The recently completed University of Colorado Recreation Center in Boulder has achieved LEED Platinum certification for its design and construction.

The project renovated the existing 215,000-sq-ft campus rec center and added 93,000 sq ft of space and new features. The updated rec center provides CU Boulder students with expanded weight and cardio space; a new ice rink with stadium seating and overhead LED lighting; a three-story rock climbing gym with bouldering wall; an outdoor aquatics facility; a new indoor-turf gym; four lighted rooftop tennis courts; a new entrance and lobby; and renovated indoor pools, gyms and locker rooms.

The updated rec center is projected to have an energy-use intensity of 35 kBTU/sq ft/year, more than a 70% decrease in energy use on a per-square-foot basis compared to the older facility. The center is also projected to realize an energy-cost savings of 43% (around $300,000 annually) when compared to a baseline standard building.

The project team, which included Saunders Construction, Davis Partnership Architects, CannonDesign and The RMH Group, created an innovative heat recovery loop that allows excess heat from a multitude of sources to be moved around the building to where it is most needed (e.g., swimming pools, domestic hot water).

Evaporative cooling, heat recovery, thermal displacement ventilation, radiant slab heating, and daylight harvesting are among the many other elements that enhance the building’s energy profile. The design of the cooling system did not use chillers or cooling towers. Instead, direct-indirect evaporative cooling is the primary cooling source. Solar-collector panels are used to heat the domestic water and provide back-up hot water.

Some of the most innovative energy-saving features in the facility are:

  • Direct-indirect evaporating cooling system. Created with the help of The RMH Group’s 3D software, the system is used for both heating and cooling and is “textbook perfect” for energy efficiency. The system is relatively simple; the excess heat generated by the ice arena’s cooling system is used to warm the water in the indoor and outdoor swimming pools, as well as the tap and shower water. The building also is temperature controlled throughout, distributing heat where it’s needed, and displacing it when it’s not. Students find the rec center is constantly at a comfortable temperature, wasting little to no energy in the process.
  • Lighting and electrical systems. Crews installed a new roof, 101 skylights, LED lighting, two large destratification fans in the indoor pool and six fans total in the gymnasium spaces—capable of producing 365,000 cfm and 74,100 cfm, respectively.