Exeter City Council has been a UK pioneer in energy efficiency for the past decade having already built a housing development and supported care housing scheme to PassivHaus standards. Now they are building the UK’s first PassivHaus leisure centre. S&P was appointed to develop, what will be the first PassivHaus and ‘future climate ready’ leisure centre in the UK and possibly the most energy efficient in Europe.
S&P is leading an integrated design team that includes support from leisure consultants and energy and climate specialists. We have worked with the Council to develop a robust business case that combines savings from a substantial reduction in energy costs, together with a facility mix that meets local needs and will increase visitor numbers. The centre aims for a 50% reduction in energy costs, compared with conventionally constructed design, which amounts to £200,000 per year. The building also meets Building Biology standards – a standard developed to define critical levels of electromechanical radiation and indoor pollutants.
Located in Exeter city centre, the new facilities will include: Three swimming pools; a fitness gym; three studios; a crèche and a café, as well as a large health spa. and external landscaped terrace on the top floor overlooking the city roof scape. Spread over four floors on a tight urban site, the centre will form an anchor within a new commercial retail masterplan and will act as a gateway building on one of the main approaches into the city.
At S&P we took an holistic approach to the space design which included orienting the pool hall glazing southwards to maximise solar gain, an orientation the University of Exeter believes will work best under future climate scenarios. By contrast, the dry areas of the centre work best with north facing glazing as they are more likely to overheat in summer. Our spatial planning considered this together with the relative temperature of adjacent rooms and actively reduced heat loss by minimising the adjacency of high and low temperature rooms. Use of simultaneous heating and cooling air-source heat pumps also means that hot air from the gym and studios can be used to offset heat loss in the pool area – a major source of expense.
The pool filtration system is another UK first – using ceramic microfiltration exceptionally high levels of filtration occur. UV light acts as the main water decontaminant thereby substantially reducing the use of chemicals and the impact on the environment. The building also contains a Faraday Cage around the children’s crèche to protect them electromagnetic fields.
Photography courtesy of Exeter City Council