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Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre – good for the environment and good for you

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Brimbank City Council

The Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre (BAWC) in the City of Brimbank is Australia’s first 100% renewable energy powered, zero greenhouse gas emissions aquatic centre.

Costing $60m, this centre has achieved a Green Star Design Review Rating, and is on its way to achieving a 6 Star Green Star Design and As Built Rating. The BAWC has been a monumental success, with over 1.3 million visits in the first 12 months of operation.

The development of the centre provided an opportunity for Brimbank City Council to combine social and health outcomes with infrastructure development and includes the co-location of community services organisations on site.

The first of its kind in Australia

Aquatic centres are by far the most energy and emission-intensive of all council-managed facilities due to gas boilers heating large volumes of water. BAWC instead showcases the commercial viability of building an all-electric renewable energy powered centre which is zero emissions in operation.

This represents a significant milestone in the advancement of sustainability in aquatic centres in Australia at a time when the Victorian State Government has committed to net-zero emissions by 2045 and the Federal Government by 2050.

Improving health and wellness outcomes

Brimbank Council’s Health and Wellbeing Plan highlights the need for increased community physical activity as a Council priority, with residents facing, on average, greater challenges and poor outcomes compared to other local government areas in Victoria.

The co-location of services with venue partners Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand, commUnity+, Distinctive Options and Healthstin in a community hub model, provides a range of health and wellbeing services in comfortable and convenient spaces on the first and second floor of the building.

Brimbank City Council

Community use of the centre has exceeded all expectations, with close to 2 million visits since opening in October 2022d. The centre also services 10,500 members, including 44% concession and 12% youth memberships.

Other programs that have been recognised as meeting community needs include the Inclusive Communities@BAWC program, the Watch Around Water Award and the Iraqi Women: Community Active Living Program.

Better for the environment and budget

Brimbank City Council’s Climate Emergency Plan 2020-2025 commits the council to reaching net-zero emissions by 2030 for council operations, and by 2040 for the Brimbank municipality as a whole.

BAWC is a highly efficient building design and its operational building performance shows a 76% energy use reduction compared to conventional gas-powered aquatic centres and has a 500kW rooftop solar system. Plus, as Brimbank purchases renewable grid electricity through VECO – the Victorian Energy Collaboration, the centre is functioning successfully as all-electric and BAWC has no greenhouse gas emissions in operation.

Brimbank City Council

Compared to a business-as-usual gas design, the centre is modelled to avoid 1,192 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, approximately 17% reduction of the council’s overall annual greenhouse emissions.

Modelling estimates suggest that by being all-electric, the design has saved Brimbank Council over $353,000 in the first 10 months of operation and over $2,122,000 will be saved over five years if current gas price trends continue.

A lesson learned is a lesson shared

While examples of all-electric aquatic centres already existed in warmer climates and overseas, and though the technology was common in other industrial and commercial applications, operating heat pumps in Melbourne’s climate was not something the local aquatic centre industry considered to be commercially viable. Construction of BAWC proved it could be done and, now in operation, it is proving it will pay for itself.

Brimbank is committed to sharing its experiences and findings through industry outreach, including:

  • In February 2023, Brimbank City Council submitted information and learnings on the centre’s heat pumps to contribute to a feature article in Pump Industry Magazine. The final article can be found at this link: https://tinyurl.com/2s4hbrdn
  • A Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre Behind the Scenes Tour was held for Brimbank community members on 6 May 2023. This included background on the need for all-electric council facilities and a tour of the all-electric plant.
  • Case study and panel presentation as part of the Victorian Greenhouse Alliances Conference on 4 August 2023. This included a discussion around the degasification of large and small council facilities and key lessons learnt from councils who have completed projects.
  • A seminar and panel discussion was held on 6 September 2023 to present an analysis of the operations results of BAWC after one year of operation. The event was held as a hybrid online and in-person event and recorded with over 90 online and in-person attendees.
  • Regular ad hoc in-person tours of the centre. Ongoing file sharing, particularly of the detailed Energy Financial Model, ESD Performance Report and Performance Monitoring Report. Regular support and advice are given to interested facility developers across councils, government and industry across Australia.
  • The council also plans to establish a public live data portal where real energy metrics can be viewed in operation. We anticipate this resource will be influential in decision-making for councils investigating all-electric centres and will be designed with council stakeholders in mind.

Awards and results

  • 2023 Aquatics & Recreation Victoria – Sustainability Award
  • Parks & Leisure Australia (VIC/TAS) – Community Facility of the Year
  • Parks & Leisure Australia (VIC/TAS) – Environmental Stewardship Award
  • Parks & Leisure Australia (National) – Community Facility of the Year
  • Parks & Leisure Australia (National) – Environmental Stewardship Award
  • 2023 Premier’s Sustainability Award – Sustainable Places
  • 2023 Australian Sport, Recreation and Play Innovation Awards – Sport and Leisure Facility Design


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