Sports-mad Sydney developer Peter Magnisalis has lodged a proposal to council to build a $200 million winter sports centre and 170-plus room hotel in Penrith by 2021 that will be “as close to carbon neutral as possible”.
For most, the notion of a carbon neutral winter sports complex in Sydney’s far west brings the word “oxymoronic” to mind.
But for Environa Studio architect Tone Wheeler this posed a sustainable design challenge too difficult to resist.
First, Mr Wheeler and Mr Magnisalis visited indoor winter wonderlands in other parts of the world, including Dubai, Europe and the United Kingdom.
What they learnt was that the energy demand in indoor ski centres “isn’t as great as you’d imagine – once they get going,” Mr Wheeler told The Fifth Estate. The complexes generally take about three months to “build up the cold”.
To be built on a 2.35-hectare riverside site in Penrith, the $200 million winter sports complex is designed to function like a “giant esky”.
With no windows and multi-layered R10 insulation (houses are generally around R4), the indoor spaces will be “virtually sealed from the outside”. This means the outside temperature won’t matter.
The giant concrete slabs beneath the ski slopes and sport areas will act like esky bricks to reduce convection. This will help keep the interior between -4°C and -10°C.
Mr Wheeler explained that this is no lower than the temperature needed to keep food frozen, and that the complex will be far smaller than some of the chilled store rooms used by the major supermarkets.
The complex will technically consist of three separate eskies: one will be the 300-metre downhill run; the 80-metre training hill will be another; and the winter sports field – including an ice-skating rink and rock climbing areas – a third.
Onsite energy generation and electric groomers
Almost a hectare of roof space will be covered inroof-mounted photovoltaic solar cells totalling1.2 megawatts – the equivalent of 220 homes with PV panels.
This power will be run through an onsite battery storage facility and provide electricity for the building’s entire operations, including the hotel and electric vehicles to groom the snow, which will be developed as part of the project.
“We will be designing our own purpose-built electric vehicles to groom the snow. This is another point of invention from indoor winter sports centres overseas,” Mr Wheeler said.
Rainwater will be turned into snow
Rainwater will also be collected on the roof and used for making snow and other uses. A high-efficiency mechanical plant will make both chilled air and snow or ice, with fresh snow to be made every few days.
Mr Wheeler also said a controlled amount of the melting snow will flow back into the Nepean River, providing “a little bit of flood mitigation” for the site.
The new winter sports complex – dubbed Winter Sports World – is intended to help strengthen Penrith’s claim as “Adventure Capital of NSW”.
“The intention is to try and make Penrith have as many high-quality experiences as possible to align with the new economy of having experiences and not products,” Mr Wheeler said.
The centre is “more than just a them park” and pitched at people who want to learn to ski and those who need to train for winter sports.
“Underpinning this concept is an indoor ski centre with a ski slope designed to be one of the top 10 high performance training centres in the world,” Mr Magnisalis said.
“To achieve this, the building must be designed to a certain length and height, which we’ve done – creating a dramatic and architecturally significant addition to the precinct, and city generally.”