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Hippodrome theatre, Birmingham

Hippodrome theatre, Birmingham

August 15th, 2019

Birmingham's famous Hippodrome theatre started off as a purpose-built circus venue over 100 years ago. Now it is the home of the prestigious Birmingham Royal Ballet and the venue for performances ranging from full-scale opera and ballet through to West End musicals and comedy, including the world's largest pantomime.

Birmingham Hippodrome was the first theatre in the UK to be registered to ISO 14001, an international standard for Environmental Management Systems at the time, Brian Smith, deputy manager of the facilities department, said: "Our commitment is on-going and at the moment we are looking at how we can improve our water usage." Shortly after he made that statement he got the chance to act on his words when one of the old water heater storage units failed and a decision was taken to replace the whole system with an energy efficient, eco friendly continuous flow water heater system.

By anyone's calculations the theatre was going to need an extremely reliable supply of safe hot water as in 2010/11 Birmingham Hippodrome welcomed 523,219 paying visitors making it the most popular single theatre in the UK. Add to that the number of staff and shows with accompanying casts, that could vary between just a handful and a full-blown musical orchestra with a few hundred on stage and the challenge becomes clear. However, help was close to hand, literally at the click of a mouse. Smith came across Rinnai continuous flow water heaters when trawling the internet for alternative systems. With the assistance of Rinnai, two Infinity HD55i internal units where specified because of their high efficiencies and low running costs, and because the compact units would be easy to handle into place with no special equipment. The installation was performed by Spa Gas of Birmingham and project managed by the company's Brian Crowe. Spa Gas took the faulty unit out first and installed a Rinnai heater before dismantling the second old unit and installing the other Infinity HD55i unit so the flow of hot water was never interrupted.

"With the theatre catering for between 800 and 2,000 a day in hospitality through its four kitchens, including a full service kitchen, servery kitchen and hospitality satellites as well as the Green Room (for staff and performers) and four bars, plus showers and washrooms, there are more than 130 tap outlets plus 20 shower outlets being serviced by the two Rinnai continuous flow water heaters," says Smith.

The Rinnai Infinity range is designed for use directly off the mains, with no need for large, ungainly storage vessels. In many commercial operations these heaters are the best of all possible options; storage systems, by virtue of their design are unable to cope with modern hot water demand, as the recovery times are often longer than the period of use. Birmingham Hippodrome is a prime example of this type of usage, as it requires heavy loads of hot water at intermittent times of the day.

With a continuous flow system the only time energy is used is when there is a demand; in other words, the Rinnai water heaters are only burning gas when a tap or shower is being run so there is no standing loss on the appliance and when there is no demand there is no gas usage so running costs are kept to a minimum.

"We have had no problems whatsoever with either the installation or the Rinnai units themselves since they have been in," says Smith.

They are easily accessible to accommodate service and maintenance and getting parts if needed will not be a problem. All in all we are very pleased with the Rinnai.

Brian Smith, Deputy Manager of the Facilities department