5B: Design considerations

Being the client of a building project can be hugely exciting and creative

Section 5 progress

It can also be a shock when you see or have to run the finished facility and you are kicking yourself that you ‘did not think about that.’

A sports facility that is no longer considered viable by a local authority is likely to suffer from design shortcomings, which will have contributed to the decline of the facility in the first place, e.g. poor changing facilities, not enough storage space, no disability access and expensive heating. It’s vital to get to know the site before embarking on detailed design for change, so that you pick up on all its flaws and possibilities.


There are particular specifications that sports facilities need to have, e.g. standardised dimensions of pitches and other surfaces, materials used and specific safety considerations, e.g. separation of wet and dry / muddy areas from any social or indoor sports accommodation.

Specifications are constantly being updated. Sport England provides generic best practice design advice and requirements for building types and sporting activities covering a range of sports. The latest suite of Design Guidance Notes can be downloaded free here.

If you are unfamiliar with design issues, consider visiting other facility projects to learn from their experience

Address issues of ‘dead space’ in the design. Wasted space will not earn revenue but only costs money to heat and light and supervise, e.g. reception areas that are large, wide corridors or lots of ‘circulation space’. If you are unfamiliar with design issues, consider visiting other sports facility projects to learn from their experience.

Work on detailed design doesn’t usually start until Planning permission has been secured. The detailed design includes specialist input from Structural and Services Engineers and suppliers of specific products or components e.g. Smart Technology, heating, lighting, stonework, etc.

From the detailed design the Quantity Surveyor produces more detailed costings which may require the client to re-consider the business plan and funding arrangements for the project.


The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society, including Disability Discrimination, which requires anyone providing a service to the public to make ‘reasonable’ adjustments to their property, business or service to anticipate the needs of people with disabilities.

The word ‘reasonable’ is key. It means that the emphasis is on what you can do as an organisation once budgets and other factors are taken into account.

In terms of a new build or refurbishment, any design should start from the premise of inclusion and access for all, including toilet, changing and shower facilities (your architect or surveyor will advise you on the arrangements to be made to fulfill access requirements).

The earlier the discussions can take place, the easier it will be to incorporate a full range of appropriate accessibility features into the design.

Environmental sustainability

Making an old sports facility or any building more environmentally sustainable is a challenge.

Swimming pools in particular have a big impact on the environment in that they require constant heat. However, saving energy is one of the simplest ways to increase profits without the need to increase sales. Controlling energy use will also make conditions for staff and customers more comfortable.

Measures that can be introduced include:

  • Installing smart meters
  • Movement sensors in low usage areas to control light usage
  • Place thermostatic valves on radiators
  • Install energy efficient hand dryers
  • Place solar film on windows to reduce the need for air conditioning
  • Set PCs to automatically shut down when not in use
  • Review number and efficiency of boilers
  • Use the most efficient florescent lighting
  • Replace old style bulbs with more efficient lights
  • Water flow restrictors on taps, showers and toilets
  • Install recycling bins
  • Undertake staff awareness training.

The Carbon Trust advises organisations on how they can boost their business returns by cutting carbon emissions and saving energy.

The EiE at Oxford Brookes University have produced a free guide that offers a summary of approaches you can take to reduce the environmental impact of community buildings, including sports pavilions.

We have a website which provides advice and guidance on a range of measures which clubs and community organisations can investigate to improve efficiency and sustainability.

Community: Is the design of the facility flexible so that it can change if necessary?