Specifying for sports halls requires a range of solutions as wide as the specialisms they serve. John Scott of the NBS outlines seven key points

1. Event and arena finishes

Floor finishes will vary according to the functional requirements of the sports hall. Obviously wear and cleanability are required, but so is resilience. This could be in terms of resisting damage from items being dropped such as weights – BS EN 1516:1999, BS EN 1517:2000 – or absorbing impact by the user – BS 7044-2.2:1990 (activities requiring specialist matting not included). Traditionally gymnasium floors were made from sprung maple, which is still available, but today a variety of specialist epoxy resin floors are more likely to be used as they are durable and can be specified for the requirements of specific sports. Contact the Resin Flooring Association for advice; see www.ferfa.org.uk.

Court finishes are usually colour coded and white-lined in accordance with standards for pitch markings. Accuracy in setting out is essential if the facility is to be used for competition, league or international matches.

Ceiling finishes tend to be blacked out to avoid glare and to conceal services. Clear heights are also important, especially for staging competitive events. However some form of ceiling covering or feature may be necessary to assist in acoustic controls where large spaces are required and where announcements need to be audible.

Wall finishes are specific to the sports enclosure. For example, squash courts are plaster-finished or have glass walls. With other types of sports the acceptable finishes could range from fair-faced blockwork to applied finishes, to glazed walls or windows. Spaces can also be divided by hanging nets on frameworks.

2. Changing room and toilet area finishes

These comprise three main zones: changing rooms, showers and toilets. Wall and floor tiles are common finishes, but resinous and antibacterial painted wall finishes and antislip vinyl sheet flooring are alternative solutions. Toilet partitions are available in different qualities depending on the risk of vandalism. Concealing plumbing equipment with integrated plumbing panels or recessing fittings provides protection, and stainless steel finishes offer hygienic surfaces.

3. Spectator and seating area finishes

Seating, which is usually of the "tip-up" type and raked to improve sight lines, can be fixed, removable or retractable – BS EN 12727:2000. Finishes need to conform to the standards associated with auditoriums. Resistance to damage and cleanability are important. Resistance to spread of flame and combustibility are required in accordance with building regulations and licensing requirements for sports hall – BS 5588-6:1991* and Part B of the Building Regulations.

4. Entrances

Entrance matting is designed to remove water and dirt from shoes – the more steps taken on the mat, the less the contamination of the internal flooring. Thereafter the floor finishes can range from carpet to wood to stone slabs. Vinyl sheet or tiles can incorporate patterns including specific designs such as a club logo.

Reception desks may be standard or custom-designed by specialist firms or be purpose designed for manufacture by the contractor. Reception areas need to be friendly and welcoming. Like reception desks, seating and notice boards and other furniture and fittings can be purpose-made, or brought from suppliers.

5. Access

Recent regulations are intended to provide access to all. The design should incorporate ramps, lifts and doors in accordance with the regulations – BS 8300:2001 and Part M of the Building Regulations. This will also necessitate specifying door furniture, grab rails, floor and step markings for walking, vision or hearing impaired users or for wheelchair access. Sanitary facilities are available to satisfy Part M. Grab rails will need secure fixing, and walls or partitions may require strengthening to withstand the forces imposed.

6. Safety and licensing

The safe evacuation of users, spectators and staff is fundamental to safe usage. In major spectator venues specialist anti-crush barriers – BS 6180:1995 – and doors are required. Ironmongery needs to conform to GAI Code of practice 2000 Hardware for timber fire and escape doors. Signage is important and should comply with the relevant parts of BS 5499. Safety routes need to be constructed with non-combustible finishes.

7. Operation and maintenance manuals

These should contain details of after-care and cleaning of the finishes. Incorrect regimes can damage surfaces and impair future cleanability or affect slip resistance. Most manufacturers offer detailed recommendations.

* BS 5588-6:1991 covers buildings for assembly and/or indoor entertainment, but does not apply to sports grounds covered by Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975.