Birmingham Hippodrome – LED House Lighting

Birmingham Hippodrome successfully presents a strong programme of musicals, comedy, dance, ballet and opera to a wide catchment area, in close association with resident partners Birmingham Royal Ballet and DanceXchange. It comprises an 1850-seat main auditorium, a 209-seat studio – the Patrick Centre – four dance studios, and public spaces that include the Circle Restaurant, front-of-house bars and corporate hospitality areas. It is run by Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Trust, an independent, not-for- profit registered charity and receives no funding. In 2010, it became the first UK theatre to be registered to the ISO14001 international standard for Environmental Management Systems and has an enviable list of green credentials, largely brought about by improvements in infrastructure and operational efficiencies.

Key Information
Client: Birmingham Hippodrome
Project: LED lighting main auditorium and foyer spaces
Brief: Design, supply and install a led Houselighting solution
Execution: Four Week Closure Period – September 2012

Working with director of operations, Mike Bradford, and head of technical services, Barry Hope, Push The Buttons (PTB’s) Nick Ewins was engaged to design, supply and install a LED houselighting system to replace the tungsten lighting in the main auditorium. The project was due to take place in 2012 which saw the first large refurbishment since the major refurbishment of 2001 and a major step forward in the ‘greening’ of the building.

Working closely with GDS, PTB and the Birmingham Hippodrome team designed an energy efficient lighting solution for the main auditorium, to be controlled by a single ETC Paradigm system. The scheme saw the majority of the existing halogen light fittings replaced with GDS ArcSystem 4-cell units, with some single-cell GDS fittings in the stalls and circle ceilings, to provide optimised light levels for house lighting and working light.

The original glass auditorium wall lights were retrofitted with customised GDS LED wall fittings, the incandescent sources being replaced by GDS single-cell LED chips and wireless drivers, with a Lee 205 glass plate added to warm the colour temperature as it fades down.

The low-level capsule lamps of the row-end lighting were failing and not fit for purpose, so Birmingham Hippodrome and PTB engineered a custom fitting to replace them, complete with illuminated row-end letters. Each row-end is driven by a GDS power supply that can vary the intensity, so they can be left at a low glow for late-comers without interfering with sightlines during the show. The large chandeliers that hang in the boxes currently have eco-halogen fittings, but will be fitted with new GDS ArcLamp Candle V1.5. The Orchestra pit has been given a GDS Blues system.

Following the success of the main auditorium project all of the front of house fixtures have been changed from 12V dichroic M250s to single-cell GDS ArcSystem Decor fittings. Nick Ewins is renowned for his attention to detail and desire for perfection of finish so PTB designing custom bezels for all of these lights to allow them to fit seamlessly into the ceiling and allow extra space to insert drivers for the fittings. The Circle Restaurant has been fitted with GDS downlights and its fluorescent architrave lighting replaced with DMX-controlled RGBW LED tape, which comes into its own as decorative lighting for corporate events. All the systems are controlled by three networked ETC Paradigm control systems, designed and installed by PTB, with the front-of-house areas further governed by overall light level detection to provide further energy savings.

The four-storey, glass-fronted foyer of the Birmingham Hippodrome lets in so much daylight that PTB installed light sensors in a move towards introducing light harvesting measures. These sensors react to the ambient light and match them to the levels that have been set. The system has a summer and a winter setting. Motion detection is also in operation in the front-of-house areas, reducing base level lighting to a handful of fittings that run at 20% overnight, and increase to 35%, level by level, as the security guard does his rounds, before reverting to their previous states after 15 minutes.

The Patrick Centre was given similar treatment in 2015 over a two-week closure period. A complete GDS ArcSystem 1-Cell system with D1 drivers was installed by PTB , along with a new control system using ETC Paradigm processing. A GDS Blues system was installed backstage and in the rear corridor, and motion detectors installed throughout which switch off any lighting, including the exit signs, if there is no activity for 15 minutes. As in the main house, the four separate working, house, cleaning and emergency lighting systems were consolidated into one GDS system.