In an age where environmental responsibility is no longer a choice but a necessity, Wellington Shire Council has integrated sustainable design principles into its $23 million redevelopment of the Aqua Energy Leisure Centre in Sale, repurposing existing equipment and implementing energy-conserving strategies. 

Wellington Shire Council is the third largest municipality in Victoria, boasting an expansive 16 swimming pools across six locations and almost 11,000 square kilometres. This leaves Wellington Shire Council with one of the most extensive outdoor pool portfolios in the state. 

Given this scale, it became imperative from the outset to adopt a sustainable approach to the Aqua Energy Redevelopment of the leisure centre in Sale, aimed at both cost-saving measures and the efficient repurposing of perfectly functional equipment within its regional pool facilities. With stage one of the redevelopment almost complete, that is exactly what has been achieved.

The initiative not only represents a strong commitment to environmental stewardship but also demonstrates forward-thinking leadership, promoting sustainable practices across the organisation and community. 

Finding new purpose

The project objective was clear for Council – to create a modern and accessible facility that promotes health and wellbeing and aligns with sustainable practices without compromising on budget constraints.

In November 2023, as demolition crews commenced their work on the centre, the 25m chlorine dosing system including a pulsar precision control panel and chlorine feeder found a new purpose at the nearby Heyfield Outdoor Pool. With a current value of $10,000, this system, designed to automatically regulate water pH and chlorine levels, was a savvy cost-saving initiative for the Council.

Among the salvageable items awaiting reuse are solar panels with an estimated value of $100,000. These panels are ready to find their next home, with potential destinations ranging from local recreation reserves to sporting change rooms, aged care facilities, library and customer service hubs – all earmarked for future enhancements. 

Additionally, the strainer basket, which catches debris and prevents clogging in the pool’s filtration system, will be repurposed at the Maffra Outdoor Pool.

“We are committed to finding new and innovative ways to make the most of pool equipment that still has life left in it. The decision to repurpose and integrate equipment into smaller pool facilities became a natural choice for us,” said Ian Bye, Wellington Shire Council Mayor.

Despite project constraints such as a partial rebuild of the existing facility and budget limitations, Council has remained committed to its promise to sustainable practice – notably, the decision to retain significant existing infrastructure, including air handling units, a mere 18 months old. 

Indoor grandstand seating is also set to be relocated outdoors at the Sale Outdoor Pool to accommodate more spectators for swimming competitions, while the benches and other furniture have found a new home at the West Sale Pool in Fulham.

Reducing carbon footprint

By focusing on elements such as insulation, airtightness, and ventilation with heat recovery, Aqua Energy Leisure Centre aims to create a healthier and more comfortable environment for visitors while simultaneously reducing the facility’s carbon footprint.

Council’s commitment to enhancing energy efficiency and sustainability is evident in the comprehensive measures implemented across its facilities and assets. A recent initiative includes certifying Project Engineers in ‘Passive House Building Standards’. This official accreditation in sustainable building design makes it easier for project teams to integrate this crucial aspect into future projects benefiting the entire community by focusing on energy efficiency, comfort, and affordability. 

Additionally, incorporating passive house design principles reduces a building’s overall energy demand, making it easier to transition to other heating sources in the future. 

In a notable achievement, the Council now boasts the highest number of certified ‘Passive House’ designers across the Gippsland region. 

Additional strategies, such as reducing thermal bridges and implementing airtightness testing to enhance ventilation efficiency, are currently being utilised. 

Incorporating high levels of building insulation along with thermally efficient double glazing, as well as utilising natural daylight and LED lighting, further aids in energy conservation. 

Incorporating sustainability at every stage

The $23 million facility upgrade has been made possible thanks to the Victorian Government, including $2 million from the Local Sports Infrastructure Fund and $10 million from the Community Sports Infrastructure Loan Scheme, $950,000 from the John Leslie Foundation, with the remainder of the project provided for by Council and funds from the Federal Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program. 

As a vital community asset for Sale, Council placed emphasis on creating a comfortable building environment, characterised by even temperatures, reduced draughts, and lower noise levels, while also leveraging natural features like proximity to open spaces, including large Redgum trees and nearby Lake Guthridge. 

“Our commitment to sustainable design reflects our dedication to creating a positive impact on the environment while providing a state-of-the-art facility for our community,” Mayor Bye said.

Water-efficient fixtures, the reuse of existing solar panels, and installation of new ones with future expansion capability aim to maximise available rebates. 

“Our focus extends beyond the construction phase, and we are dedicated to maintaining a sustainable approach throughout the lifecycle of the leisure centre.” Mayor Bye said. 

When reviewing the Wellington Shire Council Plan, it is clear that four strategic directions and priorities have shaped its work over the past four years: Environment and Climate Change, Economy and Sustainable Growth, Liveability and Wellbeing, and Services and Infrastructure. It appears this redevelopment has mastered these elements. 

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