According to the Carbon Trust, energy costs in a leisure centre can account for 30% of its total running costs – greater than in any other industry sector. Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre, a bustling sports complex in Barkingside, Ilford, is an example of how advanced and sophisticated leisure centre facilities have become. The leisure centre, which is owned by London Borough of Redbridge (LBR), features a 25m pool, 60-station gym, aerobic studios and a spa with sauna, steam and therapy rooms. It is LBR’s largest energy consumer.
Andy Jones is the Leisure Facilities Operation Manager at Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure, the operator of Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre. “Managing a leisure centre, utilities are normally the second highest cost after staffing,” he explained. “With the cost of utilities continuing to rise year on year, it is important that the plant equipment is as efficient as possible to keep energy bills as low as possible.”
In complexes with swimming pools, the high, continuous demand for heating can be responsible for as much as 60% of its energy bills, reports the Carbon Trust. Fullwell Cross, like many leisure centres, relies on a commercial boiler plant for its space heating and domestic hot water provision. Ensuring high performance from the boilers is essential not only to minimise energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, but also for the smooth running of the building, as Andy points out.
“In busy leisure complexes like Fullwell Cross, it is vital that the plant equipment is working at all times,” he said. “This ensures that the pool is heated correctly, the building temperature is comfortable and the temperatures of the showers are correct. A failing or unreliable heating system will lead to customer complaints, a loss of reputation for the centre and company, and it will ultimately impact on the centre’s income.”
Then there’s the ability to manage utility costs more accurately. “A reliable and energy-efficient heating service reduces the risk of surprise costs that will impact on other expenditure,” he added.
Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre had relied on three Remeha Gas 5A gas condensing boilers for its heating since they were installed back in 1987. While the boilers had served them well for the last 30 years, parts were becoming increasingly hard to source. Added to which, even well-designed, well-maintained boilers like these become less efficient over the years. It was time for a boiler upgrade.
It is widely acknowledged that replacing ageing or inefficient boilers with high efficiency condensing boilers is a cost-effective, quick win solution to high-performance heating. Designed to deliver near-maximum efficiencies and ultra-low NOx emissions, they deliver a rapid return on investment, reducing both energy bills and the carbon footprint.
With the decision taken to upgrade the boilers, LBR’s key requirements were to ensure heating reliability, reduce maintenance costs and improve the energy efficiency of the centre. For Vision, maintaining sufficient heating provision throughout the project was the main concern to ensure that customers would enjoy the same level of service and facilities.
Jeff Hart and Soma Syloypavan, of LBR’s in-house M&E design team, specified a Remeha Gas 610 Eco Pro and a Gas 310 Eco Pro to replace the older Remeha boilers.
“We specified Remeha products as they serve many buildings daily within LBR with high levels of reliability and efficiency,” said Jeff Hart, Principal Mechanical Engineer at LBR. “So we have a good understanding of these boilers and their best application.”
The new Remeha boilers deliver space heating throughout Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre and provide heat for the new buffer vessels that were specified to replace the original high-recovery hot water supply calorifiers. The inclusion of a hot water supply plate heat exchanger ensures hydraulic separation and good water quality to optimise the performance of the boilers.
As part of the refurbishment works, a new building services control panel was fitted to enable easier and more accurate control of the heating system. Good control is central to maximising heating efficiencies as it enables the boilers to operate more efficiently and match the building demand, avoiding unnecessarily high energy bills.
Using high-quality equipment that is both easy to operate and to integrate within the heating system helps simplify installation while improving its energy efficiency, as Jeff explained: “The Remeha boilers are designed for simple integration with external BMS Controls, which was another winning factor leading to their specification. Underlying this is the good working relationship we have with Remeha and the excellent support and service they provide.”
To enable Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre to remain open during the boiler replacement project, a temporary oil-fired boiler plant was installed and connected to all the circuits. This provided enough heat for the pool, building and showers to ensure that the services were unaffected throughout the project.
The installation of the Remeha Gas 310/610 Eco Pro boilers was carried out smoothly and to schedule. And the high performance of the new boilers is already making a positive impact, as Andy reports.
“Since installing the new boilers, there has been a significant improvement in water pressure and temperature in the showers,” he said. “The temperature in the building has been more constant and the reliability has been great. It’s a relief to know that, thanks to the new boilers, the centre will have uninterrupted, reliable heating now and in the years ahead.
“LBR are extremely happy with the installation which was completed on time and within the overall budget. With the new Remeha boilers running reliably, LBR are now anticipating a reduction in gas consumption which, according to initial indications, is in the region of 10%.”
According to the Carbon Trust, a 10% improvement in managing energy could save leisure centres up to £70m a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds of thousands of tonnes. For Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre, the savings have started with the boilers.