Ravelin Sports Centre, University of Portsmouth

This ground-breaking sports centre for the University of Portsmouth sets a new benchmark for ultra-low-energy sports facilities in the UK. The design is fossil fuel-free and has demonstrated an operational energy consumption of less than 100 kWh/m2/yr – a level of performance which no other equivalent sports centre in the UK has yet demonstrated.

Exterior shot of a large wood-clad and glass leisure centre near a main road

Key information


FaulknerBrowns Architects


University of Portsmouth



Year of Completion



Ravelin Sports Centre provides a range of facilities for both the University and the wider city, including a 25-metre swimming pool, an eight-court sports hall, a 175-station fitness suite, climbing facilities, a ski simulator, teaching facilities, and office spaces.

We worked closely with architects FaulknerBrowns from the very start of the project to meet ambitious targets for energy use and sustainability, including a BREEAM rating of 'Outstanding' – a UK first for a standalone leisure centre. The building incorporates a range of passive and active environmental technologies to achieve this. Its compact building form and efficient external envelope minimise heat loss, with natural and mixed-mode ventilation and extensive natural lighting.

The centre is heated by air source heat pumps, with heat recovery from cooling and ventilation systems, using waste pool water. The heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting are regulated by automatic system controls and a bio-solar roof with a 1,000m2 photovoltaic array generates 224MWhs of renewable energy per year – this amounts to 20% of the building energy demand.

Environmental impact

A collaborative soft landings strategy ensured the University’s management and operations teams had a good understanding of the building and its systems at handover and into occupation.

Intensive post-occupancy monitoring and user feedback have been used to fine-tune systems and controls for optimum comfort and energy efficiency. In the first six months since opening, the data has shown that the building’s operational energy consumption is less than 100 kWh/m²/yr, which is around one-tenth of the energy demand of an equivalent typical UK sports centre. 

This ultra-low level of carbon emissions is compatible with a net-zero carbon future, and the building is all-electric, meaning its carbon emissions will continue to fall as the UK grid continues to decarbonise.


BREEAM 'Outstanding' rating of 89%


savings in running costs


of energy demand generated by PVs

Flexible spaces

In the sports hall, conditions are maintained year-round using natural ventilation. Air from outside is introduced through opening louvres, positioned strategically to ensure air movement does not affect the flight of badminton shuttlecocks. Unusually, the sports hall is positioned on top of the ground-floor fitness suite and changing rooms. This ensures that it and the swimming pool benefit from roof lights, providing passive heating and daylight, which saves energy and is good for wellbeing.

In the swimming pool, four large roof lights supplement daylight from the full-height glazing on the north and east elevations. The impact of daylight was analysed for the pool to ensure glare and reflections from the water surface would not impede the lifeguards’ views of swimmers on and below the surface of the water.

For the majority of the year, the pool hall roof lights remain closed, providing free heat and light to the pool area but they can be opened on hot days, enabling the space to be used like an outdoor pool. When the temperature drops, the roof lights close and the space reverts to mechanical ventilation with heat recovery.

A rendered daylight model of a swimming pool showing in red areas of low visibility and in blue and green areas of high visibility A view of the completed swimming pool from the same angle, showing the clear visibility of the water.

The impact of daylight was analysed for the pool to ensure glare and reflections from the water surface would not impede the lifeguards’ views of swimmers on and below the surface of the water.

"This level of sustainability, comfort and in-use energy performance can’t be achieved by engineers alone, everyone who contributed to the project was fully committed to achieving this outcome through a spirit of openness, collaboration and commitment to real sustainable outcomes."

Director, MEP Engineering

2024 CIBSE Building Performance Awards Project of the Year
2023 Architects' Journal Architecture Awards Best Leisure Project