Wednesday, 4 November 2015

G&S #Passivhaus & #buildingbiology Architects for First UK Passivhaus Leisure Centre in Exeter @ExeterActive @ExeterCouncil #ecodesign

Gale & Snowden Architects are pleased to present the initial design concept for the first Passivhaus Certified Leisure building in the UK. We are working alongside a team of consultants (including AFLS+P, ARUP, ARCADIS, LDA Design and Continuum) to deliver not only the first Passivhaus leisure building in the UK, but also the first leisure building to be designed in accordance with Building Biology IBN principles and to be Future Climate Ready. This innovative building is scheduled to be completed in 2018.

The following article has been written by Creatrix about the project:

Exeter is looking to confirm its place at the cutting edge of sustainable building, with Exeter Active set to be the UK’s first Passivhaus Leisure Centre, delivering an impressive saving of up to 70% on energy costs.

Already home to the Met Office, and with the University of Exeter at the forefront of climate research, the city has a global reputation as a centre of excellence in climate science. Exeter City Council has already built on this reputation by being the first UK Council to develop social housing constructed to Passivhaus standards. It was a logical step therefore for Exeter City Council to choose to apply the rigorous sustainability standard to Exeter Active, the new Leisure Centre planned for the city centre to replace the ageing and inefficient Pyramids pool.

The Exeter Active project team is joined by representatives from the Passivhaus Institute, the German-based home of the Passivhaus standard. The involvement of the Institute in the Exeter Active project will ensure the team is provided with expert guidance on best practice in Passivhaus design for leisure Centres.

The Exeter Active design team also includes Exeter-based Passivhaus architects, Gale & Snowden Architects, specialists in sustainable building techniques. A spokesperson from the practice explained “We have a wealth of experience in delivering Passivhaus buildings, having previously worked with Exeter City Council to deliver the UK’s first Passivhaus social housing. A Passivhaus swimming pool and leisure complex has never been built in the UK before, so we are delighted that the Passivhaus Institute has joined the team to bring their expertise from having worked on Europe’s only Passivhaus pools in Germany. We are working up a design that will deliver a saving of at least 70% in energy consumption over a standard UK leisure centre.”

BREEAM is the usual build standard of sustainability used in the UK, but takes a broad brush approach. In contrast, the Passivhaus standard focusses primarily on the energy demand of the building in operation. As energy usage accounts for over a third of the cost of running a Leisure Centre with swimming pools, the Passivhaus standard will have a substantial impact on the energy efficiency, and by extension profitability of Exeter Active. Jessica Grove-Smith of the Passivhaus Institute said “The Passivhaus pools currently in operation in Germany have delivered impressive results in terms of energy efficiency. As frontrunner projects they are attracting attention from communities worldwide that are looking to apply the concept to their own projects in order to contribute to climate change mitigation and save operation costs."

Gale & Snowden bring more than Passivhaus experience to the team however. They also specialise in “building biology”, a discipline which places health and wellbeing at the heart of the design process. This includes exploring innovative water treatment methods for Exeter Active’s pools to reduce the reliance on harsh chemicals, making the pool environment a more pleasant place to be. The firm’s spokesperson explained “In the UK we tend to focus on aspects like diet when it comes to health and wellbeing, but pay little attention to the impacts the buildings we occupy have on our health. For example, German and Swiss standards for pool water are much more demanding than in the UK, being on a par with drinking water standards. Studies show that in a 45 minute swimming lesson a child can swallow up to a pint of water. It makes sense therefore to strive to make the quality of the pool water as good as possible, minimising the use of potentially harmful chemicals.”

The Exeter Active design team is working up initial designs for the new leisure centre. The complex will include two pools, both with moveable floors to maximise accessibility and flexibility, a 150 station fitness suite, a health & wellbeing spa, flexible studio spaces, crèche and softplay. A public exhibition of the initial plans will be held later in the Autumn. More information about the project can be found at

Exeter Active initial design concept featured in the Exeter Express and Echo, October 22nd 2015
Passivhaus in Exeter
A Passivhaus leisure centre will be a first for the UK, but Exeter City Council has considerable experience with the ultra-sustainable building technique, as one of the first councils in the UK to deliver Passivhaus social housing.

The completion Rowan House and Knight's Place by the Council in 2011 put Exeter at the vanguard of Passivhaus social housing in the UK. Many such schemes have since followed across the country, with councils recognising the benefits of the technique in terms of occupier comfort and greatly-reduced energy usage, resulting in much lower energy bills for the resident.

Exeter City Council has since delivered three more Passivhaus social housing schemes in the city, at Bennett Square (Barberry Close), Brookway (Silverberry Close) and Newport Road (Reed Walk).

Exeter City Council leader, Cllr Pete Edwards, said “We are proud to have led the way on the development of Passivhaus housing in the UK. Exeter has forged a reputation as a global centre of excellence on climate change and sustainability, and it makes sense for us as a council to play our part by applying the most rigorous standards in sustainable building to public sector projects.”

A resident at Knight’s Place, one of Exeter City Council’s first Passivhaus developments, said “I love the fact that the flat is warm all the time and whenever I come in from outside it is always nice and warm unlike any other building I have been in”. Another resident added, “I have never felt uncomfortably hot or cold a single day since moving in”

We are pleased to be working alongside a great project team including the client and consultants, and look forward to developing the design with them over the next few months. 

We will keep you updated as the project develops - exciting times!

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