Sports and recreation activity centre, Wokingham

Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) took its first step towards becoming carbon neutral when it declared a climate emergency in July 2019.  Their proposed new build Activity Centre offers a first chance to seriously consider how to make one of the council’s flagship buildings ‘zero-carbon’ and to examine what this entails.

The proposed project comprises two, two-storey buildings offering a sports hall, changing facilities, lake and park users, conference/classroom facilities, facility offices and a public café with terrace.

Zero carbon options report

Blewburton Limited, having worked previously with the council on other related projects were commissioned to offer a high-level, first look at the options for zero-carbon building at this site and the issue was to define what ‘zero carbon’ entails as it can be argues that it just covers the areas required under Part L of the Building Regulations, or it could be broadened to also make an allowance for notional uses within a building that fall beyond the remit of Part L.  Indeed, should the scope be broadened further to cover the carbon impacts of the materials used in the building construction.  It is a complex issue, with no single answer.

In this instance, as this was the first look at the issue for the council, the simpler option of looking only at Part L linked impacts was selected and accordingly, a number of options were modelled using SBEM software.  A standard, high specification approach to fabric efficiency and M&E services was consistent across all the models, with various scenarios then explored using technologies such as PV, heat pumps, CHP and solar thermal.

Final results will allow for a more focused approach for the site moving forwards, with the two buildings potentially performing very differently and having differing energy regimes. With their longstanding knowledge of low and zero carbon technologies and an understanding of the energy demands of buildings, Blewburton have been able to offer a realistic initial appraisal for this site that can hopefully lead to an appropriate and focused solution.