In recent years, the team at Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) has been involved in a number of film and media projects across the country. Along the way, we’ve talked with colleagues about the challenges and themes facing film and media – many of which are common throughout construction.
Even post-pandemic, we all know the appeal of lounging on the sofa and watching the latest boxset. So, it is no surprise that the film and media industry has boomed, with the streaming industry estimated to be worth $330bn by 2030, a 57% increase since 2020. This growth is reflected by shorter-term pop-up locations used for filming, an increase in permanent office space, and even new space for Channel 4 and BBC, both of whom have recently relocated.
But what are the challenges the sector is facing? We have discussed some below.
Cost-effective design and construction
Permanent fixtures tend to outweigh their costs over the long-term, especially when fixed costs can be offset over many years. Project turnarounds are becoming shorter-term through the fast-paced nature of the sector, and the speed of project programmes is critical. Although many projects have big budgets, the costs of building them often do not. So, building effectively and affordably usually requires modern methods of construction and offsite set-ups. Prefabricated materials and sections of the buildings, such as façades and plant rooms, are being built in panels and transported to the site. Recycling and reusing materials from other locations or projects are becoming more popular, contributing to sustainability and saving money.
Adopting sustainability methods into the project
According to the World Green Building Council, the built environment contributes 36% to energy consumption and 38% to energy carbon emissions. We know what measures many companies, including RLB, are taking to reduce this impact and move towards net-zero carbon and greener ways of working.
The sector is starting to adopt sustainable methods such as photovoltaic (PV) panels, batteries, and air source heat pumps to reduce the carbon footprint of its buildings and structures. Cutting-and-carving existing locations, using green screens and special effects also help reduce the space required. Large-scale projects similar to Shepperton Studios are beginning to make the most of their scale and start generating their own electricity to become greener through PV cells and battery storage.
It is also important to consider whether a build is necessary or if it is better to retrofit. When reducing carbon and energy consumption, it is recommended to reuse and recycle materials within temporary fixtures or to move materials and flexible structures between filming locations. ITV and BBC are looking at how they can re-use existing sets to reduce their embodied carbon.
Building with social value in mind
Location is often one of the most important aspects when considering a film and media build. Films like Dallas Buyers Club were shot in New Orleans, not Texas, and Platoon, a Vietnam War film, was shot in the Philippines. Using alternative locations for cinematic settings adds value to the area by attracting tourism and driving social mobility. The local labour market will benefit from providing jobs, and the economy will flourish if the materials are sourced locally.
It is clear that there is money available for film and media estate planning, building, and management. However, these structures must be built well and meet the same standards as permanent fixtures. We must adhere to building safety and sustainability targets and ensure our builds add value to the communities in which they operate. Using governance such as the Value Toolkit and the Construction Playbook can help us achieve this.
RLB understands how time, cost, sustainability, and social value all intertwine and are crucial to the success of film and media projects.