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Hackney's green theatre cuts carbon and promotes creativity
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The Arcola Theatre in Hackney has undergone a green transformation. One of the most respected arts venues in the UK, the theatre has a commitment to cutting carbon as well as promoting creativity.
Hackney's green theatre cuts carbon and promotes creativity

Water saving toilet by Roca uses water from the inset basin for flushing.

The Arcola is housed in a converted paint factory, and over the last three years a refurbishment has seen a water saving strategy implemented, cutting usage by 50%, a waste wood biomass boiler installed, natural ventilation and an innovative LED lighting system, powered by solar photovoltaics.

To deliver its green ambitions, the theatre has a sustainability/education arm, Green Arcola and a sister company, Arcola Energy; an energy technology incubator. The project has been funded by a £1 million grant from the Arts Council, plus additional support from donations and local volunteers; main renovation works took place in 2012.

The LED lights in Arcola’s studio, dressing rooms, upstairs offices, box office and bar area are powered by a direct current (DC) micro-grid, generated by solar photovoltaic panels installed on the roof. The majority of electricity generated, however, is converted to alternating current (AC) and fed into in the national grid.

Direct current is much lower voltage than alternating current and therefore safer to work with. The lights in Arcola’s bar area, for example, use a total of 100 watts, as much as a single incandescent bulb.

Central to Arcola’s water saving strategy is a water re-use toilet, Roca's W+W; that utilises water from the basin to fill the cistern. Arcola has been monitoring water usage since 2010 and, following W+W’s installation, the savings have been dramatic - spring 2013’s figures are 50% lower than the previous year.

In addition to saving water, the facility saves energy and space. The basin’s lever tap features a Cold Start function which stops the boiler from turning on automatically – only when hot water is actually needed - and its modern, L shaped design, fits snugly into the restricted area of Arcola’s toilet cubicle.

Arcola’s goal of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral theatre is a large undertaking that doesn’t just stop with its own building services. The theatre encourages incoming companies to think about their show’s carbon footprint and continually monitors its own; in terms of travel and where it sources essential resources from, for example. It also runs community projects on sustainability, most recently the Dalston Energy Angels (energy audits, help with reducing energy usage and fuel poverty) and a vegetable growing project in Hackney Wick.

Arcola Energy is building up a waste wood supply network for the theatre’s biomass boiler, using its growing contacts in the community.

Arcola Theatre stands as an example of how an arts venue can do more than just entertain, promoting a greener way to live to its audiences and the wider community.

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