July 2020

As the Country starts to emerge from lockdown, fitness and leisure centres will be amongst the last facilities to be reopened to the public.

A combination of the concern on high density of cardiovascular activity and the usual approach of recirculating systems and minimum fresh air utilised in many facilities are likely to be among the influencing factors.

Is there a need to review how leisure centres are serviced and will the usual solution of VRF systems and minimum fresh air be continued?

The new Edinburgh Leisure Meadowbank Sports Centre currently under construction may be another example of the way forward.

The Centre has been designed to predominantly utilise displacement ventilation to serve the fitness suites, multi-purpose rooms, gymnastics, boxing and Dojo facilities.

Displacement ventilation is seen as one of the main positive design solutions available to addressing concerns and issues prompted by COVID-19.

Displacement works by introducing fresh air directly into the occupied space and offsetting (displacing) contaminants in the air to high level to be extracted.

It provides one of the freshest environments available.

The displacement system is able to utilise free cooling for significant portions of the year and helped further by the centres long operating hours.

When mechanical cooling is required, the opportunity to utilise heat pumps to provide cooling and the production of domestic hot water could be considered depending on the centres hot water demand, even more so if it has a swimming pool associated with it.

Many people may have come across displacement in an office environment with diffusers distributing air via a floor plenum. The cooling capacity in that case is severely restricted due to comfort concerns from people sitting at desks and therefore in the speculative office development, the market, over the years, had veered towards VRF type systems.

However displacement has been utilised in industrial facilities for many years to deal with high heat loads, and, in a gym environment where you are looking for as much fresh air and cooling as possible, then the match is evident.

RSP utilised a similar displacement ventilation solution for its 90 station gym and multi-purpose rooms at Fife Councils Carnegie Leisure Centre in Dunfermline which opened several years ago and has operated very well, with positive feedback from staff and users alike.

The opportunities to utilise displacement in high and low occupancy environments are numerous and it is likely that the ventilation design solutions for projects will be looking at all air systems more closely from now on.