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Top tips on how to launch a new sustainable venue

Launching a new venue is never easy, and when we embarked on a project to transform unused space into a two-level dedicated events venue there was plenty to consider.

Designed to be a venue for the future, a core requirement for Illuminate was to ensure its sustainability credentials, utilising resources and working with suppliers that helped deliver on this goal.

Jodie Guilford, Business Development Manager here at the Science Museum shares her learnings from the build process, along with Ben Paris from Illuminate’s catering partner Moving Venue, Jason Larcombe from AV partner White Light and Carolina Bartram from Arup, who were responsible for the environmental design of Illuminate. Together, we’ve compiled our top tips on launching a new sustainable venue.


Make sustainability a focus from the very beginning of the planning process

Sustainability was embedded throughout the initial design brief, from maximising natural light through Illuminate’s panoramic window and seeking low energy lighting solutions, to specifying high quality and durable materials, as well as obtaining our electricity from 100% renewable sources through our supplier. Our organisational approach to energy efficiency has been key to our sector-leading emissions reductions over the past eight years. Choosing catering and AV suppliers with sustainability credentials was also a consideration.

“We’ve had a sustainability policy for several years,” Ben explains, “therefore it was already second nature when the planning for Illuminate was in its infancy.”

Jason adds: “We also factor in sustainability at the start of any project. When it came to Illuminate, our strategy included deciding what materials to choose for the style of infrastructure proposed and the operating and management processes; all of which were developed alongside the museum’s own event procedures.”


Maximise existing materials

Arup also had plenty to consider when creating designs for the new Illuminate space given the potential limitations presented by the existing space that was being transformed, however the key lay in utilising what was already there. “Illuminate reduced material use compared to a new build which is great, however the challenge lay in enhancing the existing fabric to reduce energy requirements of the space throughout its operation,” Carolina explains. “We added insulation, a new large glazing to the east façade with glass that wouldn’t affect internal temperature if heated externally by the sun, and an air handling unit that responds to the atmosphere to minimise energy consumption.”


Deliver on sustainable solutions

Our events team works with clients to understand their sustainability requirements and provide them with detailed information upon request, so they can be confident in our credentials. Alongside our amazing public transport links thanks to our central London location, clients can be safe in the knowledge that our electricity comes from 100% renewable sources through our energy supplier and that none of our waste goes to landfill.

Each aspect of the event delivery can deliver sustainable solutions too. “The AV system at Illuminate has been designed to deliver over 70% of events using the installed resources,” Jason explains. “This minimises the need to bring in additional equipment and therefore minimises required transportation, wear and tear from a high number of bespoke installs and above all, wastage of materials upon disposal.”


Persistence pays off

Insisting on sustainable and ethical food products can result in a greater cost for clients, yet ultimately the environmental cost of not doing so can far outweigh the financial, as Ben explains: “As with any business we meet with the occasional challenge from our clients regarding cost versus certified products, however wherever possible we do advocate and strongly encourage that all our products are sourced from sustainable, certified, ethical trade of fair-trade sources.

“For example, our fruit and vegetables are Leaf Marque, our meat, including Halal meat is Red Tractor assured produce and our chicken is 100% free range and Freedom Food certified. By accepting environmental and ethical responsibility we respond to customer needs and, in doing so, create value for our business and our clients.”


Future-proof to anticipate client demand

The call for climate action is a prominent part of  modern society. As one of the leading scientific voices in the country, we are transparent about our impact, publishing our carbon footprint annually. Aligning ourselves with a low-impact approach which is inherent to Illuminate’s design will continue to be important for years to come. Ben adds: “More so now than in any previous years, clients are seeking assurances that we trade ethically. Specific to our industry, issues related to waste and packaging will continue to attract scrutiny in the coming years and we expect this growing momentum to drive progress on environmental issues in 2019 and beyond.”

So what then can be done now to deliver sustainable solutions for events clients? Jason: “A lot of our work is integrating technologies and systems into existing venues. We are focusing largely on introducing flexible resources that can retrofit into venues and it becomes much more beneficial to focus budgets and efforts onto hardware and control systems which then maximise the potential of the equipment installed.”