SSE Hydro. Credit: McAteer Photograph; SSE Hydro. Credit: McAteer Photograph;

SSE Hydro, Glasgow

The Hydro Effect: how the iconic SSE Hydro Glasgow is boosting Scotland’s economy

The SSE Hydro first opened its doors in 2013 and has since become Scotland's home of live entertainment. Attracting over five million visitors within its first five years of opening, the SSE Hydro is a highly versatile venue offering a capacity for 12,500 guests. With possibilities for different staging, seating and lighting experiences, no two events feel the same. 

Arup provided a range of services including civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, public health and fire engineering; as well as specialist lighting services. 

The venue has been estimated to inject £336 million into the Scottish economy p/a and has been credited with boosting trade in the surrounding Finnieston area with almost 50 new bars and restaurants having opened since 2013. The locals have named this "the Hydro Effect". 

Project Summary

5 million visits in the first 5 years

£336mper annum currently injected into Scotland's economy

£1.25mnet additional expenditure per day in the Glasgow area

Prior to the completion of the SSE Hydro, Hall 4 of the SECC (now SEC) was the largest indoor events venue in Glasgow. Our client, SEC Project Management Ltd. was losing approximately 70 days of exhibition business a year as the space required reconfiguration between concert and exhibition formats to adapt to different events. The client wanted an alternative entertainments venue which would be more efficient and more versatile in changing format depending on the event requirements. Another target for the client was to position Scotland at the top of the global entertainment industry and make Glasgow an important stop for any artist on their arena tour. 

© McAteer Photograph

A flexible and efficient structure

Arup and Foster + Partners Ltd created a 12,500 seat arena inspired by Roman amphitheatres, with a combination of fixed, removable and retractable seating, with the aim of creating a versatile space which gave a clear view of the stage from any seat. The roof has one of the largest lighting rigs in the world with greater capabilities than the existing SEC which has attracted great talent to perform at the venue. One of the most unique features of the building's exterior is its EFTE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene) façade, made up of translucent LED cushion panels, originally developed for the space industry.

The venue foyer is largely lit by natural light and also has natural ventilation providing energy efficiencies. © McAteer Photograph

A sustainable design vision

Sustainability was a driver for both our team and the client during the construction process. During the build, any waste materials found on the existing site including concrete from the old dock, were re-graded and recycled to reduce waste disposal off-site. The roof of the new building was made from aluminium as it is widely recyclable to facilitate improved waste management for any future works. For day-to-day use, the foyer of the building is largely lit naturally by the panels which surround the exterior of the building. There is also natural ventilation, reducing the need for air conditioning. The result is a venue which effectively serves its purpose whilst taking steps to support our planet.

It was an amazing achievement to complete a scheme so complex, both technically and commercially, and to see it now hosting acts that are pushing the boundaries of what an entertainment venue can offer. The whole team is very proud. ”

Ian Lumsden Ian Lumsden Associate Director

The future of live entertainment

The iconic SSE Hydro has hosted some major music, political and sporting events Scotland has seen, such as netball and gymnastics at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. It has attracted on average one million visitors per year and is injecting £336 million p/a into the Scottish economy. The unique lighting construction is able to suspend 80 tonnes of rigging equipment above the stage providing the capability to utilise existing and future technologies. Virtual reality experiences have already been executed in the arena and continue to rise in popularity in stage performances.

Arup has created a venue which has become an icon in the entertainment industry, a space which can achieve new possibilities and push the boundaries of live performance. Find out more about our Arts & Culture work which continues to shape some of the world's most recognised venues.

© McAteer Photograph


Structural Awards 2015 - Award for Regional Groups

Royal Academy of Engineering 2017 - Major Project Award