Demolition works at Aqua Energy Leisure Centre - View of Lake Guthridge in Sale

In an age where environmental responsibility is no longer a choice but a necessity, Wellington Shire Council made a concerted effort to integrate sustainable design principles, including repurposing equipment, into its $23 million redevelopment of Aqua Energy Leisure Centre in Sale.

Wellington Shire is the third largest municipality in Victoria, with 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 portfolio scale, it became imperative from the outset to adopt a sustainable approach to the Aqua Energy Redevelopment, 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, Wellington Shire Council believes that this is what has been achieved, demonstrating a commitment to environmental stewardship and promoting sustainable practices across the organisation and community.

Rescuing functional equipment

For Council, the project objective was clear – 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, the system – designed to automatically regulate water pH and chlorine levels – was a savvy cost-saving initiative for the Council.

The chlorine dosing system was installed alongside the filtration system. Return water is tested using the Pulsar Strantrol unit, which monitors current pool levels and triggers chemical balancing with chlorine or CO₂ for pH stabilisation. The unit undergoes testing and calibration in accordance with manual testing and calibration procedures. After testing and balancing, the set points are locked to maintain chemical levels.

Demolition of 25m Aqua Energy indoor pool. Image credit: Wellington Shire Council.

Since its installation at Heyfield Outdoor Pool, routine maintenance on the chlorine dosing system involves recalibrating levels and set points, cleaning testing probes and clearing chlorine feeder and return lines.

The surplus of equipment that resulted from the redevelopment also included a pump system and prior to their removal as part of the redevelopment, the pump system and chlorine dosing system were flushed and meticulously cleaned.

The surplus pump system contained two 3kW Grundfos circulation (couple end-suction) pumps. The Grundfos circulation pumps were sourced in Australia and originally installed by local Gippsland contractor AC pools.

Wellington Shire Council intends to utilise the two Grundfos circulation pumps to replace a single pump at the Maffra Outdoor pool. This change will provide redundancy, ensuring continuous circulation even if one pump malfunctions.

Among the other 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 of which are earmarked for future enhancements.

Wellington Shire Council Mayor, Ian Bye, said Council is 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.”

Rendered image of the new Aqua Energy Leisure Centre (internal). Image credit: Wellington Shire Council.

Committed to sustainable practices

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

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.

Wellington Shire Council’s commitment to enhancing energy efficiency and sustainability is demonstrated in the comprehensive measures implemented across its facilities and assets. A recent initiative involves 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, 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.

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

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 funded by Wellington Shire Council. Council is also utilising funds from the Federal Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program.

Rendered image of the new Aqua Energy Leisure Centre (external)

Rendered image of the new Aqua Energy Leisure Centre (external). Image credit: Wellington Shire Council.

As a key asset for the community, 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 red gum 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,” Cr Bye said.

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

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 showcased these elements.

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