City pool achieves sustainability without aesthetic compromise

Wednesday, 19 March, 2014

City pool achieves sustainability without aesthetic compromise

The refurbished Prince Alfred Park pool, located in Sydney’s Surry Hills, was officially reopened in October 2013. Its stunning architectural design, which incorporates the best in sustainable practices, has already been recognised with a number of architectural and environmental awards.

The $20.5m refurbishment of the Prince Alfred Park pool marks the completion of the city’s extensive upgrade to the 7.5-hectare Prince Alfred Park - its largest upgrade in 50 years.

Designed by Neeson Murcutt Architects (NMA), the ambition of the project was to reinvigorate the area and upgrade the tired public outdoor pool, making it a fully accessible, heated, community facility.

The newly refurbished pool includes a 9-lane, 50 m outdoor pool with ramp access, a shaded toddler splash-deck with water toys and fountains, improved accessibility, new change rooms, cafe and kiosk, new fencing, seating and sunbathing areas, stormwater harvesting, water-saving fixtures and native meadow planting.

The project is, in fact, a refurbishment of an existing 1950s pool; therefore, the location of the new pool facilities building was determined by the position of the existing pool shell. The refurbishment took 30 months - longer than anticipated due to poor weather, which made construction difficult.

The pool was refurbished by removing the existing concrete pool gutter and replacing it with a new, level, deck-tiled gutter system made of prefabricated, heat-bonded PVC to stainless steel. Pool wall panels of similar manufacture are integrally connected to the new gutter system, with the new pool base liner forming a watertight, lane-marked shell. The base of the pool is reinforced PVC, lined with provision for future flip-up lane dividers for learn-to-swim classes at the shallow end.

The construction is a Myrtha RenovAction modular pool system. This system clads the existing pool internally with the abovementioned panels and each panel, gutter and base is fully PVC welded to each other. The system is flexible, allowing for future structural movement without leakage. Internally, it is smooth and white, giving a beautiful colour to the water. The line markings and hobs are tiled and the concourse is honed concrete in two tones - blue and off-white. The colour helps to break up the scale of the concourse and resonates with the previous 1950s pool facility and the memory of a similar blue hue.

The filtration system uses ultrafine filtration (UFF), providing superior water quality while minimising backwashed wastewater compared to other systems. The system can easily cope with the splash-deck without the cost of an additional filtration plant. The pool gutter system directs water to a balance tank, which manages the fluctuations in pool level. Pumps will draw soiled water from the balance tank via strainers and force water through the UFF. The filtered water is then disinfected, heated and returned to the pool via special side-wall turbulent nozzles or to the splash-deck via controlled flow-through valves operated by staff or the splash-deck users.

The pool is heated via a Raypak gas heater. Temperature is controlled via thermostatic sensors operating variable speed circulation pumps, providing the required amounts of heated water to maintain the pool at the required temperature throughout the year. Pool covers are used to retain heat and the water level during the night.

The facility has a building management control system, which allows council to monitor operations and make appropriate changes to continually operate the plant and equipment at its optimum level. This also includes the monitoring of water usage.

Stormwater is harvested from the Sydney Water pipeline, which runs through Prince Alfred Park, for the purpose of re-use within the park and pool environments, for toilet flushing and irrigation. Additionally, an underground tank in the pool building collects stormwater from the pool environs that is piped for the purpose of re-use within the pool enclosure for toilet flushing.

Underwater pool lights were supplied by Myrtha and supplement the Scissor Pole Sports Lighting.

The new pool facility building incorporates the best in sustainable practices and is physically embedded into the park landscape under a green roof of native ‘meadow’ grasses.

The existing concrete pool shell was largely retained and a new water-efficient pool plant is key to the facility upgrade to meet the City of Sydney’s ambitious sustainability aspirations.

The upgraded pool is the city’s first pool that is fully trigeneration ready. (Trigeneration is an environmentally sustainable method of generating electricity.) This incorporates the sustainable design principle of energy efficiency into and beyond the needs of the project. In-situ concrete has been used to form the large plant area at the southern end of the building that will house the future trigeneration equipment to generate electricity for the whole site, with by-product heat used to heat the pool.

The use of a suspended concrete concourse slab, supported on concrete piers, allows a large volume of the existing contaminated soil on-site to be safely contained beneath it, reducing the energy use and cost of removal of the material and its replacement with a compactable, non-contaminated soil.

Precast concrete bleacher beams take advantage of the factory processes of re-usable formwork and minimise waste compared to on-site concrete construction.

The project aims to demonstrate that sustainable outcomes can be achieved without aesthetic compromise. To this end, NMA worked with Frost Design to create a series of 19 signs set into the paving to educate the public regarding some of the detailed design features of the building, including:

  • timber hardwoods certified from sustainable sources,
  • natural ventilation and daylight to reduce the need for air conditioning and minimise lighting,
  • shower fittings using time controls to save water,
  • pool filters that use 87% less water than traditional filters,
  • 85% of construction waste from the building works recycled,
  • recycled stormwater used for toilets to save the equivalent of two Olympic-size pools of mains water per year,
  • recreation area irrigated by stormwater saving 2500 bath tubs’ worth of drinking water per year,
  • pool cover to prevent water evaporation and heat loss when the facility is not in use,
  • bike parking facilities to reduce transport emissions.

The project’s architect, Rachel Neeson from Neeson and Murcutt Architects, is pleased with the finished product. “The pool and park, once underutilised, have become a loved, year-round destination. There was a strong collaboration between us, our landscape architect Sue Barnsley Design and the client, the City of Sydney.

“What makes this project stand out from the rest is the pool’s integration with the park in which it sits. Two crisply shaped landscape mounds define the space of the outdoor pool enclosure, simultaneously connecting and separating park and pool. Strategic gaps between the mounds allow for views between. The mounds provide wind protection and create areas for discrete sunbathing.

“The new pool building is designed as a ‘folded landscape’ with a green roof of native meadow grasses. In this single move the building disappears from the adjacent street and is embedded into the rolling park landscape. Colour is used to accentuate the topographic quality of the project. Painted wall stripes align with two-tone concrete paving in off-white and blue to create a visual continuity,” Neeson added.

In October 2013, the pool was officially opened with a fun-filled event titled ‘Spring in the Park’, which featured a synchronised swimming display, roving performers and free light refreshments.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who officially opened the pool, said the pool was a winner. “It’s time to celebrate the success of Sydney’s newest, and greenest, public swimming pool. With the City’s largest green roof and beautiful design, this state-of-the-art pool is already attracting thousands of Sydneysiders as a place to relax, exercise, enjoy the outdoors and meet up with friends.”

The refurbishment has already won a number of environmental and design awards, including:

  • 2013 AILA NSW Medal for Landscape Architecture
  • 2013 Sydney Design Awards (Architecture Mixed Use)
  • 2013 WAF High Commendation (Landscape)
  • 2013 CCAA State Award
  • 2013 CIA NSW High Commendation
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