A case study on Virgin Media Television's (VMTV) approach to creating a sustainable set with a circular fit-out and sourcing of environmentally sustainable and ethical materials, creating a blueprint for the sector.


Virgin Media Television (VMTV), a leading media company, embarked on a sustainability journey with the fit-out of its’ Six O’Clock Show set. The goal was to disassemble the old set and build a new set, where everything from lighting to furniture was sourced in an environmentally friendly and ethical way. Not only is the new set sustainable, but increasingly the content on the show has a sustainability lens.


Television plays a critical role in our daily lives, informing us, inspiring us, and engaging us on various topics. However, TV production also has an environmental and social impact. VMTV wanted to figure out how to create a sustainable studio set – from repurposing the old set to the design and use of the new one. The commitment from senior management to the project was there from the start, with the approval for the new set contingent on it being an environmentally sustainable build.

This hadn’t been done within the industry previously or by any member of the VMTV team. Being the first, it took VMTV longer than they anticipated to complete the project as they had to continually review the design and find trades and products that could deliver against their specification.


The project was initiated by Áine Ní Chaoindealbháin, Deputy Managing Director of VMTV.

Using a holistic and circular approach, the project was broken into several phases.

  1. Decommissioning: The original set’s equipment, e.g. lighting and furniture, was decommissioned, stripped out and donated to local community organisations.
  2. Design: The project took two and a half years to plan, with Fiona Cunningham, one of Ireland’s leading production designers, coming on board to create the set. Fiona’s aim was to create a sustainable set that could demonstrate to the Six O’Clock audience that sustainability is practical and attainable for all. She did this by designing a set that, first and foremost, looked great and functioned well, while also embedding sustainable design principles at all stages.
  3. Backing local business: Supporting local businesses was an important factor in the building process and procurement of items for the show.
  4. Suppliers: Recognising that many of the environmental and ethical criteria they were looking for would be new to suppliers, VMTV used a tender process that brought all suppliers on a learning journey. VMTV evaluated suppliers from an environmental and ethical perspective, and on experience and ability to deliver, rather than just on price. The proof points the VMTV team sought included – fair wages, no exploitation of workers/people, recycled/ recyclable materials, good waste management and energy efficiency. Quiver, a Dublin-based design, manufacture and build company for the creative sector, was awarded the tender to construct the set. They have a sustainability policy, and were awarded Silver from Ecovadis (a sustainability/ESG rating) for its sustainability performance, and is an Excellence Ireland Quality Association member. Once Quiver was appointed, they led on the rest of the supplier and material assessments for the build. All furniture, fittings and dressings were sourced by Fiona, with help from production. As many materials as possible were sourced from local suppliers.
  5. VMTV wanted to support smaller sustainable craft businesses and were delighted to collaborate with Arran Street East for the bespoke pottery for the chef segments.
  6. Manufacturing and assembly: All manufacturing and assembly of the set took place in the workshop, enabling efficient use of materials. The set walls were constructed using an assembly system, which uses 50% less timber than standard construction methods, does not use adhesives, and is designed for easy disassembly. All fixtures and fittings can be reused. Transport was limited to keep carbon emissions from transport down.
  7. Materials: All the materials used on set were environmentally and socially sustainable, and manufacturers were asked to supply material safety data sheets for materials. As this project was a learning curve the team trialled different materials. Some of the materials used include:
    Stage deck – produced in Tipperary, FSC-certified Medite Smartply provided the MDF panels for the stage deck.
    Flooring – the carpet tiles chosen were from Tarkett, who have pioneered a recycling process that enables post-use tiles to be recycled and so close the loop on their products. Vinyl flooring was manufactured by Altro and is phthalate free.
    Walls – an FSC-certified birch ply was used to construct the walls of the set, and a polyester material, by Pongs, that is PVC-free and recyclable, was used to cover the set walls.
    Paints and adhesives – Clay paints from Earthborn and a water-based, low-odour, solvent-free adhesive was used.
    Decorative featuresFSC-certified timber was used to manufacture timber wall features. The ‘concrete’ kitchen island was made from FSC-certified MDF from Medite, with the concrete effect achieved through a paint technique using water-based paints. Pre-loved items were also used including a renovated sink from a local school and a second-hand couch from Germany, which was upholstered locally using Irish wool. 
    LightingLED lighting was chosen to light the set walls as it consumes less energy and has a longer lifespan than alternatives. 
  8. Engagement: A key step was to get the producers on board, making sure that they did not introduce un-sustainable materials back into the set. This can be a challenge as live TV & entertainment shows are high energy and decorative features need to be bright and engaging, often through use of lots of plastic materials. Producers were asked to purchase or use materials and products from sustainable sources when needed. The exception was that if VMTV already had ‘un-sustainable’ materials these could continue to be used, for example Christmas decorations that had been purchased years before could be reused. 

Results and Benefits

For VMTV broadcasting the Six O’ Clock Show from a sustainable set made talking about sustainability topics on the programme feel more authentic – the team is practicing what it preaches regarding sustainability and is leading the way for others in the industry. VMTV perspective is committed to this approach for future projects, drawing on the learnings from the 6 O’ Clock show.

Other results and benefits include:

  • The project inspired a shift towards a more environmentally conscious approach across the organisation with other areas of the business embracing the opportunity to introduce more sustainable projects and measures in their BAU activity.
  • While designing the set has been a learning journey, the uncompromising attitude of Áine and her colleagues ultimately led to a better-finished set that VMTV can be proud of.
  • The ethos of the sustainable set has had a positive impact beyond the set itself, with the Six O’Clock Show transforming its practices to reflect the integrity of its new surroundings.
  • The VMTV team acquired a wealth of new knowledge and skills, which can be applied to all future projects.
  • Recognising that while initial costs were more expensive than a standard set, the team will track the set’s lifecycle costs over time, which are expected to be better value.
  • Local community groups and 3rd level institutions received equipment from the original set, and lighting, ensuring the local community also benefitted from this project.
  • The project helped to enhance VMTV’s reputation and sustainability credentials.

Overall, the benefits of this project go beyond doing good for the environment It has sparked a movement in VMTV and will hopefully influence others to follow suit.

Lessons Learned

Below are some of the key learnings for Network members to take away:

  • Be brave but get commitment: The VMTV team had a clear goal from the start – they wanted a set that was designed with environmental principles in mind and created by contractors that had a responsible approach to business. Commitment from management is hugely important, especially if the project hits hurdles such as taking more time than originally anticipated.
  • Be prepared to learn: Sustainability is a complex area, so while the VMTV team all become more familiar with what is meant by the term, it takes effort to assess and understand the sustainability claims made by suppliers – that is if you can find suppliers with ‘eco’ products. Fiona’s learning journey accelerated when she was mentored by Clearstream thorough the MODOS program, an initiative of Dublin City Council MODO. The mentorship proved to be highly beneficial for her as it provided much-needed clarity on sustainability before embarking on this current project.
  • You need a passionate and motivated team – VMTV had a very passionate and motivated team onboard who bought into the idea of building a sustainable set, and who were willing to go the extra mile to ensure every aspect of the project was sustainable.
  • Be prepared to have to upskill suppliers: Suppliers are busy just trying to stay in business, so environmental and social issues are not always front and centre of their minds. In relation to this project VMTV had to make a decision not to use an existing supplier on this project because their sustainability credentials were not up to scratch. But the silver lining is that this supplier was brought on a sustainability learning journey, which should reap longer term benefits.
  • Support local business: Seize the opportunity to back smaller businesses who are committed to a sustainable approach in the creation of their products.
  • Documentation and Blueprinting: VMTV’s journey in building a sustainable set was well-documented, with Aine and her team conscious that this was an industry first and could act as a blueprint for peers in the sector.
Possibly the biggest challenge is knowing where to start?
Aine Ní Chaoindealbháin
We were uncompromising in our approach.
Áine Ní Chaoindealbháin
Everyone in the industry understands Health & Safety criteria so we have to make sure that sustainability is on a par.. This is the path we’re going down.
Fiona Cunningham
The only way we will make sure things are sustainable is when people are involved, meaning people’s lives, livelihoods and approach to work. If it starts by asking who made this item and did they get a fair wage, have I caused grief by buying this product, they’ll then make sure to buy from a fair trade supplier etc.
Fiona Cunningham

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