The community of Chipping Norton was sorely missing a place to exercise. Architect Feilden Clegg Bradley brought the town right up to date with a design that favoured local materials and sunlight

<B><font size=”+2”>Vital statistics</font></b>
Sports leisure centre combining 25 m indoor swimming pool with other community sports facilities <B>Location</b>
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire<B>Awards</b>
Shortlisted for this year’s Civic Trust Awards <B>Architectural design features</b>


  • Contemporary building with massing and materials that sit comfortably in a Cotswold setting
  • Clearly legible layout with daylight and views for all significant internal spaces
  • Layout segregates school and community use

<B>Green features</b>


  • Up to 50% energy savings from high levels of thermal insulation and natural lighting
  • Sports hall, pool hall and dance studio all capable of operating without artificial lighting during daylight hours

<B>Procurement features </b>
Traditional competitive tender based on bills of quantity<B>Cost features</b>


  • Construction cost of £4,034,250 for 3050 m2 gross internal floor area
  • Unit construction cost of £1323/m2, some 19% below average cost for sports centres with swimming pools

<B>Contract period</b>
15 months <B><font size=”+2”>Client’s brief</font></b>
Chipping Norton is a small market town in west Oxfordshire whose community sports facilities consisted, until recently, of a dilapidated sports hall at the secondary school and an old outdoor pool with a small but devoted clientele.
In response to local demand, west Oxfordshire council decided to develop a new indoor pool together with a replacement sports hall, fitness suite, dance studio and squash courts. The new building was planned as a dual-use facility on the school site that would provide a hall and changing rooms for the school as well as facilities for the wider community.
Feilden Clegg Bradley Architects was appointed following competitive interviews to carry out a feasibility study, scheme design and successful application to the Sports Lottery Fund for a grant providing 50% of capital costs.
Following an assessment of local demand, the pool was configured as a four-lane 25 m pool with a movable section of floor to allow the depth of water to be varied. As well as offering more flexibility in use than a conventional arrangement of separate main and learner pools, this configuration brought considerable savings in both pool area and filtration equipment that more than offset the cost of the movable floor.
<B><font size=”+2”>Architectural design</font></b>
Feilden Clegg Bradley gave itself a clear set of design objectives beyond basic functional requirements. The objectives and their architectural interpretation were: <B>Create a piece of high-quality contemporary architecture that sits well in its surroundings within tight budget constraints.</b>
The bulky volumes of sports and pool halls were carefully articulated so that they would step down in scale towards the existing two-storey school buildings and houses at the front of the site. Also, the palette of external materials, principally untreated oak boarding and grey-buff facing brick from the Netherlands, was chosen to evoke traditional Cotswold stone and timber without resorting to pastiche.

<B>Create a public building with a civic presence that would also make a positive contribution to the adjacent school and surrounding area.</b>
Part of the school grounds that had been blighted by a dilapidated sports hall has now been opened up as a generous landscaped entrance court to the new building. A one-way access road with separate entrances and exits has been provided for school coaches. Additional paving and a much needed pelican crossing have also been installed for waiting children and visitors. This greatly improves on the previous, hazardous arrangement that pitched together large numbers of children and manoeuvring coaches.

<B>Treat architectural qualities of circulation spaces with as much importance as the sports and leisure areas.</b>
The layout of the buildings is arranged to provide clear simple routes with both internal and external views wherever possible. Daylight and sunlight have been brought into the building in a number of ways leading to an impression of openness and contact with outdoors, which is appropriate for, but all too often lacking in, a building devoted to health and exercise.
<B>Ensure building is fully accessible to all sections of the community.</b>
As the sports hall and main changing facilities are exclusively dedicated to the school during the school day, these can be segregated from the pool with its own changing rooms and other public facilities that are open to the wider community. The main entrance foyer serves as a simple buffer area between school and community zones.
Several features have been incorporated to facilitate access for people with disabilities:

  • Dedicated disabled parking bays located near the main entrance
  • Automatic entrance doors
  • Low-level section of reception counter
  • Nearly all public facilities provided at ground-floor level
  • Well lit and clear circulation routes
  • Dedicated disabled changing and showering facilities
  • Access to the pool by raised moveable floor or by hoist

<B>Minimise environmental impact of the project during construction and in use.</b>

  • Natural rock excavated from the site was crushed and used as fill and hardcore wherever possible.
  • All waste materials were sorted on site into containers and recycled.
  • Natural materials are used where possible, including glue-laminated timber structural frame, Douglas fir internal linings and untreated oak external cladding of the pool hall.
  • High levels of low-density mineral-wool insulation are used in the roof and walls.
  • High-performance low-emissivity double glazing used throughout.
  • Ultraviolet pool filtration system minimises the need for chlorine.
  • The high levels of daylight reduce the use of artificial lighting to a minimum. Most fittings use low-energy lamps.

<B><font size=”+2”>Lighting design</font></b>
Daylight is a commodity that is highly valued by Feilden Clegg Bradley, yet it remains an issue of some debate in sports buildings. Most design guidance warns of the problems of glare that poorly designed daylighting can cause, but fails to acknowledge the potential benefits that it can bring if handled correctly.
Leisure centres are public buildings for people to swim, to exercise and to play sports in, which in turn promotes the health and well-being of the community. It therefore seems odd that such venues are often cut off from the natural world and rely on artificial lighting and ventilation.
At Chipping Norton, Feilden Clegg Bradley set out to provide a building that was clearly laid out, easy to use, and exploited daylight and views as much as possible. Not only did this seem an appropriate response to the building type, it also made sound commercial sense. Providing appealing and enjoyable spaces increases visitor numbers and therefore also revenue. At the same time, natural lighting of all the main activity and circulation spaces saves significant amounts of energy.
The extent and location of glazing was analysed using computer and physical models to ensure optimum levels of daylight while avoiding problems of glare. This has resulted in the pool hall and sports hall being well lit, airy spaces with sunlight where appropriate and views to the outside world.
<B>Pool hall</b>
The pool hall is lit by a large 2.4 m high glazed wall, which gives views out to the entrance court and acts as the “shop window” for the complex. Although this produces reflections, the location of the glazing in relation to the space planning has been arranged to add an attractive degree of sparkle to the water surface when viewed from the entrance but no surface reflection when viewed from the more critical lifeguard station.
The wall glazing is supplemented by 900 mm wide continuous rooflights along both sides of the hall, providing even top light to the pool surrounds and balancing the light levels across the hall. The daylight levels are such that there is no need for artificial lighting during normal daylight hours.
<B>Sports hall</b>
The sports hall is lit by rooflights running the full width of the hall. They are located next to the end walls and quarter points along the hall, immediately above the steel V-shaped trusses that run between the badminton courts. Daylight is diffused by translucent fabric panels below the rooflights to avoid direct sunlight penetrating the space and to reduce glare. As well as supporting the roof and the light diffusers, the V-trusses conceal the extractor fans and also house fluorescent light fittings housed at the base of the truss.
<b><font size=”+2”>Procurement and cost control</font></b>
The project was procured on a traditional competitive tender basis with bills of quantities. The employer and design team were constrained not only by the Employer’s Standing Orders but also by the requirements of Sport England Lottery Fund. Lottery funding for the purposes of procurement counts as public expenditure, and any project with more than 50% public funding (whether procured by local authority, central government or private organisation) is required to comply with the European procurement regime.
The £4m estimated cost of the project was close to the threshold for advertisement in the Official Journal of the European Communities, and it was decided that the full competitive tendering processes should be gone through. A large number of responses received to the OJ advertisement were all reviewed and analysed, not only by QS Boxall Sayer but also by the design team and council officials. Tenders were invited from a recommended shortlist that was then prepared and approved by the council, and the QS drew up a report on the returned tenders in the usual way.
Close cost control was maintained throughout the project to ensure that the client was kept fully informed of any cost variations. The preparation of final account was progressed with the contractor in monthly meetings as the project proceeded, rather than left until the end, with the result that the final account was agreed within four weeks after completion. By careful management of provisional sums, a final account figure a few pounds less than the contract sum and – most importantly – within the client’s budget was agreed.
The cost of the project compares favourably with other swimming pool developments built at the same time, particularly bearing in mind the high standard of architectural design and quality specified. The unit construction cost of £1323/m2 is some 19% below the average cost for sports centres with swimming pools, as compiled by Boxall Sayer. The costs also included an element of improvement works within the existing school to which it was attached.