Carbon Matters 3: Eden Court

Written By

Suzy O’Leary

Decreased Arts budgets, increased energy costs”

12.3.2024 Thinking

As part of our Carbon Matters series, we want to share some of the energy studies we have been carrying out to support our clients on their path to net zero and financial sustainability. In January 2023 Eden Court Theatre commissioned Creative Carbon Scotland to carry out a high-level study and chart a path to net zero carbon emissions by 2040. This study was prompted by the extraordinary increase in energy costs we have experienced in recent years. When combined with the decrease in funding available to arts organisations, it was creating an unsustainable financial model for the client. The study proposed a 10% reduction in carbon emissions per year to reach net zero emissions by 2040. To support this target, we were commissioned in collaboration with Buro Happold to analyse where improvements could be made to the building fabric and building services.

The theatre is Category A listed and was constructed in three phases. The original Bishops Palace dates from 1878, the Law Dunbar Naismith theatre and foyer from 1976 and our own theatre and cinema extension from 2007. Each phase of the building comprises very different types of construction and the interface between them creates a complicated, and sometimes broken, thermal line.

Our approach was to carry out a detailed and specific study of the issues in each phase of development of this unique historic building. Generic suggestions would have been impractical given the listed status of the building and wouldn’t necessarily represent value in terms of reduction in energy use. So, every item we identified was specific to Eden Court, practical and actionable. We carried out a desktop study initially, pulling information from archives to understand the existing condition. We then developed a list of proposed improvements for each part of the building and carried out a site visit to review the detail and practicality of each option. Buro Happold developed a part IES thermal model of the trickiest area of the building, the 1976 foyer, to really test the impact of each potential upgrade.

Part of the work involved carrying out thermal imaging within the building which helped unearth unexpected issues such as gaps in construction creating unnoticed airpaths into the building. These were down to poor workmanship in the original construction but went unnoticed for years. The solutions were relatively simple, but the impact on thermal comfort and reduced heating demand significant.

Some proposals had no cost impact at all. For example, our services engineer discovered that the ventilation had been increased during the Covid pandemic but hadn’t been re-commissioned since then. As such, key spaces were being over-ventilated and could immediately be turned down to an appropriate level, reducing energy use.

The final schedule of proposed improvements included both short term fixes and longer-term capital developments. Our quantity surveyor costed each proposal, and Buro Happold estimated the cost and carbon saving per item. These improvements could then be prioritised, planned, and executed by the client as and when funding becomes available. As the priority list was specific, we could also help identify potential funding routes for the client to pursue.

The foundation of our practice is in conservation architecture; analysing building pathology to understand how to repair and redevelop. Complex listed buildings require forensic analysis to unpick the causes of heat loss and propose appropriate solutions. That care and attention to detail, developed over forty years in practice, informs our approach to sustainable retrofit.

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