paddy Dillon, one of the innovations of the Theatre Green Book is the link it provides to an online assessment tool developed by engineers Buro Happold. This tool allows theatre operators to input data from their building and produce a quick assessment The Art Deco (c1930) auditorium of the Trafalgar Theatre, London, which has recently reopened with a more efficient ventilation system and low energy LED lighting (Photo: Tom Lee)