To mark this years’ Theatres Trust conference we’re releasing some important research which will help define what net zero means for theatre buildings.
Our study shows that for a typical newbuild theatre it will be at least thirty years before the combined carbon emissions of construction and operation are less than those that would be emitted running an existing theatre for the same time. A typical retrofit or refurbishment it is much better, but it still could be around fifteen years before there is any carbon benefit over doing nothing.
Tackling climate change is a matter of urgency, and our data shows that the issue of upfront carbon needs to be addressed equally alongside the reduction in operational carbon emissions. For this reason we have been carrying out research on our theatre projects to analyse the amount of upfront carbon emitted during their construction, and we have used this data to suggest where we think targets for upfront carbon should be set to achieve Net Zero by 2030.
New construction is inevitable if we want to improve our theatre infrastructure, and physical change to a building, or even a new-build theatre are often the only possible solutions, but by publishing our data we want to highlight the need to think about carbon as we make design decisions. New design software allows architects and designers to measure the carbon intensity of a project at any point in the design process, this means that it is becoming easier to understand where the ‘carbon hotspots’ are in a building and focus our attention on creating more carbon-efficient solutions to achieve the brief.
For theatre clients the study also focuses attention on the brief, and highlights that the structure of the stage and auditorium, which are key to the brief and business plan, are the most carbon-intensive parts of a theatre building. This gives designers the challenge of doing more with less, and considering low carbon materials like timber, or building elements salvaged from elsewhere.
In publishing this data and suggesting new targets, we’d like to encourage other designers to do the same, so that a bigger database of information is available, and solutions to reducing embodied carbon in theatres can be freely shared.
Follow the link on the side bar of this page to view our research or visit our sustainability section on the website.
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