Mark Tunstall is Design and Construction Director for Wates Construction, on the Scape Major Works – UK framework. Mark has a breadth of experience in building leisure centres and here shares his thoughts on what is required to deliver outstanding facilities for local people.
“Leisure centres are proving increasingly important community hubs for towns and cities across the country. Not least because they provide a focal point for a range of activities that are essential to the health and wellbeing of local people – not to mention the ongoing social and economic development of the area itself. At Wates Construction, we have extensive experience in this sector and as such, are extremely aware of the huge responsibilities that come with delivering such schemes.
“On a practical level, user input at design stage is very important to ensure the completed building meets operational requirements, is efficient and meets the needs of the project business plan while also guaranteeing a comfortable environment for the user.
“Leisure centre construction presents numerous challenges too; they boast a wide variety of facilities, from swimming and diving pools, spas and their ancillary facilities to sports halls, gymnasiums to on-site health services. They are also typically open from morning to evening, seven days a week, this means if you fall short in your delivery it could result in temporary closure, with even the most minor defect causing huge operational disruption.
“Wet leisure projects have particular risks associated with the corrosive environment, pool filtration and the potential for leaks. It is therefore important that a project team works with a healthy paranoia regarding possible challenges to ensure that defects are avoided. It is also vital to capture best practice, lessons learnt and industry innovation across all our projects so they can inform future works.
“Several years ago we were appointed to deliver Luton Borough Council’s flagship aquatic and leisure centre through the BSF Framework, which served to replace the area’s existing leisure centre while also encouraging greater participation in sport coinciding with the 2012 London Olympics.
“This was an immensely fascinating and rewarding project. Our role included early engagement, advising upon elements such as design and location in order to help the Council successfully meet its commitments to the Luton community.
“It was an ambitious project with a tight budget and we were determined to deliver an end product that matched the integrity of the design without compromising on quality. This required collaborative working with whole team to achieve the common aim of delivering a vital new community facility to Luton.
“When replacing existing leisure facilities, it’s also vital to remember the feelings and memories that local people attach to such places; these are buildings where children have learned to swim or made lifelong friends at a martial arts class. At Luton, we went to great lengths to engage with local residents and understand their concerns. This forms part of our ethos at Wates, to always act as a force for good and appoint local contractors and SMEs as part of our supply chain and deliver numerous training courses for local people, all of which we achieved in Luton.
“We delivered on our promise to serve as a responsible contractor determined to deliver an exceptional facility for Luton’s people and as our work progressed, it was very rewarding to see enthusiasm and excitement growing. The Inspire Luton Sport Village has since proven to be a huge success, run expertly by Active Luton, with consistently high demand from local people.
“Since completing Inspire Luton Sport Village, we have delivered several other new build and refurbished leisure centres across the country and continue to focus on sharing lessons learnt and best practice across our project teams. My national role on Scape and the relationships I have built with local teams up and down the country supports our drive to deliver exceptional leisure facilities.
“Step forward to the present day and we are currently delivering several leisure developments including Braywick Leisure Centre in Maidenhead. This project was procured via Major Works – UK framework, part of the Scape National Construction framework and as such, enables us to draw on our experience and work closely with our client at a very early stage to ensure they are able to achieve their unique aims. For example, different swimming pools have differing requirements, such as whether or not they are intended for competitive use, [while the client’s aspirations for the local community may require a specific mix of wet and dry leisure, based upon the population demographic and socioeconomic picture.
“It is our job to work with our clients to deliver a scheme that fully meets their needs, looks the part, provides value for money and is within budget.
“Leisure centres not only play a vital part in improving the nation’s health and happiness, their growing remit and adaptability also plays a significant role in tackling social problems such as poor education and crime. It’s for reasons such as this that we are honoured to deliver these important schemes, delivering leisure centres of an exceptional standard that can support the various needs of communities up and down the country.”