Sustainability in Design Realisation

Sustainability is a very important word here in the design realisation department and indeed across the entire technical theatre department and the rest of the Guildhall School.

We are committed to taking responsibility for our impact on the environment and are actively taking steps to combat excess energy usage and waste in our workshops.  We know that our department generates a lot of waste from lessons and of course from our productions here at the Guildhall School and as such, we feel strongly about setting an example for other departments by promoting how we contribute to the sustainability initiative.

We’re doing our bit…

  • We save and re-use many of the props from our productions including drapes, furniture and one-off makes.  We might use an entire prop again, or make changes to it depending on the designer’s specifications.  A good example is re-upholstering and re-painting an armchair which breathes new life into an old prop for use in a new production.  Our amazing props department is known as a bit of an ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ here in technical theatre and for good reason; not only do we like keeping our most interesting and varied props, but you never know when you are going to need even the most obscure item again!

Re-upholstering a chair for a new show

  • We recycle useable timber and sheets from our sets for use in design realisation projects, lessons and even as new scenery.  As often as we can we re-use timber and sheets from our productions for use in projects.  Our model box projects, DRP’s and animation projects all encourage students to be inventive with found materials and where possible, to save materials for future use.  We constantly re-use plastic from our productions- a piece of perspex from a window in a set can be re-used several times for future productions or projects.  We recently saved the black floor from our last opera Le nozze de Figaro for use on the upcoming production of May 08; some careful laying and lifting of the floor, coupled with expert painting means that it can be used again…from one incredible production to another!

Re-using the opera floor for a new production

  • Our leftover paints and canvases from productions are used for design realisation lessons and projects.  Any pre-mixed paints for shows can be re-used for other projects.  We encourage students to use left-over paints for personal art pieces and other projects across the school and try to keep paint waste to a minimum.  Canvasses and screens can also be re-used.  Unpainted off-cuts can be used to make smaller canvases for projects and larger pieces can be painted over for new uses.  Anything that can’t be used again gets cut-up and used as rags…that’s how we achieve our top quality woodgrain effects; the set for our upcoming production of Three Sisters which will be performed in our new Milton Court Theatre was woodgrained with rags made from old scenic cloths!

Jennie re-using an old canvas for fresh art in the foyer

  • All of our scrap steel and aluminium from shows and teaching is sent to a scrap metal company to recycle– we don’t let our metal waste end up in landfills.  If we can re-use pieces of steel from productions for use in lessons then we do and sometimes we keep and re-use larger heavy-duty pieces of steel for use in large scenic trucks and new scenery.  Some of the large metal structures used in Le nozze de Figaro have been cut up and re-welded by staff in the theatre technology department to make sturdy shelving units for our cloth store…we keep some of our larger cloths and canvasses for used in future productions too!

Learning to weld on off-cuts of steel

  • All of the staff in design realisation understand the importance of proper machine maintenance and the correct care of tools.  We pass this message onto our students and actively encourage them to take proper care of all tools and machinery including woodworking tools, paint brushes, spray guns, pneumatic tools and power tools.  By simply taking some extra time to properly clean and pack away our valuable tools, not only can we function effectively as a department but we save money by not having to replace lost or broken tools.  We take pride in the fact that we have industry standard tools and machinery and by maintaining these, we can offer valuable education to our students that meets these standards too.
  • We even save the sawdust collected from our extractors and put it to good use in the design realisation workshops.  Not only is it good for cleaning up paint and water spillage but it can be added to glue, Idenden and Artex to make textures for use when a 3D finish is required such as brick walls.
  • We recycle our packaging materials including cardboard boxes, plastic bags, paint pots and bottles.  We have 3 dedicated wheely bins for mixed recycling which we empty through the Barbican Centre’s mixed recycling scheme on a regular basis.  We encourage all our students (and indeed staff from neighbouring departments) to use these bins to recycle all clean plastic, cardboard, paper and tins instead of allowing recyclable materials to go into landfills.

We are always looking for new ways to improve our sustainability as a department and welcome any suggestions for future changes we can make to help keep our impact on the environment to a minimum…instead we like making a positive impact on the theatre industry; producing world-class theatre and graduates of a world-class standard.

Some facts to think about…

  • 70% less energy is required to recycle paper than to make it from raw materials
  • The energy saved by recycling one plastic bottle is enough to power a 60W bulb for 6 hours
  • It takes up to 500 years for plastic to decompose
  • A photocopier left on overnight wastes enough energy to print 1500 A4 copies
  • Turning your computer off every night instead of leaving it on standby saves enough energy to make 35,000 cups of coffee
  • If all the computers in the world were turned off for just one night, we would have enough energy to light the Eiffel Tower 24 hours a day…for the next 720 years!
1 Comment

One thought on “Sustainability in Design Realisation

  1. Pingback: New life for an old set… | Design Realisation (Scenic Art, Scenic Construction and Prop Making)

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