The perfect warm-up routine
Schools, colleges and other educational establishments throughout the UK spend hundreds of millions of pounds a year on heating. It’s an essential outgoing, but that doesn’t mean cost savings can’t be achieved. Even the most complex of heating needs can be met without breaking the budget, according to Nick Winton of Nor-Ray-Vac.
Sports halls are typically one of the greatest heating challenges. Multi-purpose facilities are used not only for a variety of sports plus drama but also, increasingly, provide the setting for examinations. They therefore call for efficient, economical heating without compromising comfort levels to balance the needs of both active and sedentary users.
Traditional sports-hall design presents particular challenges to maintaining a comfortable environment. In one vast open space, the requirements of all users, from athletes to spectators, must be fully satisfied.
Achieving universal comfort and low energy consumption demands a heating system that meets the following criteria.
• Rapid response to changed conditions.
• Frugal energy consumption.
• Can be zoned to heat only those areas in use.
• Operates at low noise levels to comply with BB93 for the acoustic design of schools.
• Will not compromise the fabric of the building.
EU and UK legislation also has an impact on the choice of HVAC system. Becoming ever-more stringent, it requires modern heating systems to optimise fuel efficiency and lower greenhouse-gas emissions.
While conventional boiler and distributed radiator or underfloor systems frequently fail to provide the flexibility or speed of response needed in today’s multi-use halls, highly economical radiant-tube heating is an effective solution. In fact, no other heating system currently in use in sports halls can match radiant heating for energy efficiency.
Radiant-tube heaters burn fuel at the point of use, so heat-distribution losses are eliminated and there is no requirement for a separate plant area. The warming effect can be felt within just a few minutes of switch-on, even on the coldest days. Mounted at high level, the heaters are well out of the way of sports equipment and can be covered with safety grilles to protect them from high flying balls, for example.
Radiant-tube heating emits infra-red radiation that warms only people and objects in its path. This type of heating is therefore ideal for sports halls because it ensures even heat coverage throughout the space and the comfort of the building occupants, regardless of their level of activity.
No energy is wasted heating the volume of air — an important factor in buildings which are typically around 600 m² with roof heights of 8 to 10 m. Similarly, heating 5000 m³+ of air to ensure people are warm in the lowest 2 to 3 m is not an efficient use of fuel.
Radiant-tube heating’s big advantage is that air remains relatively cool and conducive for active sports. Air does absorb some of the heat given off by people and the building fabric at low level, but it is not heated directly, so the occupants are comfortable. If they should feel too warm, the close control possible with radiant-tube heating means that temperatures fall immediately once the system is turned down or switched off.
School children, university students and stars of the 2012 London Olympics have all taken advantage of training facilities equipped with Nor-Ray-Vac continuous radiant-tube heating. They include the flagship £7 million indoor sports facility at Brunel University, where the heaters that warm the 3168 m2 athletics hall are positioned about 6 m above floor level. Controlled centrally from the university’s building management system, they maintain a temperature of between 14 to 16°C.
When it comes to heating, radiant-tube systems feature strongly in the Optimum Sports Hall and the Affordable Sports Hall initiatives developed by Sport England as benchmark designs for combined school/community sports facilities. The aim was to improve the quality of leisure buildings and ensure compliance with the requirements of national governing bodies.
Paul Gibbins, chief architect of Sport England at the time, commented: ‘Radiant heating is economical to install and effective in its distribution of heat. It is an effective generator of heat — both economical and aesthetic. It provides quick warm-up and easy control in different circumstances, — for example active sports or spectating.’
Nick Winton is Nor-Ray-Vac divisional manager at AmbiRad, part of Nortek Global HVAC.