Morgan Sindall Construction has begun a refurbishment project at Watford Colosseum.jpg
Morgan Sindall Construction has begun a refurbishment project at Watford Colosseum

Member Article

The stage is set for Watford Colosseum’s refurbishment

Morgan Sindall Construction has begun a comprehensive refurbishment project at Watford Colosseum to preserve, modernise and upgrade the historic live entertainment venue.

Built in 1938, Watford Colosseum is a Grade II listed building renowned worldwide for its exceptional acoustics. Described by Julian Lloyd Webber as “the finest recording venue in the world”, it is home to the BBC Concert Orchestra, has been used to record multiple famous movie soundtracks and has hosted a long list of musical as well as sporting greats. 

To ensure Watford Colosseum’s longevity and to position it as a cultural and sustainable quarter that will drive local investment, Watford Borough Council (WBC) appointed Morgan Sindall’s Northern Home Counties business to undertake an extensive refurbishment. 

The Colosseum project follows Morgan Sindall’s ongoing refurbishment at the adjoining, also Grade II listed, Watford Town Hall. When complete, the combined £20m project will preserve both buildings and make use of reduced civic office space to create areas that nurture a sense of belonging and identity. This will see a new interactive museum added alongside a hub to support young people, entrepreneurs, and start-ups as well as a community space and café.

Scheduled for completion in Autumn 2024, Morgan Sindall will create a new stage and lighting rigs to enable a wider range of acts to perform and will reopen the original grand entrance, which has been closed for over a decade. Visitors will benefit from a new café as well as accessibility, lighting, and signage improvements to bring the pre-war site up to a modern standard. The tier one contractor will also install an external ventilation duct, roof plant, and refurbish the existing canopy to the front of the building. 

To align the Colosseum with WBC’s sustainability goals, the project will minimise the amount of material sent to landfill and make the venue significantly more energy efficient. This will be achieved by installing modern insulation materials, upgrading the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems, and adding photovoltaic (PV) panels to the roof.

Once complete, WBC can expect sustainability performance levels far beyond those typical of civic buildings constructed in the 1930s. This includes a 40% saving on gas bills due to new cavity wall insulation and, when combined with replacing all lights with LED equivalents and installing new roof insulation, a 166-tonne annual saving in carbon emissions. The refurbishment will also realise U-value improvements, with the rate of energy loss from the walls reduced by a factor of six, and from the flat roofs by a factor of 17.

The unique nature of this project will require Morgan Sindall to leverage its Intelligent Solutions approach to meet one-of-a-kind challenges. Maintaining the venue’s renowned acoustics is a top priority and has been factored into every stage of the Colosseum’s planning, design, refurbishment, and operation. Bringing the venue up to a modern benchmark for functionality and sustainability while respecting its historic fabric, such as the timber panelling and Art Deco façade, has likewise seen Morgan Sindall devise innovative solutions and construction processes. 

Emma Curtis, Area Director at Morgan Sindall Construction in the Northern Home Counties, said: “We’re proud to be collaborating with Watford Borough Council on the Colosseum and breathing fresh life into this iconic building while preserving a valuable, much-loved part of the community’s heritage. This project is not just about protecting the past but also investing in the future and creating a multi-generational legacy. It will form the backbone of a new cultural quarter that will support Watford’s long-term regeneration by attracting more acts and performers as well as generating tourism, employment, business opportunities, and social value. 

“Watford Borough Council’s forward-thinking vision for the heart of the town is also an ambitiously green one and we’ve been working hard with them to make the revitalised site as sustainable as possible. This will significantly help decarbonise the council’s estate, achieve its net zero goals and ensure that this mid-20th century building is in all ways fit for the future.” 

Peter Taylor, Mayor of Watford, said: “These works will help us forge ahead with delivering our ambitions for this area of the town, unlocking economic growth, and driving further investment in Watford. This will mean new jobs and opportunities for local people as well as the relaunch of this exciting venue, hosting outstanding live performances. 

“Now, more than ever, it is vital that we remain ambitious for our town and keep investing in Watford. These plans not only protect two wonderful Grade II listed buildings, but they will also deliver a real boost to our local economy, reinforcing Watford’s reputation as a fantastic centre for new and growing businesses, as well as culture, arts and entertainment.

“The improvements also support the town’s ambitions to achieve carbon zero by 2030, and these iconic buildings will become beacons of sustainability. This will not only result in substantial cost savings but also serve as a model for other councils striving to create greener and more energy-efficient communities."

The transformation of Watford’s Town Hall area and Colosseum has been funded in part by the government’s Levelling Up Fund, which awarded the project £16m. Watford Borough Council have appointed AEG Presents to manage the landmark entertainment location when it reopens later this year.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by John Robson .

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