When approval was still pending to establish a European energy union to green and decarbonize buildings by 2050, a community cinema in a town in the British countryside was already demonstrating how a venue can be repurposed and made climate-friendly. The building’s third transformation — first a post office garage, then a depot for the local beer brewery Harveys — the Depot cinema is already an award-winning showcase for sustainability.
The energy concept for Depot consists of a Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP), a green roof, solar panels, a double-glazed curtain wall filled with Krypton gas, and a natural ventilation system in the public areas. The GSHP involved sinking twelve pipes to a depth of 120 meters into the ground and it serves as a sustainable geothermal heating and cooling system. In the winter, the earth is used as a heat source; in the summer, as a heat sink. The GSHP also supplies the underfloor heating that has been laid in most areas. The cinema needs to be controlled by an air conditioning system in order to be able to deal with temperature differences created by the constantly varying number of people in the auditoria.
“From the start, we set out to create a sustainable venue”, says Carmen Slijpen, Creative Director and Programmer of Depot, who started her career as a projectionist in Amsterdam’s Rialto arthouse. Her vision of creating an independent community cinema in her hometown came true when she met fellow Lewes resident Robert Senior who not only shares her passion for cinema, accessibility, and sustainability but also financed the project.
In 2014, when Slijpen found a warehouse with an open yard, they began planning a three- screen cinema with a restaurant, café, bar, lecture room, and garden. Much of the old red brick structure has been retained and it is visible through the new glass walls. All the windows slide open, so in the summer the inside and outside become a single space. “This also helps to keep venue cool as do the wooden slatted shutters, which are made from locally-sourced chestnut trees”, says Slijpen.
Equipped with 4K digital and 32 Dolby Atmos speakers, the biggest screen seats 142, while the two 2K screens can seat 128 and 38 moviegoers, respectively. The entire building is largely powered by renewables. Sustainability is also reflected in the details: all the lighting is LED; the green roof has been planted with indigenous flora; the menu features locally-sourced vegan dishes; uniforms are made from recycled bottles; single-use plastic bottled beverages are banned; and free water. “I always push for the most ecological solution”, says the exhibitor in closing.