Energy upgrade will result in significant reductions in running costs and CO2 emissions, as retrofit includes geothermal heat pump system, LED lighting and biomass boiler, while the centre will generate its own electricity using solar photovoltaic panels.

The Lahinch Leisure Centre retrofit journey began in September 2018 when engineers from Tipperary Energy Agency completed an energy audit to understand how much energy the building was using and pinpoint necessary works to upgrade the facility. 

At this stage, the Leisure Centre had an E BER (Building Energy Rating). The building, part of which was constructed in 1960, had inefficient lighting and was poorly insulated with single glazed windows. Today, Lahinch Leisure Centre has a BER A2 Energy Rating and has NZEB (Near Zero Energy Building) status.  

Following the audit Tipperary Energy Agency were appointed mechanical and electrical design engineers and energy consultants. 

Prior to the retrofit, the leisure centre (part of which was constructed in 1960), was poorly insulated with single glazed windows and inefficient lighting. It was cold and costly to run. 

Previous efforts to upgrade the heating system involved the installation of an air source heat pump. However, this heating system was never fully operational as it was not suitable for the sea air environment and following flooding was no longer in use.  

'Was extremely difficult to heat'

Lahinch centre manager Eoin Conlon said: “The leisure centre was extremely difficult to heat. Customers complained that all the pools and the changing rooms were cold. It was uncomfortable for customers to change and swim in that environment.

"The business itself was unable to sustain the cost of trying to heat the facility, this being primarily due to the insulation, the AHU’s incompatibility and the roof displaying multiple holes for the heat to escape. Essentially the company had massive costs to heat the building only for it to be losing heat through the roof of the building."

John Hayes, senior building services engineer at Tipperary Energy Agency said: “When we surveyed the building initially, the BER was E. Following the retrofit, Lahinch Leisure Centre is now a best-in-class A rated leisure centre with up to 55% reductions in running costs and CO2 emissions.”  

The works commenced in September 2020, with some inevitable delays due to Covid. One of the first steps, in what became a journey of transformation, was to insulate building walls with both external and cavity wall insulation.

The roof and floors have also been fully insulated. New glazing has been installed throughout. The old inefficient lighting has been replaced with a smart LED system which is sensitive to occupancy in the building and daylight.

The rooftops are now home to solar PV panels which will generate much of the centre’s electricity requirements and includes a battery storage system to store electricity when needed. A new ground source heat pump was designed and installed to serve as the primary heating system for the main 25m pool and the kid's pool. 

Ductwork made from 100% recycled materials

An interesting feature of the upgrade is that all the ductwork throughout the building is made from 100% recycled materials. Tipperary Energy Agency, who were the technical engineers on the project and designed all the energy efficiency upgrades, contributed to fund this ductwork which is made from 3,717 plastic bottles.  

Main features upgrade 

  • Ground source heat pump: a new GSHP cascade system was designed and installed to serve as the primary heating system for the main 25m pool, the kids pool and local space heating via fan coil units located throughout;
  • Biomass boiler cascade: 300kW of Biomass Boiler to serve the 3 AHU’s throughout the facility;
  • Air handling units: three new AHU’s designed and selected for a swimming pool environment;
  • Smart LED lighting upgrade: smart LED lighting through, complete with occupancy detection, daylight sensing and multiple scene selections; 
  • 137kWp solar PV array: when production exceeds consumption, the system shall store excess energy in 30kWh Battery system; 
  • Insulation: the cavity and external walls were insulated. And the roof and ground floor insulation were all upgraded;  
  • Shower heat recovery system: six recoup shower heat recovery units were installed at 42% heat recovery efficiency; 
  • Windows and doors: all windows and doors were ungraded to double glazing and high thermal efficiency units.  

"The new energy system that we have in place now thanks to Tipperary Energy Agency and partners allows for full transparency on our facility when it comes to maintaining and evaluating our energy use," said Conlan.  

"While the systems themselves, such as the geothermal heat pumps, solar panels and wood pellet boilers have state of the art energy efficiency engineering behind them we still must allow for an ongoing process evaluation for their use to maximise their full potential.

"I intend to work closely with Tipperary Energy Agency to make sure that this process happens. Tipperary Energy Agency have been nothing but a pleasure to work with on this inspiring and well needed project.

"It is the local communities that will benefit from this and the customers that walk through the doors of our leisure Centre that can be rest assured we are doing our very best to provide a gold standard energy efficient leisure centre."

Lisa Vaughan, CEO at Tipperary Energy Agency, said: “We are immensely proud of our engineers’ achievements on this project. It has been a long road since we first visited here in late 2018. We also worked closely with stakeholders to access funding for the upgrade."

The project was made possible through the support of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland through their Community Energy Grants, Clare County Council, the Department of Rural and Community Development through their Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, Leader, and a substantial private donation.

L-R: Eoin Conlan, general manager, Lahinch Leisure Centre, Lisa Vaughan, CEO, Tipperary Energy Agency, John Hayes, senior building services engineer, Tipperary Energy Agency

The centre was officially opened by Minister Heather Humpreys TD, Minister for Rural and Community Development.