More than £1bn needed to make the UK’s theatre buildings sustainable
New research by leading consultancies AECOM, Avison Young, Bristow Consulting and Buro Happold for Theatres Trust has revealed the extent of the work needed to make the UK’s theatre buildings sustainable.
New research by leading consultancies AECOM, Avison Young, Bristow Consulting and Buro Happold for Theatres Trust has revealed the extent of the work needed to make the UK’s theatre buildings sustainable. Matching the current state of theatres against the costs of recent refurbishment projects, the research group has revealed that making a typical 600-seat theatre fully sustainable and accessible will cost £11m. Analysis of 100 representative UK theatres estimates that £1.1bn is needed to make them sustainable and suitable for modern audiences. 
However, the research shows that this level of investment in 100 theatres would bring huge benefits, saving 6,500 tonnes of CO2 per year – the equivalent of 9,700 return economy flights to New York  – as well as £3.3m annual revenue savings for the UK’s theatres / an average of £33,000 per theatre. 
Finance is the major obstacle to theatres improving their building’s carbon footprint. In a separate survey 86% of theatres responding said it was a major challenge, with this figure rising to 92% in historic theatres. As a result 24% of theatres have not made any green improvements to their buildings in the past 15 years and, of the 70% who had, only 20% had energy savings as the primary reason for refurbishment. 
The research was released at our conference Making Theatre Sustainable and coincided with the publication of the Theatre Green Book Sustainable Buildings Volume.
 Average sustainability improvement costs are derived from a benchmark of actual costs across recent theatre capital projects price adjusted for 2021 prices.
Fully sustainable represents a typical 50% maximum overall reduction in energy use achievable through buildings and systems improvements. The path to net zero will come from decarbonisation of the grid, alongside improvements to productions, operations and supply chain.
The 100 representative theatres is based on Theatres Trust data on the overall distribution of UK theatres by age and size and a bell curve assumption of current condition.
 An economy-class return flight from London to New York emits an estimated 0.67 tonnes of CO2 per passenger, according to the UN's civil aviation body, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
 Co2 reductions and financial savings are calculated by applying typical overall percentage energy use reductions for gas (65%) and electricity (35%) across a range of building improvements against current theatre energy use figures drawn from analysis of 100 published Display Energy Certificates (DECs).
 112 theatres responded to the survey conducted by Buro Happold in May 2021. The distribution of responses by age and scale of theatre broadly corresponds to the overall UK picture.
The other reported major barriers to implementing carbon reduction in theatres were: Listed Building Consent (41%); Impact on Operations (41%, rising to 57% for theatres over 800 seats); Lack of Knowledge of What to Prioritise (25%, rising to 50% for theatres under 200 seats).