Is it possible to enjoy a relaxing spa break without a faint sense of unease about the conspicuous energy use? At Coworth Park it might be. Mark Burgess reports

In spa design, aesthetics are everything – at least until now. The days of the energy-intensive weekend break may be drawing to a close, at least if the example set by Coworth Park Spa is followed by other developers.

Dorchester Collection, the hotel chain that includes The Dorchester in London, was determined to create an eco-luxury spa as part of its upmarket hotel development at Coworth Park near Windsor Great Park. It set out three guiding principles: the volume and footprint of the building should be as low as possible, it should blend into its green belt setting, and energy consumption should be low without compromising the ambience.

Colour-changing LED fixtures in the pool change the mood

Colour-changing LED fixtures in the pool change the mood

The building ticks all the green boxes. It is partially buried, emerging under an insulating roof of chamomile, lavender and thyme. Its carbon- negative structure includes a glued laminated timber monocoque frame and lime hemp walling. About half of the site’s energy is generated by a biomass boiler and closed loop ground water heat pump.

No compromise

However, there has been no compromise in the spa’s facilities, which include a pool, gymnasium, three thermal rooms, 10 treatment rooms and a terrace oriented to make the most of sunlight from dawn to dusk.

That doesn’t mean that there was no place for artificial lighting. Indirect lighting predominates, making the most of the soft colours of walls and fabrics. An example is the custom made in-ground linear LED luminaires that wash the walls. These are used in circulation areas, along with concealed rooflight wash lights.

There are more LEDs in the entrance lobby and relaxation suites, but this time it is built into the custom joinery.

The scheme is not exclusively LED, however. Lighting designers Lee Prince and Ben Stephens at Light + Design Associates made limited use of tungsten downlights in the spatisserie – a dining area open to spa guests. However, these sources are likely to be replaced with GU10-equivalent LED lamps in future.

The right treatment

In the treatment rooms, custom-made reed lights project from the ceiling over the treatment couches, creating a relaxing atmosphere. The treatment rooms look out over the roof of the pool room, where a light sculpture of internally lit reeds echoes the design.

Inside the pool room, a combination of colour- change LED fixtures below the waterline change the mood from contemplative to an atmosphere more suitable for children. Crystal stone sculptures along one side of the pool are picked out by directional LED spotlights and contemporary wall lights. There are also a few tungsten lamp sources.

Towards the pool room entrance, in-ground custom-made curved wall-wash uplights follow the line of the retaining wall. Light sources are again LED.

Daylight from glazed façades and the clerestory lighting spreads throughout the building, even though a good proportion of it is below the ground. Spa lighting is generally at a low level, so this helped the designers to develop a scheme with low energy demand.

Green awareness does not stop at the gates of Coworth Park Spa. All the lighting manufacturers that supplied fittings for the project are members of Lumicom, so the products will be disposed of responsibly when they reach the ends of their lives.

Coworth Park may be the first of new breed of spas that aim to treat the environment as well as their guests – and efficient lighting is leading the way.


PROJECT Coworth Park Spa
CLIENT Dorchester Collection
LIGHTING DESIGN Lee Prince, Ben Stephens; Light + Design Associates
INTERIOR DESIGN Fox Linton Associates
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