Hot yoga might seem like an oh-so-hip and enlightened way to keep fit, but according to research by The Footprint Company, the average studio is potentially making life sweatier for everyone.

The research found that a 200 square metre hot yoga studio has eight times the planetary footprint of a regular yoga studio, and has a carbon footprint equivalent to 23 Australian households.

The bottom line news is just as dire: energy costs come in at around $200 a sq m a year – up to 25 per cent of studio income.

The big ticket items are the hot water (52 per cent of energy use) and heating panels (38 per cent).

The problem according to The Footprint Company is design of the spaces, their systems and how classes are managed. It says that best practice design can actually reduce the footprint by 40 per cent or more.

Tips include using infrared panels for heating, optimising the volume of space to be heated, installing heat recovery ventilation systems and scheduling classes in a way that minimises the cool-down-reheat cycle.

Hot water as the biggest energy use is the “number one opportunity”, the research said.

Switching to high efficiency gas boilers for hot water and linking it to heat recovery systems can deliver a footprint half the size of the conventional electric panel and electric hot water combination.

Other tips for this growing industry include reducing the embodied carbon footprint of materials through choosing lightweight wall materials instead of heavy blockwork, and instead of the usual carpet that is prone to wear and tear from a thousand downward dogs, look to recycled timber or bamboo flooring.

Room for improvement in the banking sector

The company has also examined another consumer-centric sector, banking, and found it too can lift its sustainability game.

Yes, while the head office might be a swanky uber-sustainable showpiece, the branches are not stacking up.

There are over 6200 bank tenancies in Australia, the research says. And the average tenancy has about two tonnes of CO2 equivalent embodied in its materials and furniture and 150-180kg of CO2 a sq m in operating carbon footprint.

The average tenancy fitout also has just a short five-year lifecycle, and the move to greater use of online banking and shorter churn times also mean most fitouts are redundant even before their technical life span is reached.

In energy use terms, the picture is also a little grim, with each branch wasting up to $5000 due to poor design and practices. Growing numbers of ATMs and electronic media use is also driving consumption up.

Overall, operating carbon intensity for branch tenancies is three times office best practice.

A shift away from this planet-hungry approach to best practice fitout guidelines could actually deliver over $45 million in cost savings for the sector, the research says.

The five top tips the research suggests for the sector include reducing the area of major bank tenancies by 20 per cent.

Another is picking the right equipment, such as the most energy-efficient ATMs, and adopt prefabrication for ATM bunkers to reduce the carbon intensity of walls.

Lighting emissions intensity can also be reduced through adopting some of the technologies that have become standard in the commercial sector and, finally, furniture and fittings can reduce the churn factor through getting designers to focus on either refreshing existing fitout items or designing for deconstruction.

The research on the banking sector also noted that while CSR policies have become part of a shift in how banks are perceived by the public, head office activities and purchasing carbon credits to offset emissions “costs money without necessarily delivering real environmental improvement”.

“The trend to online and tighter profit margins puts a spotlight on the role of bank branches to deliver real ecological and economic improvement.”

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