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Case Study: Replacing a chiller at an ice rink

20 January 2015

Replacing a chilling plant at an ice rink isn't as straightforward as you’d imagine. Here’s how Guildford Spectrum did it. Read the February edition of PFM for the full story.

Of the many gravity-defying techniques you could witness at the Guildford Spectrum’s Olympic-sized ice rink, perhaps none is as dazzling as the one performed by Alan Hankin, the centre’s ice and bowl manager. One of Hankin’s jobs is ensuring the rink is operating efficiently and safely at all times. It’s open all year round, hosts ice hockey matches, figure and leisure skaters and junior ice hockey players and a Christmas Pantomime on ice

The rink – which hosts the Guildford Flames Ice Hockey team, and which brings in annual revenue of £2m – is only one part of the leisure centre, which includes a 10-pin bowling, swimming pools with wave machines, slides, diving facilities, running track and several squash courts. In fact, the Guildford Spectrum is the largest leisure complex of its type in the UK.

When Freedom Leisure, which manages the facility on behalf of Guildford Borough Council, started planning a replacement for an aged chilling plant that was incurring substantial maintenance bills, legislative compliance, sustainability, energy efficiency and longevity were key drivers. Indeed, UK councils were in a race against time at the end of last year to ensure their rinks were refrigerant compliant when the ban on recycled and virgin HCFC came into force.

But Hankin was one step ahead: he’d begun his own migration away from R22 plant by replacing the rink’s aged refrigeration plant with an ammonia chiller from J&E Hall.

“We were well aware of the R22 ban and had been devising a strategy for quite some time in preparation for the refrigerant ban,” says Hankin. “Freedom Leisure was keen to address its own as well as the council’s environmental objectives while taking advantage of the energy saving and environmental properties a modern refrigerant system could offer.”

Replacing a chilling plant may sound fairly straightforward, but it’s not: as Hankin points out, the rink is extraordinarily busy. It sees 400,000 people annually, while the centre has just under 1,8m visitors, Hankin says. “We’re open from 5am to 1am, so it’s a 21-hour a day operation.”

J&E Hall entered the equation when Martin Storey, south-east area manager, received a call from Mike Davey, a consultant with Clarkson Alliance, in spring 2013. Storey had previously worked with Davey on helping Oxford Ice Rink with its compliance issues. “Mike said ‘There's an opportunity at Guildford. It’s a bit 11th hour, but are you interested?’”

Read the rest of this article in the February edition of PFM


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