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Health Club Management
2014 issue 2

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Spa Business - People power

CV equipment

People power


Can human energy realistically be converted into electricity to run your club, or do we still have some way to go before clubs can run on people power alone? Kath Hudson reports

Kath Hudson
The Great Outdoor Gym Company hopes to open thousands of green energy gyms
SportsArt: 10 hours on a piece of its equipment can yield enough watts to power 100 lightbulbs a day
R-Rider, from Taiwanese company Rhymebus, converts kinetic energy into electricity that can then be fed back into the grid

With all those people pedalling, rowing, running and stepping in clubs, it seems logical that expended human energy could be captured and put to good use – namely, being used to power equipment, or even the club itself.

Most manufacturers either have been, or are currently, active in the area of energy-efficient equipment to some degree. All of Keiser’s M Series equipment is self-powered, for example, as is Woodway’s treadmill and the majority of Matrix products. Life Fitness offers a hybrid energy-saving feature on some cross-trainers and exercise bikes, switching from electric to self-generated power when a user reaches a certain intensity level in the workout. And Star Trac’s Spinner Blade ION uses the power generated by the rider to drive the strain gauge technology and computer, doing away with the reliance on batteries. The company’s senior director of marketing and product development, Jeff Dilts, says it will be pursuing more energy-efficient and energy-free products in the future.

Integrated technology
Some manufacturers have gone further, developing technology that converts human energy into electricity that’s captured and used to help power the whole club, so reducing energy bills.

SportsArt Netherlands claims it was the first company to produce electricity-generating cardio fitness equipment – the Go Green range of recumbent bikes, upright bikes and elliptical trainers. It also sells the ECO-POWR treadmill, which uses 32 per cent less power than standard treadmills.

“Ten hours’ use of a piece of fitness equipment fitted with our green technology yields approximately 2,000 watts – enough to power 100 energy-saving lightbulbs a day,” says Vincent Hoogwerf of SportsArt Netherlands.

Calculating return on investment is hard, as is assessing by how much energy costs can be reduced, as energy unit costs can vary significantly depending on the energy supplier and type of contract. However, Koster Sports Clubs in the Netherlands is achieving positive initial results (see case study, right), while in the UK, the Spectrum Leisure Centre in Willington was recently recognised in the County Durham Environmental Awards after implementing a range of measures – including the installation of 10 pieces of the Go Green equipment in November 2012 – which led to a 35 per cent fall in its energy usage.

“Utility bills only ever increase. If we can reduce ours, then we have more money to invest in improving our facilities,” explains Ian Hirst, chief executive at the Spectrum.

Go Green equipment also motivates users to get involved in generating energy via their workouts by allowing them to earn reward points, which can be redeemed in-club on coffee and such like.

Technogym, meanwhile, has pushed the boundaries with its new ARTIS range of cardio equipment – launched at IHRSA in March 2012 – which harnesses human energy and feeds it directly into the facility’s grid power system. The company is as yet unable to release figures about exactly how much energy could be captured by using this equipment, and what impact this could have on a club’s bottom line in terms of reduced energy costs and return on investment. However, it’s in the process of measuring this at Cadbury House in Somerset, UK, which installed 42 pieces of ARTIS equipment late last year and is currently monitoring the equipment to get accurate figures.

The system also links up with UNITY, Technogym’s interactive web-based platform, to give users the opportunity to track the energy value they generate as they work out. The touchscreen shows the watts produced and brings this to life by showing a picture of the household appliances this level of wattage could power, such as a kettle or light bulb. Members are also motivated to work harder by being shown images of appliances they could power were they to increase their intensity.

Third party gadgets
However, while some have persisted, other companies have put energy-capturing technology on the back-burner. Everyone wants to be greener, as long as it doesn’t cost significantly more or cause them too much inconvenience – which is one of the snags, because sometimes it does cost more.

Indeed, equipment manufacturer Precor cites cost as the main reason for pulling out of an exploratory collaboration with US company ReRev in early 2010. ReRev retrofits cardio equipment with a device to re-route the energy that’s being emitted as a heat by-product. Instead of the equipment raising temperatures inside the facility, causing air conditioning units to work harder, the energy is delivered to a central unit which converts human power to utility grade electricity. An elliptical machine in regular use can generate an hour of electricity every two days – enough to run a laptop for 24 hours.

Jonathan Griffiths, UK marketing manager for Precor, says: “It’s an exciting product, but unfortunately the ROI makes it less attractive to most facilities. Although we care about energy efficiency and want to support these types of power regeneration products, at present the figures simply don’t make sense for us as manufacturers, or as a viable long-term solution for operators.”

However, Taiwanese company Rhymebus believes its gadget – known as R-Rider – can bring about substantial cost savings in the long run. Although it can be retrofitted to ellipticals and bikes, Rhymebus is keen to talk to equipment manufacturers about getting it installed into equipment at the factory stage.

When fitted, R-Rider converts kinetic energy into electricity that can be fed back into the grid. It can be used with a bike, elliptical trainer, stepper or rowing machine, allowing an adult to generate about 150 watts an hour – enough to power a typical lightbulb for 10 hours.

Senior executive of R-Rider, Jay Huang, gives an optimistic projection of what this can save a club: “If a club has 50 pieces of equipment fitted with R-Rider, it may be able to do away with the need to buy energy and even allow the club to sell energy back to the power company. Done on a daily basis, the R-Rider’s return on investment is less than two years.” However, it should be pointed out that this theory has yet to be put into practice by any health club.

Future growth
It seems much of this technology has yet to prove its ROI potential. Nevertheless, with increasing appetite for green solutions from operators, this sort of technology is likely to become more widespread going forward.

Andrea Bianchi, MD of Technogym UK, says: “We’ve certainly seen a growth in the number of clubs looking for energy-saving products. Reducing a facility’s carbon footprint is a growing priority: all local authorities now have energy-saving targets, and private companies are able to apply for grants to help them reduce energy consumption.”

As natural energy resources continue to be depleted, there’ll be growing pressure from both consumers and the government for clubs to become greener. Matrix sees investment in this direction as morally the right thing to do, as product director Rob Knox explains: “We continue to invest in R&D to improve efficiency in treadmill motor output, as we believe this is not only the responsible thing to do, but it also aligns with the market’s future.”

Koster sports clubs, Holland

Koster Sports Clubs operates three health clubs in Delft, the Netherlands, one of which offers the Go Green range from SportsArt – including cross-trainers and bikes. The club currently has 20 pieces of Go Green equipment: if they are all in use for around seven hours a day, the club’s total €5,000 monthly energy bill is reduced by €300.

Bob Koster, head of the three clubs, says: “The equipment won’t generate enough electricity to run the club, and the cost savings aren’t enough for me to replace other equipment ahead of time” – the company’s ethos is to be more green with all of its practices, including waste disposal and lightbulbs, so more and more of the Go Green range will now be acquired as equipment needs replacing across the three clubs.
“However, it’s still a useful saving and a good marketing tool. Customers also like that they can earn reward points on the equipment while exercising, which they redeem in the club on cold drinks, coffees or T-shirts.”

Koster says the Go Green range is about 15 per cent more expensive to buy than regular equipment, but it has proved reliable and durable, with minimal servicing and maintenance costs. ROI has yet to be quantified, but for Koster the benefits go beyond the immediate bottom line: “Members like the green aspect. However, they’re not willing to pay more for it.”

The great outdoor gym company

The Great Outdoor Gym Company has recently invested around £500,000 in the development of green energy gyms. There are two types of gym: Glow, where users can charge their mobiles, and Flow, where energy is fed back to the grid. Following successful pilots, it’s planning to install green energy gyms into thousands of parks over the next five years. “We’ve had user feedback that the energy generation is a good motivation for people,” says creative director Georgie Delaney. “Users of the new gym in Hull say they come every night to keep park lights charged. Young people say it keeps them exercising for longer, and we also noticed this at a field trial in Trafalgar Square.”

Originally published in Health Club Management 2014 issue 2

Published by The Leisure Media Company Ltd Portmill House, Portmill Lane, Hitchin, Herts SG5 1DJ. Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | © Cybertrek Ltd
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CV equipment
People power

Can human energy realistically be converted into electricity to run your club, or do we still have some way to go before clubs can run on people power alone? Kath Hudson reports

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2014 issue 2

With all those people pedalling, rowing, running and stepping in clubs, it seems logical that expended human energy could be captured and put to good use – namely, being used to power equipment, or even the club itself.

Most manufacturers either have been, or are currently, active in the area of energy-efficient equipment to some degree. All of Keiser’s M Series equipment is self-powered, for example, as is Woodway’s treadmill and the majority of Matrix products. Life Fitness offers a hybrid energy-saving feature on some cross-trainers and exercise bikes, switching from electric to self-generated power when a user reaches a certain intensity level in the workout. And Star Trac’s Spinner Blade ION uses the power generated by the rider to drive the strain gauge technology and computer, doing away with the reliance on batteries. The company’s senior director of marketing and product development, Jeff Dilts, says it will be pursuing more energy-efficient and energy-free products in the future.

Integrated technology
Some manufacturers have gone further, developing technology that converts human energy into electricity that’s captured and used to help power the whole club, so reducing energy bills.

SportsArt Netherlands claims it was the first company to produce electricity-generating cardio fitness equipment – the Go Green range of recumbent bikes, upright bikes and elliptical trainers. It also sells the ECO-POWR treadmill, which uses 32 per cent less power than standard treadmills.

“Ten hours’ use of a piece of fitness equipment fitted with our green technology yields approximately 2,000 watts – enough to power 100 energy-saving lightbulbs a day,” says Vincent Hoogwerf of SportsArt Netherlands.

Calculating return on investment is hard, as is assessing by how much energy costs can be reduced, as energy unit costs can vary significantly depending on the energy supplier and type of contract. However, Koster Sports Clubs in the Netherlands is achieving positive initial results (see case study, right), while in the UK, the Spectrum Leisure Centre in Willington was recently recognised in the County Durham Environmental Awards after implementing a range of measures – including the installation of 10 pieces of the Go Green equipment in November 2012 – which led to a 35 per cent fall in its energy usage.

“Utility bills only ever increase. If we can reduce ours, then we have more money to invest in improving our facilities,” explains Ian Hirst, chief executive at the Spectrum.

Go Green equipment also motivates users to get involved in generating energy via their workouts by allowing them to earn reward points, which can be redeemed in-club on coffee and such like.

Technogym, meanwhile, has pushed the boundaries with its new ARTIS range of cardio equipment – launched at IHRSA in March 2012 – which harnesses human energy and feeds it directly into the facility’s grid power system. The company is as yet unable to release figures about exactly how much energy could be captured by using this equipment, and what impact this could have on a club’s bottom line in terms of reduced energy costs and return on investment. However, it’s in the process of measuring this at Cadbury House in Somerset, UK, which installed 42 pieces of ARTIS equipment late last year and is currently monitoring the equipment to get accurate figures.

The system also links up with UNITY, Technogym’s interactive web-based platform, to give users the opportunity to track the energy value they generate as they work out. The touchscreen shows the watts produced and brings this to life by showing a picture of the household appliances this level of wattage could power, such as a kettle or light bulb. Members are also motivated to work harder by being shown images of appliances they could power were they to increase their intensity.

Third party gadgets
However, while some have persisted, other companies have put energy-capturing technology on the back-burner. Everyone wants to be greener, as long as it doesn’t cost significantly more or cause them too much inconvenience – which is one of the snags, because sometimes it does cost more.

Indeed, equipment manufacturer Precor cites cost as the main reason for pulling out of an exploratory collaboration with US company ReRev in early 2010. ReRev retrofits cardio equipment with a device to re-route the energy that’s being emitted as a heat by-product. Instead of the equipment raising temperatures inside the facility, causing air conditioning units to work harder, the energy is delivered to a central unit which converts human power to utility grade electricity. An elliptical machine in regular use can generate an hour of electricity every two days – enough to run a laptop for 24 hours.

Jonathan Griffiths, UK marketing manager for Precor, says: “It’s an exciting product, but unfortunately the ROI makes it less attractive to most facilities. Although we care about energy efficiency and want to support these types of power regeneration products, at present the figures simply don’t make sense for us as manufacturers, or as a viable long-term solution for operators.”

However, Taiwanese company Rhymebus believes its gadget – known as R-Rider – can bring about substantial cost savings in the long run. Although it can be retrofitted to ellipticals and bikes, Rhymebus is keen to talk to equipment manufacturers about getting it installed into equipment at the factory stage.

When fitted, R-Rider converts kinetic energy into electricity that can be fed back into the grid. It can be used with a bike, elliptical trainer, stepper or rowing machine, allowing an adult to generate about 150 watts an hour – enough to power a typical lightbulb for 10 hours.

Senior executive of R-Rider, Jay Huang, gives an optimistic projection of what this can save a club: “If a club has 50 pieces of equipment fitted with R-Rider, it may be able to do away with the need to buy energy and even allow the club to sell energy back to the power company. Done on a daily basis, the R-Rider’s return on investment is less than two years.” However, it should be pointed out that this theory has yet to be put into practice by any health club.

Future growth
It seems much of this technology has yet to prove its ROI potential. Nevertheless, with increasing appetite for green solutions from operators, this sort of technology is likely to become more widespread going forward.

Andrea Bianchi, MD of Technogym UK, says: “We’ve certainly seen a growth in the number of clubs looking for energy-saving products. Reducing a facility’s carbon footprint is a growing priority: all local authorities now have energy-saving targets, and private companies are able to apply for grants to help them reduce energy consumption.”

As natural energy resources continue to be depleted, there’ll be growing pressure from both consumers and the government for clubs to become greener. Matrix sees investment in this direction as morally the right thing to do, as product director Rob Knox explains: “We continue to invest in R&D to improve efficiency in treadmill motor output, as we believe this is not only the responsible thing to do, but it also aligns with the market’s future.”

Koster sports clubs, Holland

Koster Sports Clubs operates three health clubs in Delft, the Netherlands, one of which offers the Go Green range from SportsArt – including cross-trainers and bikes. The club currently has 20 pieces of Go Green equipment: if they are all in use for around seven hours a day, the club’s total €5,000 monthly energy bill is reduced by €300.

Bob Koster, head of the three clubs, says: “The equipment won’t generate enough electricity to run the club, and the cost savings aren’t enough for me to replace other equipment ahead of time” – the company’s ethos is to be more green with all of its practices, including waste disposal and lightbulbs, so more and more of the Go Green range will now be acquired as equipment needs replacing across the three clubs.
“However, it’s still a useful saving and a good marketing tool. Customers also like that they can earn reward points on the equipment while exercising, which they redeem in the club on cold drinks, coffees or T-shirts.”

Koster says the Go Green range is about 15 per cent more expensive to buy than regular equipment, but it has proved reliable and durable, with minimal servicing and maintenance costs. ROI has yet to be quantified, but for Koster the benefits go beyond the immediate bottom line: “Members like the green aspect. However, they’re not willing to pay more for it.”

The great outdoor gym company

The Great Outdoor Gym Company has recently invested around £500,000 in the development of green energy gyms. There are two types of gym: Glow, where users can charge their mobiles, and Flow, where energy is fed back to the grid. Following successful pilots, it’s planning to install green energy gyms into thousands of parks over the next five years. “We’ve had user feedback that the energy generation is a good motivation for people,” says creative director Georgie Delaney. “Users of the new gym in Hull say they come every night to keep park lights charged. Young people say it keeps them exercising for longer, and we also noticed this at a field trial in Trafalgar Square.”
SportsArt: 10 hours on a piece of its equipment can yield enough watts to power 100 lightbulbs a day
R-Rider, from Taiwanese company Rhymebus, converts kinetic energy into electricity that can then be fed back into the grid
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