Creating an active landscape

SportPark at Loughborough University

SportPark, at Loughborough University, is a bespoke sports administration hub which provides the gateway to the Loughborough Science and Enterprise Park. The £15m landmark building will be home to a variety of sports organisations including British Swimming, the Amateur Swimming Association, Volleyball England, the Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Association, UK Sport and the Youth Sports Trust.


The hub provides 6,500 square metres of floor space. The three pavilions forming the SportPark Building represent the start of a major development of the new Science and Enterprise facilities at the University. The project encompasses three separate (3, 4 and 5 storey) pavilions spread across a total of 12 floors. The pavilions were constructed using piled foundations and a post-tensioned high quality fair-faced concrete frame. The facades were formed using a combination of curtain walling and glazing, rain screen cladding, precast concrete panels and extensive architectural solar shading. The internal spaces provide meeting rooms, conference areas, breakout areas, communal dining and catering facilities in addition to general office space.

The project incorporated a number of green technologies and modern methods of construction techniques including ground source heating, natural/passive ventilation and an extensive Building Management System. The building’s innovative design reflects the unique working patterns of the people that use it, and includes an active landscape as a place to do business, play sport and rest. Galvanized products are included throughout the design and make an important contribution to the visual and functional qualities of the building that has delighted its users. Sustainability was a strong and consistent feature of the development at all levels. The building makes the most of natural light and ventilation and uses construction techniques and materials as part of a ‘passive’ engineering strategy that helps to achieve low levels of CO2 and is highly efficient. As such, galvanized elements which were selected for both aesthetic and function were used throughout the building to make the most of the materials’ efficiency, cost effectiveness and long life.

Galvanized steel is used in the SportPark building in the following ways:
– Where it is highly visible i.e. solar shades, feature stairs, handrails, and safety rails.
– Where it is non-visible i.e. shelf supports to windows and cladding system.

Inclusion of galvanized products within the material palette at SportPark was a conscious decision by the design team who appreciated, among other things, its high visual quality, low maintenance and competitive value. Also the fact that galvanizing makes metal look like metal unlike plastic coatings. Robustness and longevity were important to the clients interests, providing a maintenance-free building for many years to come.

Solar shades

The solar shades form an important part of the building’s environmental and sustainability credentials, minimising effects of solar gain and glare to provide optimum environment for the building users. T his was an important part of achieving a BREEAM Excellent rating, without resorting to additional technologies such as P V. T he shades are on the western (entrance) elevation and form an important part of the building’s visual identity, being visible at a distance (from the approach into Loughborough from the M1), from close range as you enter the building, and from within when looking out to the active landscape*.

The shades take the form of vertical sails set away from the building to allow them to be orientated towards the precise angle of the sun to maximise shading effect while minimising obstructions to the views out to the landscape beyond. The combination of the offset, curved form of the sails and connections to the main structure only at single points per floor level demanded an elegant structural solution in a highly durable, visually attractive and affordable material, in this case galvanized steel.

Feature stairs

At the opposite end of the building vertical external stair towers form an important visual component, anchoring each of the three pavilions into the green and active landscape* that surrounds the building. The stairs are carefully engineered with the intention of being visible through the lightweight perforated cladding panels, which are hung from a delicate galvanized frame supported by and integrated with the stair structure to create a clean visually strong feature to the building. The support structure to the cladding is masked by the edges of the perforated panels highlighting the stair within.

Handrails and balustrades

From the outset, the importance of integrating the landscape with the building was an aspiration of the client and users to meet their unique working patterns, which reflect working methods of the sporting organisations that are based in the building. A series of galvanized handrails lead to the entrance and through to the café’s external terrace primarily for their colour, which complemented the material palette. The inherent robustness and value added a high visual quality, whist providing a low maintenance solution at a competitive value.

Cladding and window supports

In addition to visual elements, galvanizing was used on several non-visible elements such as the shelf supports to the windows and cladding system. Here, the inherent robustness and long life of galvanized products was important. SportPark is an excellent example of a building in which galvanized products can contribute in a visually interesting way, whilst being cost effective, efficient and low-maintenance.

* Active landscape: The surrounding landscape repairs and strengthens the existing ecology incorporating swales, meadow grasses and lawns with a trim trail and kick-about lawn that responds to the users request for a high quality landscape that can be used as an extension of the workplace, to relax, or be active. Even areas of car parking are marked for sports use outside of office hours.

Architect: David Morley Architects

Image: David Morley Architects and Loughborough University

Posted on March 12, 2012 by untitled

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