Leisure Pools: ‘I never thought I could get energy advice through my bank’
As an SME, it’s often challenging to devise a strategy for making your activities more sustainable. This fact is not lost on Filip De Weer, CEO of Leisure Pools in Aarschot. Alongside his wife Evelien Coppenrath, he has built the company into one of the largest pool builders and suppliers in the Benelux region. The challenge for the next few years lies in not just achieving further growth beyond this region, but also transitioning to a more sustainable way of doing business.
Every year, the teams at Leisure Pools build around 300 swimming pools. The company has now installed a total of over 3 000 pools for which it provides annual maintenance. ‘We certainly hope to grow further as a company in the coming years. After all, standing still as a business equates to moving backwards. But that growth probably won’t come from building more swimming pools,’ Filip De Weer notes. ‘We see more potential in the B2B segment, where we would supply pool basins to other companies.’
In pursuit of this ambition, the company developed a new concept: the mini-pool, a smaller pool tailored to urban gardens. ‘We know that people are going to live in smaller homes, and gardens are shrinking as well. This means that people who still want their own pool will be looking for models around three by five metres in size. When we started exploring the market, we noticed that this specification was difficult to find, so we invested in our own moulds to start producing swimming pools five to seven metres in length. That product has just recently become available.’
The mini-pool has allowed Leisure Pools to carve out a new market niche, and the initial results are promising. ‘We started selling mini-pools a few weeks ago and they already account for one in five of our pool sales. It’s a promising start, and better than we expected,’ states the CEO. ‘What’s more, this product lets us respond to our customers' desire to be more sustainable with their water and energy use.’
Zero Energy Pool scoops award at Batibouw
This philosophy previously led the SME to develop the concept of the ‘Zero Energy Pool’. This pool utilises a smart control system to heat the water. ‘Currently, almost all swimming pools use a heat pump. Owners who have installed solar panels can run that heat pump with the green electricity they generate. Given that solar energy is still often overproduced, we’ve developed a control system where you can programme the pump to make maximum use of that surplus energy in summer. This means less power is lost and customers also use less power from the grid.’
This Leisure Pools innovation was rewarded at the Batibouw ideal home show last year. The Zero Energy Pool won the Product Innovation Award 2022 at the Belgian Building Awards. ‘That was a very nice surprise, especially because we never thought an SME like us would win. I see it first and foremost as an incentive to continue on this path with our entire team,’ Filip said.
Improving sustainability step by step
The next step to doing business more sustainably is improving the energy-efficiency of the company’s activities while also generating green electricity. ‘Although I’m quite familiar with this concept as an engineer, it turned out to be more difficult than expected. Fortunately, our relationship manager at KBC Commercial Banking offered me the chance to talk to their energy and sustainability specialists. They drew up an audit and provided a lot of practical tips. They were also familiar with public authorities and energy companies. That helped us tremendously,’ admits Filip De Weer. ‘We’re now taking steps to make that approach a reality.’
ecoWise's audit provided a lot of practical tips.
Filip De Weer - CEO Leisure Pools
KBC has concentrated its sustainability expertise in its subsidiary ecoWise. Kristof Janssen explains: ‘ecoWise is a consultancy that guides and supports small and medium-sized enterprises in their transition towards doing business more sustainably. The focus at ecoWise is on energy-efficiency and renewable energy. They work together with the customer to identify the direction the company wants to head in and the opportunities available. They then draw up an advisory report, after which our experts guide the entrepreneur through the first steps of the sustainability transition. We can then use our credit expertise to help achieve the proposed solutions.’