From BMS in operating theatres to performing theatres …
Boss Controls optimises BMS controls in NHS operating theatres and performing theatres to offer the best experience for people in both. In health we work with many hospitals including Great Ormond Street Hospital. In entertainment, we work with Theatre Peckham and The Hippodrome Casino, having recently enhanced the special effects for the Magic Mike Live at Hippodrome Casino London.
So let’s get this show on the road. This blog is primarily about performing theatres, however, you may wonder why operating theatres are called ‘theatres’. The answer, according to the University of Dundee, is that operations literally used to take place in gallery style theatres. In the early 19th century, operations were advertised in newspapers, people would pay to watch them and surgeons might enjoy a round of applause at the end of their procedure. Occasionally, operations had to be postponed because the audience was so large and a larger operating theatres would have to be found. Can you imagine that now? We’d have to have a million air changes per minute to keep the patient safe.
Back to BMS … Bravo!
All buildings, including theatres, have one thing in common, they need to consider ventilation and energy efficiency. “A building is like a body, It has a skin. It has a skeleton. It has a vascular system—the plumbing. It has a breathing system—the ventilation. It has a nervous system—the wiring.” (McNamara Salvia)
Building Regulations require that buildings are adequately ventilated for the health and safety of building occupants. It has also been proven that comfortable workplaces boost wellbeing, health and productivity.
The quantity of ventilated air depends on:
- The number of occupants
- What the occupants are doing and wearing
- The outside temperature
- The building materials, age and shape
- The local heat sources e.g. lighting, appliances, computers
- Sources of pollutants in the space, such as copiers, and sources of
- Environment humidity
We control the ventilation via Building Management Systems (BMS) at Theatre Peckham and The Hippodrome Casino Theatre. Theatres are complex because it is essential that the staff and the audience are comfortable. Plus there are the special effects to consider.
Have you ever felt too hot or cold at the cinema or theatre? It is impossible to concentrate on enjoy a play or musical if you feel uncomfortable. The touring productions would feel grumpy if the audience didn’t enjoy their productions.
Things can go wrong for your comfort if the theatre’s plant is shared with other businesses or third party engineers visit the site and move, unplug or switch off plant and controls and don’t switch them back on again. In the case of Theatre Peckham, they have packaged AHUs (not controlled by BMS). Our detective, aka BMS engineer, spotted that the IP addresses were clashing which caused the Trend BMS controls and AHU not to talk to one another. This meant that the BMS couldn’t tell if the AHUs were running are not or tell the AHUs what the temperature set point was. This lack of communication resulted in grumpy, uncomfortable audience and staff which isn’t good for business.
Special effects consideration
Magic Mike Live at the Hippodrome London is described as the ‘sexiest, steamiest show in town’. Our BMS controls were so efficient that they were causing a slight hiccup on stage. The dry ice and haze which was covering the performers’ modesty was disappearing too quickly because the air change was so efficient. We fixed this by amending the control strategy to reduce the fan speed. We had set our fans up correctly, i.e. the ratio of fresh air / stagnant air out, was correct. However in order to enhance the special effects, we needed to reduce the fan speed. However, doing this over too longer period would cause stagnant air and an uncomfortable audience. Therefore Boss Controls’ BMS engineers introduced Time and Dry Ice profiles to the AHU graphics page, so when the Magic Mike Live show is on, the extraction fans reduce their speed. The Time Profiles allow flexibility if the show is slightly late so the theatre maintenance team can move a block of time by 30 minutes but the time will revert back to default the next day. As you can imagine, lots of excited human beings’ sitting closely together, can increase the temperature quickly, therefore our strategies can be easily controlled by the maintenance team.
Tips for improving energy efficiency in theatres
73% of theatre emissions are from theatre front of house, auditorium, rehearsal space, offices and back of house air conditioning and heating (source Green Theatre report by Boris Johnson).
Boris’ tips for reducing energy in Performing Theatres with healthy return on investment are:
- Reduce temperature for night-time hours (e.g. set heating in frost protection mode)
- Set your thermostat for lower temperatures in workshops and storage areas
- Don’t run cooling at the same time as heating
- Install a ‘deadband control’ between heating and cooling so that neither is turned on until temperatures are outside acceptable levels of comfort (typically 19-24 degrees Celsius)
- Regularly check airflows from ventilation systems and ensure filters are clean in air handling units.
- Review operational times and parameters for heavy use equipment, including chillers (e.g. install automatic controls to reduce over-ventilation).
- Install air quality sensors and temperature sensors in the auditorium.
- Install insulation on internal appliances and with external walls, windows and roofs.
- Fit a modern Variable Speed Drive (VSD) to control the supply fan motors of any oversized motors.
So take a cue, call Boss Controls today on 01403 886508 for an information, no obligation chat to discuss audience comfort and energy efficiency for your theatre.