Applying 21st Century technology to a listed building

The Playhouse, as it’s known to locals, first opened its doors in 1938. Built at a cost of £25,000, it was the last new theatre in the UK to be completed before the outbreak of WW II.

Since those turbulent times The Playhouse has, through it’s connection to Oxford University, seen the first tentative steps on to the professional stage of a pantheon of household names. It all began here on stage for Rowan Atkinson, Michael Palin and Dudley Moore. While at the height of their stardom, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor trod the boards with students of the University Dramatic Society.

Over the years the 663 seater theatre has been refurbished numerous times. Most recently, in 2016, a partial LED lighting system and secondary glazing was installed to improve energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency ROI exceeding 300%

Despite the fairly recent efficiency measures, our consultant found room for substantial improvement. Although a listed building will always be subject to the limitations of its original design, we created a package of efficiency measures sensitive to the building’s fabric and aesthetic

The most obvious causes for concern being the period front of house. Simple draft exclusion measures in this area alone saving £2,500 a year and 20t of CO2.

The, often overlooked, heat loss from the boiler room requiring no more than simple insulation reduces CO2 by a healthy 2 tonnes/annum. While optimising boiler programming takes annual savings in this area to over £3,000.

Theatres are complex spaces, with highly sporadic lighting, heating and ventilation requirements. Fitment of a building-wide energy monitoring system, allied to an extension of the PIR system providing the largest annual energy cost reduction of over £3,250.

As a fully financed package, the project shows positive cashflow in Q1 and payback within just over 2 years.