UCL Bloomsbury Theatre’s 550-seat auditorium has been entirely and sensitively refurbished.
The theatre is an existing building of significant complexity with respect to the spaces, distribution of services and access arrangements. Built in 1968 in the brutalist style by James Cubitt & Partners, the building contains a range of different university functions including gym, refectory, and other union spaces. These other facilities surround the theatre and were required to stay open and usable throughout the refurbishment, which presented some unique challenges and required complex stakeholder management and collaboration. No changes could be made to the external envelope of the building due to the surrounding spaces remaining in use.
UCL is determined to reduce its carbon footprint through good standards of design of its buildings and services. Working closely with UCL Culture and Estates, our brief was to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, and improve the indoor environment to the standard of a modern theatre.
We were appointed - working alongside theatre consultants and separate lighting and acoustics teams - to design the building services, coordinate the building works and integrate the services to ensure that a more inclusive and far reaching environment was achieved. The theatre was reinstated on a like-for-like basis with enhancements to improve access, life safety and reduce the energy consumption.
The energy strategy developed was simple – wherever services were replaced or new services added, the efficiency of those services has be maximised through selection of high-quality plant, equipment and controls representing the state-of-the-art in terms of efficient building services design.
New building services were designed to provide comfortable environments for building users while being energy efficient, simple to operate and maintain, robust and affordable.
Fresh air ventilation rates to the theatre were increased and cooling was added. To maximise free cooling, air handling units incorporated thermal wheels and very high efficiency fans and controls. Refrigerant with low global warming potential provides mechanical cooling. The auditorium ventilation rate is adjustable via simple user controls to match audience size. In order to deliver reliable and efficiently generated heat, a connection was made to UCL’s existing comprehensive district heat network.
LED lighting is installed throughout with effective controls to ensure that it is only on when needed.
The new installations are simple to operate and maintain, efficient in terms of energy use, and follow UCL guidelines wherever relevant in terms of services.
The project has been delivered to BIM level 2. In-line with UCL sustainability policy, overall environmental performance is being assessed using the SKA Higher Education rating system and the project is on-track to achieve a Gold rating.
You can see a short film about the theatre and its refurbishment here.
Bloomsbury Theatre was shortlisted in the Cultural Buildings (over £5m) category at the AJ Retrofit Awards 2019.