Australia’s first all-electric, zero emissions indoor leisure and aquatic centre is taking shape in Victoria, with the construction of a $60 million facility that will use a combination of energy efficient design, smart energy technologies and a renewable power purchase agreement.
The “net-zero” and fossil fuel free Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre, in Melbourne’s west, is being built by the Brimbank City Council in Keilor Downs, to replace the former St Albans Leisure Centre.
The project was this week awarded up to $1.53 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to go towards the implementation and demonstration – and potential future replication – of the project’s $8.1 million integrated energy solution.
That solution will include a four-pipe heat pump system that can provide simultaneous heating and cooling, including water-to-water heat recovery that will provide whole-of-facility heating for all spaces at the facility, including pools and showers.
To replace the traditional gas boilers normally used at aquatic centres, the centre will also install a 88 kilolitre above ground thermal energy storage system, 500kW of solar PV, a heat recovery system and direct digital control systems.
As noted above, and further grid-sourced electricity required to run the facility will be sourced via a 100 per cent renewable energy power purchase agreement, ARENA said in a statement on Thursday.
ARENA said the centre would be designed to achieve a 6 Star Green Star rating, boosted by the efficient building shell and high efficiency energy system. All up, the facility is expected to use 80 per cent less energy to operate compared to other traditional aquatic centres.
The $8.1 million from the federal government’s ARENA aims to help make the case that a combination of heat pumps and renewable energy solutions can be technically and commercially feasible for application at many more facilities like this, all around the country.
“Leisure and aquatic centres have traditionally been some of the most energy intensive buildings for local councils to manage,” said ARENA chief Darren Miller.
“Brimbank City Council’s project offers us the opportunity to demonstrate a pathway to using commercially viable renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to achieve a carbon neutral facility that other localities throughout Australia can learn from and adopt.”
Brimbank City Council has already gathered some valuable experience in the area – it was last year awarded a sustainability gong at the 2020 Aquatics & Recreation Victoria Awards for the environmental performance of its nearby Sunshine Leisure centre.
The award followed various upgrades to the centre, led by Lucid Consulting Australia, which added a ground-mounted solar array – used as shading alongside the outdoor pool – and sub-metering and variable speed drives to more efficiently manage water quality and energy demand.
Brimbank Council’s senior sustainability officer, Ross Kingston, also took part in an online Regional Development Australia summit on the usage of Low Charge Ammonia (LCA) heat pumps for Aquatic Centre heating, held late last year.
The summit, which featured Dr Alan Pears (Senior Industry Fellow, RMIT University), discussed the importance of making aquatic centres much more efficient, with lower cost and emissions.
The summit heard that savings of up to 36% could be achieved with installing heat pumps, and that councils needed to be “very clear when designing a sustainable facility that it needs to be a fossil fuel free and zero emissions facility,” as noted here on LinkedIn.
In comments on the Brimbank Aquatic project, Mayor Cr Ranka Rasic said the council’s goal was to demonstrate the first all-electric aquatic centre in Australia.
“We are thrilled that this state-of-the-art centre will showcase best practice in sustainable design – while delivering first class aquatic facilities and preventative health, education and social services, all under the one roof.”