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Greening Leisure

10 July 2009

With some 1,500 sports and leisure facilities in the UK, all are major users of energy through heating, lighting, ventilation and air conditioning Paul Bailey describes the efforts being made to reduce energy use at the 60 locations managed by Leisure Connection

WITH AN ENERGY-HUNGRY LEISURE INDUSTRY consuming more than £700m worth of energy every year and rising fast, it is no surprise that leisure managers can reap huge rewards by focusing on reducing their carbon footprint.

By making just a 10 percent reduction in energy consumption, they could save over £7m every year and reduce carbon emissions by hundreds of thousands of tonnes. It is no longer simply about complying with the latest environmental legislation. Going green can bring major bottomline benefits.

At Leisure Connection we have been addressing our environmental impact for some time and have implemented an environmental plan throughout our centres the length and breadth of the country. Committed to reducing our carbon footprint, we have been working with the Carbon Trust to devise and implement a number of energy saving programmes and for more than two years now we have been trialling a number of initiatives designed to decrease the energy and water consumption throughout our estate of more than 60 centres.

We trialled different technologies with some remarkable results. One of our sites realised a saving of more than 16 percent (£32,000 on an annual bill of nearly £200,000) on all utilities by investing in new control technologies that removed manual operation. A vital part of that success was our awareness-raising campaign across the centres to focus people on the value and benefits of energy saving. We educate all our teams to use their own initiative when it comes to managing energy more efficiently – by simply turning things off when not required - or to turn it on its head - to switch things on only when required and off when finished!

The fundamental technical strategy was to add, automate and optimise environmental controls so that energy demand was tightly matched to use and occupancy. We reduced the speeds of main electric motors, removed competing heating and cooling systems, insulated, optimised the BMS to reflect actual occupancy and used re-lamping as an opportunity to install energy efficient lighting and daylight/occupancy controls. Other devices such as water-saving shower heads were installed, saving water and the gas to heat it, without compromising the quality of our showers.

Key to all these measures has been our ability to accurately measure and target energy use, by the installation of automatic meter readers (AMRs). Our motto is - if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!

A second trial at our centres at Stoke Mandeville – the centre of excellence for wheelchair sport - and in St Albans, has seen a liquid pool cover tested, which forms a one molecule thick layer on the surface of the pool when it is empty of swimmers and the surface is calm. This demonstrated savings, which recover the monthly cost of the consumable liquid within the first week of each month. This cover is suitable for off-peak times when the pool is empty for long periods.

With light switching in leisure centres traditionally being all on one panel behind the receptionist, occupancy control for lighting is essential to reduce consumption. We have recently taken the opportunity to upgrade a lighting scheme in one of our theatres, replacing 3000W of lighting with 350W of new lighting, which had the added bonus of reducing heating in the area, further improving comfort for ourcustomers. We’ve eplicated the success story in other centres across our estate. We also upgrade sports halls and squash courts when the opportunity arises, with more energy efficient lighting and movement sensors, which will only light courts when in use and only when there isn’t enough available daylight.

Lessons learned from these trials and key successes are now being implemented throughout all our sites and Leisure Connection has installed a network Energy Champions to ensure they are operated as efficiently as possible, through awareness and good housekeeping. Good energy housekeeping is fundamental to maintaining the momentum of those results and to communicating the benefits: healthier and more productive working conditions, a more comfortable environment for customers, and vital cost savings, which also will protect jobs in this economic climate. The biggest results, from my experience, come not from lecturing, but by motivating staff and encouraging them to look at their own working practices to save energy.

Monitoring results and setting targets are also key as are tracking progress and highlighting opportunities for energy savings and benefits. Leisure Connection is also working to reduce the energy wastage from their swimming pools. Tightly controlling the temperature of some of our pools to bring them in line with SportEngland recommendations.

We were delighted when the Chartered Institute of Building Service Engineers (CIBSE) recognised our energy efficiency efforts by presenting us with their Client of the Year Award at their Low Energy Awards this year. Local Authorities have an ever-increasing obligation to reduce their carbon footprint and the leisure industry can play a major role in helping them to achieve that goal. There are some 1,500 sports and leisure facilities in the UK: all major users of energy through heating, lighting, ventilation and air conditioning. Saving energy is one of the most effective ways to increase profits, without changing conditions for staff and customers.

With the introduction of Display Energy Certificates and the Carbon Reduction Commitment to the statute book, Local Authorities will have an increasing obligation to reduce carbon emissions. They also have access to specific Government funding. Through our early investment, experimentation and the knowledge gained, we are in a strong position to assist and advise our clients in their endeavours to reduce carbon, and in partnership with them, are now looking to roll these projects out across the estate and to discuss with them how we can mutually benefit from the development of a technical carbon management strategy.

● Paul Bailey is Head of Property at Leisure Connection. Leisure Connection manages leisure and arts facilities across the UK for local authorities, national bodies such as Sport England and Wheelpower, and
private fitness clubs. The facilities managed vary from fitness clubs, leisure centres, swimming pools, theatres and arts centres, to arts and sports outreach services and programmes.

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