Originally opened in 1990, Leeds Playhouse’ new extension features a façade of brightly coloured ceramics, giving it a strong visual identity. Internally, the development allowed replacement of the existing outdated and inefficient plant with modern versions offering far greater efficiency and controllability, with benefits both in terms of CO2 footprint and running costs.
The building contains two main theatre spaces – the Quarry, a fan-shaped tiered auditorium and the Courtyard Theatre, a galleried flexible space with a retractable seating bank. Both spaces now benefit from an increased seating capacity and enhanced accessibility, while a new flexible performance space has been created through the reuse of an existing basement. The façade created on St. Peter's Street turns the theatre around towards the city centre and offers a new entrance and a street-level café. A new foyer and a new traffic route connect the building to the street from both inside and outside.
We provided M&E services, focusing on the improvement and upgrading of the Quarry and Courtyard Theatres and the development of the Rock Void area into a permanent, flexible and contemporary space within Leeds Playhouse to allow artists and audiences to experience both the making of and watching new work.
An important element in the refurbishment was keeping parts of the existing building useable as offices and temporary performance spaces while the stripping out and redevelopment took place. This required careful planning and phasing of the works.
The new extension was built to modern fabric efficiency standards, including argon-filled glazing systems, to improve the thermal performance of the overall building envelope, and reduce the heat loss of the overall building. The extension benefits from excellent daylight, carefully balanced with solar control glass to prevent excessive solar gains in summertime.
To maximise benefit from the redevelopment, a sustainability strategy was developed. It included utilising natural ventilation or heat recovery mechanical ventilation where possible, gaining maximum benefit from new efficient plant and controls to reduce energy, gaining maximum benefit from new high performance building envelope, reducing operational energy as well as water consumption through low water use fittings and further expanding community engagement activities.
As part of the refurbishment project, the existing natural gas boilers were removed and replaced with a connection into the Leeds wide district heating network. Annual CO2 emissions associated with natural gas usage for 2015-2016 at the theatre was equivalent to 26,500 kgCO2. The CO2 intensity of heat provided by the waste combustion network is approximately 22% of natural gas; therefore, we anticipate a significant CO2 emissions reduction in future years. Installation of new efficient plant and controls aims to reduce CO2 emissions by a further 10-20%. Overall this translates to a CO2 saving for heating of over 80%, or 21,200 kgCO2.
Key operational energy and carbon emissions strategies included new efficient LED lighting installations with daylight linked control, new BMS controls, heat recovery systems and energy metering, as well as a heat recovery air source heat pump.
In 2020, Leeds Playhouse won the Stage Award 'Theatre Building of the Year' and was shortlisted for a RICS Social Impact Award, a RIBA Yorkshire Award and Architects’ Journal’s 'AJ100 Building of the Year'.
"The transformed Leeds Playhouse marks the most exciting new chapter in our history for decades and we can’t wait to welcome everyone to enjoy and explore. The new building will allow us to offer the magic of theatre to everyone, all under one roof. There is a tangible buzz around culture in Leeds right now – with the relocation of Channel 4 and the upcoming plans for Leeds 2023, this really is the most fantastic time to be reopening a theatre that the whole city can be proud of." - James Brining, Executive Director, Leeds Playhouse (Architects’ Journal)