Theatre Royal Plymouth

Theatre Royal Plymouth is one of the largest and best attended regional producing theatres in the UK and a leading promoter of theatre in the South West. The venue was built in the 1980s, when both energy efficiency and the cost of fossil fuels were not as much of a concern as they are now, and in recent years the theatre has been tackling this issue and increasing it’s environmental credentials.

It was the first theatre in the UK to be accredited by the Carbon Trust under its Energy Efficiency Accreditation scheme, receiving a Carbon Trust award in 2007, and has been measuring and monitoring energy usage for the past six years.

From 2009 to 2010 Theatre Royal Plymouth achieved a significant 25% reduction in emissions resulting from energy usage per seat per performance (from 0.99 kg CO2e down to 0.75 CO2e), and have been awarded 1 star Industry Green in their initial year of assessment.

Theatre Royal Plymouth exterior

Environmental initiatives

The theatre’s environmental team meets regularly to discuss new ideas and how best to implement and communicate them, and provides regular reports to senior management.

Water conservation: Measures taken to tackle water wastage included the installation of urinal control and percussion taps following the advise of South West Water, their sponsors. This saved 2,300 tonnes of water and £10,000. Hippo water savers have been installed in every toilet back of house, which saves 3 litres of water with every flush.

Reuse and recycling: Modification and reuse of costumes, recycling electrical and electronic equipment, recycling scenery, recycling and reusing batteries, and compression of paper and cardboard are some waste reduction techniques employed by Theatre Royal Plymouth. In March 2011 when replacing fire safety equipment, Theatre Royal Plymouth donated their 25 obsolete fire hoses to an animal sanctuary. These were then reused for entertainment for the monkeys in the sanctuary - just one example of the innovative methods employed by the theatre to help reduce landfill waste.

Lighting: Roof lights have been replaced with LEDs that last longer and use up to 90% less energy than standard bulbs. With 6000 lamps in the building, changes like this add up to make a huge difference to the theatre’s energy efficiency without making any noticeable difference to the aesthetics of the building.

Staff have also been engaged in a “Switch off” campaign, in order to avoid lights and equipment being left on when not in use.

Energy saving: Theatre Royal Plymouth replaced a 750kw boiler that was only 50% efficient with two Zenex® Blades (each powered by a 50Kw condensing boiler operating at over 98% efficiency) and introduced a new computerised Building Energy Management System (BEMS) which divides the building into ‘zones’ of energy use. This has led to a 25.5% reduction in gas usage.

As the BEMS takes the heat produced by people (audiences) into account, the theatre relies less on mechanical heating and cooling. Air conditioning will only cut in if the outside temperature is too warm and vice versa. In addition to this, coolers are set to 80% speed, which can save up to 50% of their usual energy requirement.

Communication: The theatre uses DECs (Display Energy Certificates - which are on display in the venue), the Theatre Royal Plymouth website, online media and the local press to communicate its environmental initiatives and progress to staff, management, contractors and audiences. Industry magazines such as Sightline were also used to communicate success stories, such as the theatre’s receipt of the Carbon Trust Award. There are also notice boards in the venue for updating staff of the latest environmental actions planned to take place.

Future plans

The theatre is considering installing solar panels, which will dramatically cut their energy costs and create greater energy independence. It is also considering applying for ISO 160001 - an assurance that the appropriate Energy Management Systems are in place.

In their own words...

Commenting on the theatre's 1 star Industry Green certification, Kevin Faulkner, Premises Manager of Theatre Royal Plymouth, said "We’re thrilled to achieve this certification. The Theatre Royal Plymouth has been taking steps to reduce its environmental impact for a long time, and it’s great to have our work recognised in this way. We’re now looking forward to working with Julie’s Bicycle to reach the next level of IG certification and to continue sharing information with venues across the country so we can build sustainability into the whole of the theatre’s operations.”

Theatre Royal Plymouth exterior close-up