Q&A with DB3 Sports & Leisure team - Part 2: The Future & Trends

Bringing DB3 Summer of Sport to a close is Part 2 of our Question and Answer with our DB3 Sports and Leisure Team. Not only have our 12 experts – who combined have 214 years of experience under their belt – shared their insight into trends, challenges and ambitions but also their vision as Architects and Engineers for this wellbeing sector.


What are the biggest challenges the Sports and Leisure sector faces?

Jon, Head of DB3 Sports & Leisure: It is a constantly changing market so designs need to be adaptable and keep new environment and purpose in mind.

Dave, Associate: The sport and fitness sector experiences a high turnover of fitness trends so key is to deliver designs that are future proof and relevant. We achieve this by designing internal spaces that are flexible and adaptable for a wide range of current and future activities.

Mike, Senior Associate: Nearly zero-energy building (NZEB) in the leisure sector is a challenge due to the high energy requirements for the wet plant and AHU managing these spaces.

Matthew, DB3 Director & Head of Wales: I think one of the biggest challenges is that a large proportion of public leisure facilities built in the 80’s and 90’s (like the Newport Centre) require major refurbishment, not only to replace fabric and services, but also to reflect changes in the leisure market, and funding of these refurbishments has proved challenging for many local authorities. The other big challenge of course is that wet leisure centres in particular have heavy energy demands – how do we ensure that new and refurbished buildings meet the climate challenge and have substantially reduced energy requirements compared to those built in the 80’s? It’s a question we’ve given a lot of thought to recently, and are very keen to discuss with clients.

Rob, Senior Associate: Funding/capex. Our solutions are highly efficient and compressively designed, cost effective facilities that typically exceed the client’s brief and expectation.

What are Growing Trends in the Sports and Leisure Sector?

What are Growing Trends in the Sports and Leisure Sector?

Dave: Trends are definitely to create a space which is a destination, not only for people to exercise and keep fit, but also social space with community facilities. The centres are becoming a central point for leisure facilities, as well as library, citizen’s advice, holistic treatment amenities, community meeting space and so on. Not only is this convenient for users but cost efficient for councils, thus benefiting all.

Outdoor activities around facilities is another growing trend, including designing walking/running routes with trim trails, obstacles such as pull ups and utilising natural features which encourage exercise and movement.

George, Architectural Technologist: Growing trends in the Sport and Leisure sector include Outdoor cycle tracks, which are extremely popular at the moment.

Ian, Senior Associate: Fitness is taking the central focus right now with leisure and fun unfortunately taking a backseat. Moving floors are also making a big impact on how space is utilised, as well as bringing flexibility and accessibility into play.

Rob: Online fitness, VR, AI and E-Sports are all increasing in popularity and adoption. How this will affect the built environment and client requirements isn’t too widely understood at the grass roots and local authority level, but the industry is likely set to change to meet the growing needs of the end-user/consumer.

If money was no object, what technology/features would you incorporate in your design?

If money was no object, what technology/features would you incorporate in your design?

Dave: I would incorporate more sustainability features, some of which are still high cost unfortunately. Balancing the financial pressure with environmental benefits is challenging, however we do implement cost effective solutions in all areas possible such as in choice of materials, our Electrical & Mechanical solutions from our in-house MEP team, utilising natural light, finding best ventilation solutions and so on.

Cameron, Part II Architectural Assistant: I love when a building can be integrated into the landscape. Incorporating a park with running track onto the roof of the building would be fantastic.

Ian: I would love to see some fun leisure facilities like an adventure playground but in water, with caves, zip wires, rope bridges and so on. Health and Safety is of course a major barrier, but something like that would be amazing. I want focus to return on fun at leisure centres, fitness and exercise happens inadvertently after all!

Roberta, Architectural Assistant: Probably I would like to incorporate more sustainable technology, like green roofs with solar panels and rainwater collection system.

Mike: Semi automated seating and flooring, this allows you to completely change spaces and configuration to suit multiple uses and configurations and allows a greater flexibility and higher usage of spaces. Mainly developed for the US conference centre market, however could be applied to smaller facilities both within the arts sector and sports.

Rob: Passivhaus principles. Recently the first passivhaus standard leisure centre was built in Exeter, the sector (clients/designers/contractors) should all be looking to make the industry move in this direction.

George: Moveable façade systems that can change dependent on weather, climate, activity or simply just preference.

Jon: I would utilise technology more to create grander scale projection games that transform studios into an interactive area for all ages to enjoy.  For example, you could project islands on the floor and players would have to keep moving onto different islands to avoid the virtual crocodiles! Another incredible project would be projecting street footage from 50 years ago against the walls that move along at the same time as elderly with dementia cycle on their stationary bike. It’s not only a chance for them to get some gentle exercise but also allows them to immerse themselves in the visual cues of the world they remember and is familiar to them. It would also be a fabulous experience for all ages as they can see how the streets have changed over time.

Which project would you love to work on in the future?

Which project would you love to work on in the future?

George: A large, multifunctional, design orientated leisure centre which is both functional and designed to a high standard.

Dave: Getting involved in more global competition events is something I aspire to for DB3.

Ian: We have won some very exciting projects which I am looking forward to working on.

Martyn, Associate Architect: I enjoy triathlon so something with cycling and swimming would be good. We have Maindy Leisure Centre in Cardiff that has a cycle track right next to the swimming pool and I’ve often wondered if there is anything that could be developed to allow people to combine both activities in one session. A permanent (and secure) transition area would enable people to move from swim to bike in the same session and replicate the race conditions.

I’ve often tried something similar at various swimming pools, jumping out of the water and getting straight on the bike, but the logistics of kit and security are difficult if you’re on your own.

Rob: A future Olympic Games or World Championship Aquatics Centre or Athletics Stadium! A 50m pool commission would be a good project to complete.

Jon: Local Authority projects which have the community’s interest at heart are the projects I enjoy the most.

Matt, Head of Building Services Engineering:  I would love to work on similar projects to the BMX Arena would be great, but I feel I’d most like to revisit past schemes that are coming up for major overhaul and plant replacements. It would be good to apply sustainable and passive design measures that have developed since their original  completion with the prospect of extending and prolonging their life into the distant future, making them operationally more efficient and reducing their carbon footprint.

What are your Visions for Sports & Leisure?

What are your Visions for Sports & Leisure?

Bob, Senior Associate & Head of Scotland: Taking a flexible and business orientated approach to design that enables football clubs to become not just venues for the game but genuine commercial, social and leisure destinations. This can extend beyond conferencing and concert venue, to also house wellbeing facilities from doctors, surgeries to mental health services and holistic treatments facilities and more. From a sustainable point of view kinetic and gas filled façades options could be explored as well as using the roofs to generate energy, car charging points and much more.

Dave: Its most definitely incorporating more sustainable solutions into our designs.

Martyn: Accessible to all. No question.

Rob: Inclusivity for all from a young age, children from all areas and backgrounds should have access to a wide range of good quality, cost effective sports facilities.

Cameron: Improving the long term sustainability of these large buildings and often energy intensive buildings is an exciting challenge.

Jon: I am pleased that there is already a move away from elite sport with a focus back on the community – I want designs to bring joy and wellbeing to everyone from young children who learn to enjoy sport right up to elderly who may have dementia.

George: More advanced and technologically driven centres which incorporate VR sports or simulated sporting venues, over more traditional centres which focus on just a sports hall and swimming facilities.

Date Published: 31 August 2021

Q&A with DB3 Sports & Leisure team - Part 1: The Past & the Present

Q&A with DB3 Sports & Leisure team - Part 1: The Past & the Present

Find out about the incredible projects our team have worked on and currently involved in as well as their vast experiences of our team

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