The Royal National Theatre: NT Future

NT Future is the Royal National Theatre’s £80 million redevelopment programme, which started in 2010 and is due for completion in late 2015.

NT Future is the National Theatre’s £83 million redevelopment programme. The redevelopment started in 2010, w completion in 2015. £52.5 million was raised by the NT through donations from individuals, trusts and foundations, and £7.5 million from the NT’s own earnings from War Horse; with the remainder from Arts Council England (£20.5 million) and the Heritage Lottery Fund (£2.5 million). A further £7.5 million was designated from NT reserves and the rest came from private donations.

Alongside allowing audiences closer engagement with the theatre, both on stage and behind the scenes, one of the major aims of the project is to improve the sustainability of the building and its finances, in accordance with the NT’s broader business objective: ‘The NT operates in a financially and environmentally responsible manner, whilst striving to increase self-generated income.’ The redevelopment aims to generate an extra £1 million a year from having more seats in the new Dorfman Theatre, new catering facilities and an improved shop, and by targeting a 30 per cent reduction in energy use.


The project, designed by Haworth Tompkins Architects, focuses on making better use of what it already has, keeping new build to a minimum – only 5% of the whole building – and renewing its 1970’s equipment and infrastructure.

Combined Heat and Power

The theatre has installed a Combined Heat and Power plant (which generates heat from waste exhaust) as well as a ground source heat pump (GSHP) in the new building. It is also introducing a new cooling strategy using ‘ice’ storage, which is more energy efficient than traditional cooling systems. The thermal envelope of the workshop buildings has been improved by installing roof and wall insulation (non-existent in the original design), double glazed rooflights and a green (sedum) roof.

The installation of the CHP has already resulted in energy savings, but it will not be possible to accurately quantify savings until all new ‘smart’ control systems and the building management system (BMS) are commissioned, and have had a settling in period.

Data delivered via electrical sub-metering installed in strategic positions across the site is now being monitored and will be used to target areas showing unusually high demand and investigate how energy is used in these areas and inform procedural and behavioural improvements.

LED Lighting

LED lighting is being introduced in the foyers and external public areas. A new smart lighting control system using movement sensors and ambient lighting controls to utilise natural daylight is being rolled out in the office areas as part of a re-wiring project.


The NT plans to install a water extraction plant in 2015, utilising the reservoir from the local London aquifer, a more sustainable supply of non-potable water than treated potable water. A ‘bore hole’ of 125 metres was sunk down below the foundations of the new building, which will provide 100 cubic metres per day, enough to fully meet the building’s demand for non-potable water i.e. sanitary and washing facilities and evaporative cooling towers.

Working with contractors experienced in installing new sustainable technologies and with a good understanding of environmental strategies has been important in the construction process, to avoid delays with installation and day-to-day operational problems in the early stages of use.


The Temporary Theatre (originally known as The Shed) was constructed as a temporary 225 seat auditorium to provide a third auditorium whilst the Cottesloe Theatre was closed during the National Theatre’s (NT) redevelopment, at a cost of £1.2 million. The NT, architects Haworth Tompkins and theatre consultants Charcoalblue, initially explored the possibility of designing a building that could be fully reused. They decided the extra construction and transport costs for a moveable building, couldn't be justified and chose instead to focus on making it out of recyclable components. It was designed and built in little more than a year, a collaborative process between the building designers, the theatre, and theatremakers, more closely resembling a theatre show than a conventional construction project.

Wherever possible, components from elsewhere were reused, for example the seating was taken from the original theatre; reclaimed materials were used, mainly reclaimed steel and plywood, and; reusable or recyclable materials were used. For example, the stage floor and galleries are made from reusable modular panels and steelwork was left unpainted so that it can easily be recycled.

The Temporary Theatre was designed to be as low energy as possible. Heat is provided by the NT’s heating system supported by the Combined Heat and Power Plant and the four corner towers allow for natural ventilation, drawing air in naturally from under the seats to avoid mechanical ventilation.


Sustaining Creativity