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Retrofitting an aquatic centre to save water and energy

By pwpro posted 11-06-2014 10:34

Towards its ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020, Darebin City Council in Victoria has retrofitted one of its aquatic and recreation centres, resulting in impressive energy and water savings.
Darebin City Council – located on the northern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria – joined the Australian federal government’s Cities for Climate Protection program in 1997. Representing a population of about 150,000, the council has since developed its Community and Corporate Climate Change Action Plans, with the central goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020.

“Darebin City Council is seen as a leader in energy efficiency, having operated an in-house energy efficiency program with dedicated staff since 2006,” explains the council’s Assets and Business Services Director, Steve Hamilton. 
Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre
“Since the energy efficiency program was implemented, council has avoided more than $700,000 in expenditure and reduced annual greenhouse gas emissions by over 5000 tonnes annually – equivalent to around a 29 per cent overall reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions,” he says.

'Pooling our energy savings'

Included in these measures has been the council’s more recent ‘Pooling Our Energy Savings’ project, with the goal of significantly reducing the emissions and energy costs associated with two community leisure facilities – the Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre (NARC) and the Reservoir Leisure Centre.

“The aim is to roll out the upgrades at NARC, capitalise on the learnings, then realise the opportunity to apply similar measures to other facilities,” explains Hamilton.

Darebin City Council owns NARC, with operations contracted to the YMCA. The centre features a 50m outdoor heated lap pool and a 25m outdoor heated learner’s pool. Indoor heated pools comprise a 25m lap pool and parallel children’s play and education pool, as well as a spa. 

NARC has a visitation rate of around 750,000, with 4200 members. More than 30 local schools use the centre for their swimming carnivals and the centre is aligned with numerous community and sports groups.

Energy and water efficiency measures that have been implemented at NARC include:

  • Cogeneration, i.e. using gas to generate electricity on site, with waste heat used to heat the pool water and pool halls;

  • LED lighting, with close consideration given to safety and glare, including fitting diffusers over the indoor pool;

  • HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) upgrades, including replacing the old gas heating system with a more efficient reverse-cycle heat recovery system;

  • Pool blankets, which prevent evaporation and heat loss overnight, while also reducing condensation with the additional benefit of protecting the building from corrosion; and

  • A commercial solar hot water system (visible from the spa, providing a positive community awareness opportunity).

The council has also demonstrated its commitment to sharing information with other councils, participating in numerous knowledge-sharing events. It was also a partner in the development of the Municipal Associations of Victoria’s ‘Streamlining Cogeneration for Victorian Councils’ toolkit.

The NARC upgrades were officially launched at a community open day, barbecue and ‘energy expo’ held on Saturday, 19 October 2013. 

Benefits to the community resulting from the upgrades extend beyond emissions reduction, explains Hamilton. 

“Due to the significant load on the electricity grid from these sites, our community should also benefit from reduced stress on the local networks and more reliable energy supply,” he says. 

The project commenced in 2012 and will total just over two million dollars in cost.

Darebin City Council received co-funding for the project from the Australian Government’s Community Energy Efficiency Program (CEEP) and the Local Government Energy Efficiency Program (LGEEP). The council fitted into the funding program as a low socio-economic municipality.

The total emissions-reduction target at NARC alone will be 1000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent annually – comparable to removing around 270 passenger vehicles from the road every year.

Successful engagement of the centre management, the YMCA, was critical to the success of the NARC project, says Hamilton. 
“The upgrades involved numerous inconveniences, such as shut downs and restricted access. In order to deliver a successful experience of energy efficiency, good communication and respect for the users was paramount.” 

This article originally appeared in the May-June 2014 edition of Public Works Professional, the official journal of the IPWEA.

#AssetManagement #ClimateChangeSustainability