We spoke to Founding Director, Matthew Chesney to find out how they benefited from the student sustainability consultancy. Matthew founded BACKLIT immediately after graduating from NTU with a degree in fine art.
“We heard Dr Rita Domingues talk about the Sustainability in Enterprise project to cultural leaders in the city and immediately thought it was of interest. We have our own agenda to be as sustainable as possible and have already improved our heating and lighting system with ERDF funded energy grants. Over the next five years, Environmental will be a key area for us to research and deliver on, across our organisation and our programme of arts and culture.”
BACKLIT recently worked with artist and former NTU tutor, Joshua Sofaer and the Environment Agency on a project raising awareness of plastic waste. The interdisciplinary exhibition included a plastic sculpture of a body weighing 98.66kg – the unbelievable amount of plastic waste we produce per person in the UK every year. Plastic Pete as the figure is called, was made from reused plastic waste donated by local people, helping them to share ownership of the project. The live ‘body cast’ was carried out in the Nottingham School of Art & Design by the Advanced Textiles Research Group, and once the exhibition finished, NTU brought the sculpture to keep on permanent display.
Matt explained the challenges facing BACKLIT going into the SiE project:
“We have two major issues when it comes to improving our energy efficiency. Firstly, we don’t currently own our building, and as a tenant, there’s a limit to what we can afford to invest. Secondly, our home is a heritage building and converted textile factory which makes it less energy efficient compared to newer buildings.
“That heritage is something to be celebrated and we care very deeply about the history of Alfred House. But alongside that, we need to try and keep on top of energy saving solutions, while making sure our building is fit for purpose as a public gallery and studio space.
“The heating system we invested in recently was the best in terms of energy efficiency three years ago, but now the focus is on air source heat pumps. It’s challenging for organisations like ours to stay up to date as environmental solutions and the economic and political climate around them change.
“The support we had from Rita and the student sustainability consultants was broader compared to other more specific energy audits we’ve had in the past. They came in to get a full sense of the space, before making suggestions of what we could do to save energy and reduce our carbon emissions.
“The project enabled us to take advantage of their unique skill set and expertise, as ADBE students and sustainability consultants. We need that kind of knowledge to make decisions on the best way forward, especially now, with the energy crisis. Our gas and electricity bill has gone up tenfold since we opened in 2008.”