November 20, 2018

Sparwood Leisure Center Energy Upgrade

Sparwood’s Leisure Center and Arena (image courtesy of City of Sparwood)
Sparwood’s Leisure Center and Arena (image courtesy of City of Sparwood)

Sparwood’s leisure center and arena retrofits help the municipality meet its CEEP energy goals.

The municipality of Sparwood updated old fragmented heating and lighting infrastructure in the community leisure centre and arena to increase efficiency and help achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets laid out by the municipality.

Project Summary

The District of Sparwood modified their Community Leisure Center and Arena Complex to address the building’s high energy inefficiency and aging infrastructure.

Prior to the project, the Sparwood Community Leisure Center and Arena Complex had the most inefficient use of energy and produced the highest amount of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in the district. The center consists of a pool, curling rink and an arena.

Similar to other recreation centers that were constructed in the 1970’s and the 1980’s, the Sparwood Community Leisure Center and Arena Complex were built with a separate heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system as well as domestic hot water (DHW) systems. Due to the District’s desire to showcase their commitment to lower their GHG emissions, two retrofit projects were envisioned to update the low efficiency, disjointed and aging infrastructure within the center.

In October of 2014, after three years of work, all stages of the Sparwood Community Leisure Center and Arena energy upgrades were completed and are now operational. The three phases of the project were;

  1. the retrofit of aquatics center and heating systems,
  2. updating the arena complex’s heating systems and physical plant compressors, and
  3. transitioning from metal halide lighting systems over to LED lighting systems.

With these features incorporated into the design, project proponents anticipated dramatically reduced energy bills and maintenance costs, and the business case for the project became clear. Fire hall replacement costs were reduced even further when the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) awarded the project a grant and a low interest loan through its Green Municipalities Fund. FCM praised the project as a demonstration “to the community and the rest of Canada what innovative environmental – and especially energy-efficient – municipal building practices can achieve with thoughtful planning, careful budgeting, and a multi-disciplinary team.”

Energy Savings/GHG reductions

Estimated GHG reduction of 182 tonnes CO2e and 4844 GJ per year compared to 2012 levels, a 47% emissions and energy consumption reduction. 90% waste heat recapture in aquatics centre (phase 1). 60% heat energy recapture from the arena compressors (phase 2). 60% decrease in energy use for lighting (phase 3).

Due to the District’s desire to showcase their commitment to lower their GHG emissions, two retrofit projects were envisioned to update the low efficiency, disjointed and aging infrastructure within the center.

Business case

As all three phases of the system retrofit have only been completed and operational since October 2014, calculations on the return on investment will only begin to emerge in the coming months. The Municipality expects a short payback period of under five years on their own contributions, with an estimated total payback period of 10-12 years. Money saved by the Municipality because of decreased energy consumption as a result of this project will be reinvested in the community and further help to reach goals laid out by the Municipality to reduce GHG emissions in the transportation and buildings sectors.

In the early stages of the project’s development, it was made evident that without the retrofit of the Community Leisure Center, a total of $250,000 would have been spent over the next 10 years to slowly upgrade the center’s aging infrastructure, and limited energy or emissions savings would be achieved as a result.

While the $1.48 million price tag of the three phase retrofit project is much more than upgrading infrastructure without a retrofit, the overall savings achieved through green design principles over the next ten years is estimated at $1.3 million. This figure comes from an estimated savings on natural gas and electricity cost by $65,000 – $85,000 annually, with an additional $20,000 savings coming from reduced maintenance needs of the new, less fragmented system.

During the first four months of the first phase of the project, the municipality saw a savings of $15,833 on energy costs. As a result, the actual cost of this project over a ten year timespan is net positive for the Municipality when project grants are considered.

This project received grant funding from three major sources: the Provincial Community Recreation Program fund($400,000), and the Federal Gas Tax fund ($757,752); the local taxpayers contributed $322,248 of which $96,824 was through municipal reserves and $223,434 was funded through annual Federal gas tax contributions. This synthesis of Municipal, Federal, and Provincial funds for community improvement shows how effective community development can be sustainable and cooperative without breaking the bank.

This retrofit will not only help to achieve goals laid out in Sparwood’s CEEP plan, but the improved design will lead to tangible savings for the local government in the next decade. With these savings from the new retrofit, there will be more money to invest in the improved sustainability and health of the community. It is worth noting that the project won an honourable mention at the Community Energy Association’s 2014 Climate and Energy Action Awards.


As the center anticipates to save approximately $65,000 to $85,000 annually, that money will be reinvested into other parts of the community, such as increasingly the walkability of the community and parks trails, as well as public engagement programs that will strengthen the Sparwood community and promote active living. So far utilizing the energy retrofit savings—now allocated directly into the Energy Retrofit Savings Fund—the District has been able to undertake a number of community projects including the construction of a toboggan hill, purchase of rental ice skates which allows for more people to access our arena, and the construction of a new 4.5 km trail in our community. The hope is that this reinvestment will have a measurable impact on vehicle use in the municipality, further reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector as a direct result of this building retrofit.

Additionally, Sparwood anticipates that their leadership in sustainable development within the community will inspire local businesses to undertake similar upgrades to their own facilities.

Furthermore, this retrofit could serve as a model for a residential program that incentivises Sparwood residents to upgrade their own homes heating and heat recovery systems. This project is fully in line with the CEEP action plan laid out by Sparwood in 2013, and is an integral part of the overall strategy it conveys.

Lessons learned

Coming up with the most effective way to maximize a relatively limited budget for a significantly large project was the most challenging aspect of the project. The District had to ensure sufficient resources in the reserve funds in order to match the required contribution needed to apply for the grants. The District believes that it would have been more efficient to undertake the two heating retrofits as a single unified project rather than in two phases; however, funding was only available for one project at a time.

As with most retrofit projects, the District was faced with challenges of having to accommodate original design and optimize the new systems to make them work in an older facility. On a positive side, undertaking a retrofit project often reveals opportunities for additional unexpected improvements. During the process, the District discovered that the building pressure vents were installed upside down and an exterior wall had no insulation installed, both resulting in massive amounts of heat loss in the leisure centre. By uncovering these issues, the project will result in further reductions in GHG emission and energy consumption.

Local government contact

Duane Lawrence,
Director of Community & Facility Services
T: (250) 425-0552

Success Story Snapshot

Estimated GHG reduction of 182 tonnes CO2e and 4844 GJ per year compared to 2012 levels, a 47% emissions and energy consumption reduction.
Business Case
The full $1.48 million will be paid off after 10-15 years in operation. Excluding grant funding, the payback period on annual maintenance and energy savings for the municipality is estimated at 2-5 years.
Reinvestment of energy savings back into the community will improve programs for active living, trail development, and improved walkability, which will lead to reduced GHG emissions from vehicle use.
Total project cost
$1.48 million, with grants covering $1,157,752 ($400,000Provincial Community Recreation Program fund; $757,752 Federal Gas Tax fund). Local taxpayers were responsible for $322,248 of which $223,434 was funded through annual Federal gas tax contributions to the municipality and $96,824 through the Sparwood Recreation Reserve Fund balancing the extra costs.