Published on February 28, 2024

Old but not cold

Historical buildings present a unique challenge in decarbonisation. But, as the National Theatre in Prague shows, once the vision is there, the technological and financial barriers shrink. 

For years, to keep actors, crew and the audience comfortable, the theatre’s heating and cooling systems consumed thousands of litres of potable water and hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of fossil gas. That changed in 2009. In a pioneering project, the theatre installed three heat pumps. Two of them utilize water from the adjacent Vltava River, and another extracts heat from the stages’ hydraulic system. Now, the theatre’s gas boilers are hardly ever in use. In fact, between spring and autumn, the heat pumps are used for cooling, saving nearly half a million cubic meters of polluting fossil gas. And if that’s not enough, some of the theatre’s buildings were fitted with solar panels in a way that does not disrupt Prague’s unique skyline. Many more historical landmarks can transform their energy systems to minimize their climate footprint and cut energy bills.

Watch an inspiring video about the National Theatre in Prague.