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How SWG3 Is Heating Up the Dance Floor to Cool Down the Planet

In the Glasgow megavenue, BODYHEAT technology transforms the energy generated by visitors into sustainable power — utilizing a previously wasted, and readily available, power source.

Many of us are familiar with the sweltering heat and stickiness of a dance floor, with music the beating heart of an immersive experience that connects the crowd in a rhythmic flow. But imagine if every dance step, every exhilarating beat, contributed to a lower-carbon future. This is the reality brought to life at SWG3 — a megavenue in Glasgow, Scotland.

Joining a growing arsenal of energy-capturing innovations such as Pavegen’s floor tiles, which harness and convert kinetic energy from people’s footsteps into a sustainable energy source, and Luminescent’s isothermal heat engine that upcycles industrial waste heat into zero-emission energy; SWG3’s BODYHEAT energy system — which was launched last year — harnesses the power of clubgoers’ body heat to sustainably heat and cool the entire venue. As the world grapples with the pressing challenges of climate change and energy sustainability, tapping into the enthusiasm and vitality of partygoers presents a remarkable opportunity to reimagine our energy landscape — and not only energises the dance floor, but also represents a unique step towards reducing our fossil-fuel dependence.

SWG3 — which is made up of a collection of atmospheric spaces alive with art, design, music, fashion, food, shopping and nightlife; and held the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in 2021 — is one of Scotland’s most distinctive independent venues,. SWG3’s vision is to be net zero by 2025 or sooner.

“After COP26 and hearing all these amazing discussions around the climate crisis, we kept thinking, ‘Are we doing enough? Could we be doing more?’ And the answer is always yes — that’s when we decided to commit to going operationally net zero by 2025. And we’re aiming to be fully net zero by 2030, including our scope 3 emissions," Hannah George, Sustainability Coordinator at SWG3, tells Sustainable Brands® (SB). ”A big part of going net zero is improving the energy efficiency of the building; and BODYHEAT allows us to do that.”

George — who is studying for her Master of Letters in Environment, Culture and Communication at the University of Glasgow — is working to advance SWG3’s sustainability aims and intentions; in addition to its net-zero goals, these also include retaining and growing over 550 jobs in the creative and food economy; and using arts, creativity and nature to address poverty within the neighbouring community.

The BODYHEAT system was developed in partnership with TownRock Energy — an award-winning geothermal energy consultancy based in Edinburgh, and a leading specialist in all aspects of the UK’s geothermal resources. The project took three years to develop and is the first of its kind.

“SWG3 is a visionary organisation, motivated to achieve net-zero much sooner than most businesses. This aligns with TownRock's values and mission, which made us natural partners to deliver BODYHEAT,” says David Townsend, founder and Director of TownRock Energy and a multi-award-winning geothermal entrepreneur. Since founding TownRock in 2013, Townsend and his team have raised over £1 million for their clients’ geothermal-energy projects.

BODYHEAT is essentially a thermal heating and cooling system, which captures the heat generated by all visitors to the venue. The thermal energy captured is then stored within 12 underground boreholes, ensuring a sustainable source of heating or cooling for the venue — whether it's needed the next day, next month or even in the coming year.

Heat is transported through carrier fluid in a closed network of pipes, making its way to the heat pumps located in the plant room. From there, it descends 200 metres underground into the boreholes for storage. When the energy is needed, it retraces its path to the heat pumps — where it is elevated to an appropriate temperature and released back into SWG3's event spaces.

The innovative system is currently operational in four distinct areas: a 1,250-person capacity event space, a 1,000-person event space, the primary foyer entrance and the new Yardworks Studio. One of the heat pumps offers the capability for simultaneous heating and cooling — allowing real-time capture of body heat during an event and immediate distribution to the foyer, where it maintains the desired temperature.

By disconnecting the gas boilers at SWG3, the venue has achieved a significant reduction in carbon emissions — edging it closer to its net-zero goals. The system is a perfect example of how science, technology and human creativity can converge to create a new form of energy. The venue is still collecting data for BODYHEAT; but it’s hoping that the system will enable a reduction in CO2 emissions of 70 tonnes per year — a massive step towards net zero.

“I think it's also a really cool way to kind of get people thinking about how energy is created and how it can be harnessed,” George says. “Climate action needs creative solutions; and at SWG3, we are committed to being part of that change and influencing other music venues to take up the challenge.”

Aligned with SWG3’s commitment, TownRock Energy is also pushing to eliminate carbon emissions from the heating and cooling systems of buildings by providing other renewable solutions to our current, fossil-fuel-reliant energy grids.

“We are progressing projects that use geothermal heat from aquifers; warm water from flooded coal mines; and closed-loop borehole storage systems, like BODYHEAT; with private and public clients across the UK and abroad,” Townsend said. “One cool project we delivered a feasibility study for is very similar to BODYHEAT for a new resort being built on a Croatian island, where rooms inside need cooling at the same time as swimming pools outside need heating.”

TownRock Energy’s creative approach to climate-friendly energy solutions sets a precedent for buildings worldwide — demonstrating that innovation and a collective sense of responsibility can pave the way to a cleaner, more resilient and sustainable energy landscape.