Eco-friendly Design – Reducing your Carbon Footprint

As focus falls on reducing the carbon footprint of businesses, gym operators are increasingly turning to new technologies to become more eco-friendly. We explain how this can help save money as well as the planet…

Some elements of gym design will never change but the big development we have seen recently is in technology. This has definitely moved on.

We are now putting in air conditioning units that use heat from the gym to heat the water. Although it’s a bigger initial investment it saves on running costs and, because of an increased demand and mass production, the price is coming down at a rate of knots. A few years ago, operators would have to wait up to 15 years to see a return on investment but now the capital investment is coming back in just two-three years, in terms of the reduced running costs.

There are now intelligent ventilation systems that use sensors to detect the need for decreased or increased fan speeds, saving energy and becoming far more efficient.

We are also putting in more LED lighting, using technology that automatically adapts to an increase or decrease of natural light.  Underfloor heating, although more of an initial cost, is considered to be much more efficient. Water saving measures are a further example.  Taps that switch off automatically, efficient showers, which reduce water output by 50%, and toilet cisterns that require less water to flush, all reduce running costs.

Much of this trend is dictated by building legislation, as we are having to build more sustainable facilities. Building Regulations Part L, which is concerned with energy conservation, is affecting all new build health and fitness facilities, as well as major extensions.  A revision in 2010 has seen CO2 emissions set 25% lower than in 2006. The government’s target is for all new commercial buildings to be ‘zero carbon’ by 2019.  The building standards have, therefore, been raised to ensure all new buildings and large extensions meet better insulation targets and that there is a degree of renewable energy built into the property.


The legislation in Part L falls into two parts:

– Specific, which looks at the thermal element of the actual building itself.  It’s external walls, floor and roof.

– Consequential, which focuses on any increases in energy levels during redevelopment. For example, if a gym is introducing air con that creates a carbon footprint they must also off-set that by improving efficiency elsewhere, for example in ventilation.

With new builds, there is a scoring system that must be met with points being awarded for things like underfloor heating. Increasingly, the new technologies are being used to meet these thresholds.

Whilst these regulations bring extra cost they also offer plenty of long-term benefits.  One example was our £1.5 million redevelopment of Lewsey Sports Park, a fitness, squash and boxing facility, managed by Active Luton.  Developed from an old snooker and squash club, a new heating and cooling system was required. The system we used incorporated heat recovery ventilation equipment to recycle any latent heat, which reduced the running costs. 10% of the cost of the new system was then spent on ‘consequential improvements’, in this case new lighting and double glazed PVC windows to maximise energy efficiency.

As Lewsey Sports Park has seen, in spite of the initial outlay on these energy saving measures, new environmentally friendly technologies can reap benefits and reduce operators’ costs in the long-term.