Passivhaus Affiliate

St Sidwell's Point targets world first

The much-anticipated St Sidwell’s Point has finally started on site. The flagship in Exeter City Council’s regenerating city centre masterplan is a pioneering Passivhaus Leisure Centre – aiming for certification and set to become a world first.

St Sidwell's Point ©Space and Place Architects / Gale & Snowden

Proposed render of St Sidwell's Point

The bespoke commercial Passivhaus is expected to open to the public in the winter of 2021, forming part of a £300m city centre vision from the council, which will also see housing, offices, restaurants, and retail, as well as the possibility of a new multi-use entertainment venue.

Due to their high heating demands and substantial running costs, swimming pools often constitute a financial burden to municipalities. St Sidwell’s Point will replace an existing ageing swimming pool, deemed difficult & costly to upgrade to modern standards. The new development is expected to attract at least 500,000 visits a year, and will be built alongside a new bus station, which is due to open at the same time.


Key Stats

  • Start date: February 2019

  • Expected completion date: February 2021

  • TFA: 4850m2

  • No. occupants: between 500 – 600 people.

St Sidwell's Point - Health Suite ©Space and Place Architects / Gale & Snowden
St Sidwell's Point - Proposed Gym ©Space and Place Architects / Gale & Snowden
St Sidwell's Point - Pool


General massing of the new leisure centre is divided into two programmatic entities: wet and dry. The complex will feature an eight-lane national/county standard swimming pool and four-lane pool for learners, both with moveable floors and supporting facilities together with dry sports facilities including a150 station gym, café and crèche, and extensive health and spa amenities.

Patron member Exeter City Council & PHT member Gale & Snowden have delivered several Passivhaus multi-unit housing schemes – however, this is the first commercial Passivhaus development they are embarking upon together. Building on this experience, the benefits of the Passivhaus design include:

  • 70% saving on energy costs when compared to a current good practice pool
  • 50% reduction in water use
  • Outstanding internal water (with minimal chemical content) and air quality 
  • Excellent daylight levels
  • Healthy, uncompromised, uplifting, comfortable indoor climate
  • Lower maintenance costs due to better quality building fabric
  • Resilience from predicted future climate change

The hybrid construction consists of an in-situ concrete frame with aerated concrete blockwork infill and mineral wool batts on an insulated in-situ ground floor slab. The proposal includes a metal standing seam roof on CLT and glulam beam structure and a liquid applied warm roof on a steel frame structure.

St Sidwell's Point Technical drawings ©Space and Place Architects / Gale & Snowden

Predicted Energy

After evaluating two pilot projects, the Passivhaus Institute (PHI) has published recommendations for energy efficient pools, which is useful for optimised operation of both new builds & existing pools. The PHI is acting as the Passivhaus certifier and are modelling the design in a bespoke multi-zone PHPP. As such the energy performance figures are different to standard Passivhaus calculations due to the high pool area temperatures, and high changing room temperatures. 

Heating demand for pool halls

40 kWh/m2 . a

Heating demand for all other areas

20 kWh/m2 . a

Total heating demand 

60 kWh/m2 . a

Pool water heating

73 kWh/m2 . a

DHW demand  

0.7 kWh/m2 . a

Cooling demand for gym space areas

22 kWh/m2 . a

Total electricity demand

(All ventilation, lighting, appliances, pool water treatment and circulation) 

120 kWh/m2 . a 


The projected building budget has risen due to several factors including construction cost inflation and site access challenges. Exeter City Council have found £12m of extra funding to ensure a commitment to deliver the world-first project that will kick-start the area's regeneration.


We are now on site with an excellent collaborative team to build not only the world’s first Passivhaus Leisure Centre here in Exeter – but also a healthy building fit for future weather’

David Gale, Gale & Snowden 

St Sidwell's Point - Overview South ©Space and Place Architects / Gale & Snowden

Key Team

 PHT Patron Exeter City Council

Lead Architect: Space and Place Architects

Building Envelope Architect & Passivhaus Designer: PHT member Gale & Snowden

Project manager: Randall Simmonds

Main Contractor: Kier

Engineer: Arup

Landscape Design: LDA Design

Leisure Consultant:  Continuum

Certifier: Passivhaus Institute (PHI)

As well as acting as the building envelope architect and lead Passivhaus Designer, PHT member Gale & Snowden, are also consulting on Building Biology and future weather design.

For a chance to hear more about the scheme, visit the Buildings Hub at Futurebuild on the 7th March. Emma Osmundsen, Exeter City Council, will be sharing the latest project developments in a Passivhaus seminar.


All images unless otherwise stated ©Space and Place Architects / Gale & Snowden


Further Information

Previous PHT story: Exeter Council approve funding for Passivhaus leisure complex – 19 Aug 2015

Exeter City Council: Plans for a state-of-the-art new leisure complex for Exeter

St Sidwell’s Point factfile

PHI Guidance: Swimming with a clear conscience




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15th February 2019

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