Challenges and solutions of sustainable design in sports architecture

IAKS UK seminar in Portsmouth, UK on 15 June 2023

The BREEAM-Outstanding Ravelin sports facility was the venue for the IAKS UK conference in Portsmouth on June 15, 2023. Located on the university campus, the event focused on the low-carbon and low-energy design and development of sports and leisure facilities.

The one-day event included guided tours of the newly completed Ravelin centre, keynote speakers and an engaging panel discussion. Welcoming many new faces including delegates travelling from abroad, the occasion provided a valuable platform to discuss challenges and solutions regarding the present and future of sustainable design in sports architecture.

(Author and photos: Aisling Cleary, Associate FaulknerBrowns Architects)

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The day opened with an early morning tour of the Ravelin sports facility, which included the opportunity to view the welcoming and transparent entrance atrium, the innovatively ventilated 25-m eight-lane swimming pool hall and the naturally lit eight-court sports hall.

Guests mixed over coffee before being invited to the main event space, where the day was formally opened by Mike Hall, Partner at FaulknerBrowns Architects. Paul Tilley, Director of Sport & Recreation at Portsmouth University equally extended a warm welcome to the group, summarising the positive impact the building has had on sport participation throughout the university. Upcoming IAKS events were communicated by Shaun Dawson, Chief Executive at Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, who also offered introductory words.

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Study case: St Sidwell's Point - first Passivhaus leisure facility in the UK

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Passivhaus design in sports and leisure buildings was the topic of the first keynote presentations of the day, made by Nic Bryant, Associate Director at SPACE & PLACE and Stephen Platt, Director at Teal Consultancy. Using St Sidwell's Point, the first Passivhaus leisure facility in the UK, as the case study, Nic discussed Passivhaus methodologies and the learnings captured during the design and construction process. Setting out the ambitious energy targets required to achieve Passivhaus, Stephen discussed strategies utilised to reduce water consumption and maximise air tightness.

From Passivhaus to BREEAM

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The following speakers were Irina Korneychuk, Senior Associate at FaulknerBrowns and Mark Palmer, Director at Max Fordham, who presented the Ravelin sports facility case study. Sharing insights into the design of a BREEAM Outstanding sports building, the pair made noteworthy observations on the implications of BREEAM certification and the value of incorporating sustainable design from project inception.

The next presentation was made by Simon Sturgis, founder of Targeting Zero, who gave an engaging overview of the current regulatory landscape for carbon emissions in construction, including the development of a UK net zero carbon standard. Simon made a compelling case for the need to further develop and consolidate methods of carbon assessment in construction.

 Using the case study of London's Marlborough Sports Garden, Daniel Bianchi, Partner at Cullinan Studio, presented six key concepts of the circular economy. Daniel concluded by noting the challenges currently facing the construction industry in implementing these principles on a broader scale.

 After lunch, delegates were offered a second opportunity to tour the building. Those who had joined the earlier group enjoyed a networking opportunity and a chance to discuss the topics raised that morning.

"Great facilities drive engagement"

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The day concluded with a panel session, inviting all speakers to answer questions from the floor and from moderator Tom Jones, IAKS Vice President and Senior Principal at Populous. Paul Tilley noted the success of the Ravelin centre, and how "great facilities drive engagement". Questions arose from the floor regarding the safeguarding of sustainability accreditation in the post-tender design process. The ethics of construction supply chains and musings on what sustainability might look like in the future were some of the other topics discussed. Guidance for the retrofit of sports buildings was another query raised, with the panel suggesting its importance warrants its own seminar soon. 

Mike Hall and Tom Jones brought the day to a close, summarising the wealth of knowledge and experience shared throughout the seminar. With an invitation to current and future IAKS members to join upcoming events, delegates and speakers were thanked for their valuable contributions to the critical conversation on sustainability and low carbon design in sports and leisure facilities.