The Nottingham Playhouse

The Nottingham Playhouse is a Grade II listed building, built in 1963. In 2013 the Playhouse received £1 million from Arts Council England’s Large Capital Grants Programme for redevelopment work.

Nottingham Playhouse is a Grade II listed building, built in 1963. In 2013 the Playhouse received £1 million from Arts Council England’s Large Capital Grants Programme for redevelopment work. To make up the remainder of the £1.9 million cost, it had planned to borrow money from commercial lenders with borrowing costs of £38,000. However the city council, which owns the building, provided a £230,000 loan towards improving energy efficiency, costing just £469 in interest and waived rent on the building for 13 years. The work was completed in summer 2015.

The project aim was to make the building more sustainable for the future:

“It will be more comfortable for our audiences, more efficient to heat and light, and therefore much cheaper to operate, so that all our energy, and all your support, goes into our work, not our bills. ”

– Stephanie Sirr, Chief Executive

Understanding the Building

Finding the balance between comfort and environmental sustainability was a key element of the project.

Nottingham Playhouse had a strong understanding of the energy performance of the building at the start and had identified key problem areas which included: the main entrances into the buildings (frameless glass windows), the roof and the single glazed windows. Their Environmental Working group had managed to improve its Display Energy Certificate (DEC) rating before the application for the development project.

Prior to its redevelopment, Nottingham Playhouse had been working with Nottingham Trent University’s Future Factory to identify sustainable design options for the building. Through this, they examined the thermal heat spots to identify where energy was being lost within the building. In 2012/13 with Marsh Grochowski, Focus Consultants and Price & Myers Sustainability they also conducted a feasibility study which recommended exploring a variety of low carbon and energy options including:

  • photovoltaic panels
  • use of grey water
  • insulating the brick work
  • thermal energy
  • double glazing
  • using wind energy for electricity generation
  • using biomass for heating

In the end, the study showed that it would be more cost effective to replace the windows as opposed to insulating the brick work. Biomass and wind were ruled out as unsuitable for the city centre location. The final solution was to go with solar photovoltaic (PV) panels for electricity generation, secondary double glazing, aerogel insulation in the metal window frames and roof insulation. Other options implemented included replacing 50 year old stage lighting with energy efficient lighting. They also established a zoned building management system to facilitate energy management.

The capital investment is expected to reduce energy use by 30 per cent and generate annual cost savings of £55,000-£58,000. As the building only reopened in 2015, it is too early to determine the extent to which these savings have been achieved. However even before the system is fully calibrated and electricity generation by the solar PV panels fully live, Nottingham Playhouse has already seen a 35 per cent reduction in gas use cent and a 19 per cent reduction in electricity. Initial electricity savings are projected at 5 per cent. The 19 per cent savings achieved so far are in part due to additional replacement of the theatre lanterns.

The Building Management System (BMS) is working well and, once a new IT installation is in place they have ambitions to place displays in the front of house areas communicating the energy saved. In addition to this they have four new usable spaces within the envelope of the Playhouse, that can be used for corporate hire, workshops and events, generating additional income.

Nottingham Playhouse’s Environmental Working Group is currently looking at next steps to ensure the building is environmentally sustainable in use.

Sustaining Creativity