Sustainability issues have become increasingly important in the sports world. The Olympic Games in Lillehammer in 1994 can be considered a catalyst, and since then the ambition level has increased significantly. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London environmental and social responsibility played a prominent role, and nowadays there are many sporting clubs and associations that take environmental issues very seriously.

Energy, climate issues gain importance

For those who build and run sports facilities, energy issues have become increasingly important. In a cold country like Sweden, it can be very expensive to heat stadiums during the winter. The opposite is true in countries where stadiums have to be cooled down. In Sweden, there are plenty of poorly insulated tennis halls where heating and lighting consumes large amounts of money and contribute to climate issues. Now, an important step has been taken to make tennis greener.

The Southern Climate Arena in Växjö (Södra) is the world’s first tennis club made of wood that meets the requirements to be an energy-efficient and climate-friendly construction. The tennis hall was inaugurated in the summer of 2012 and is a concept that represents a model for the future of sports. The hall is operated by Ready Play, a company run by three tennis stars – Stefan Edberg, Magnus Larsson and Carl-Axel Hageskog.

The world’s first tennis club with passive technology

“Södra has previously been involved in building homes out of wood. We now want to highlight the opportunities to build sports facilities in wood and apply passive technology. This is an important piece of the climate change issue because wood construction is a method of long-term storage of carbon dioxide,” says Christer Segerstéen, chairman of Södra. If ten halls are built with passive building techniques, the energy savings amounts to 3,000 MWh per year, corresponding to the energy consumption for heating 200 normal-sized houses.

“The technology is about minimizing heating and ventilation losses and thus the energy demand for heating of the building. The threshold for getting a passive consumption international certification is 15 kWh of heating energy per square meter per year,” says Simone Kreutzer, CEO of IG Passive Sweden. “The tennis hall in Växjö has 25 percent lower emissions than the legal requirements. It is a passive house of the highest quality with the highest comfort at the lowest total cost and this can be seen in every detail,” says Kreutzer.

The entire supporting structure is laminated with steel reinforcements and the facade is made of wood and glass. Some special features of the passive house include walls with thicker insulation than normal. Another important factor is the technical construction to avoid thermal bridges. A thermal bridge is a construction detail of a building that is in contact with the colder outside of the wall and can result in cooling of the hot interior, or vice versa. One of the most visible signs of quality in the Växjö tennis hall is its glass facade. Heat loss through the glass is very low. Solar gain is a term that indicates how solar energy passes through the window, both in and out. The benefit is when solar energy makes a net contribution to the building’s energy. The entire system, including frames and mounting to walls and ceilings, is therefore designed to minimize heat loss. The Växjö tennis hall is certified according to the German PHPP, Passive House Institute.

Safety and comfort are important

It is also important to build as fireproof as possible, and in that respect rock wool is used throughout the hall. Comfort inside the tennis hall was also important. The outdoor temperature, weather and seasonal changes, solar variations and the level of activity on the premises are all factors that cause large variations in indoor temperature and indoor climate. Among other things, a heat exchanger for heating or cooling (in summer) of outdoor air gives the premises an even and comfortable indoor environment throughout the year. Södra will monitor energy use and comfort during operations in the coming years.

Photo: Andreas Lindholm

The article was published in October 2012