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Hawkins\Brown completes engineered timber school swimming pool

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A private school in Surrey’s 25m, six-lane competition pool utilises a glulam portal frame braced with CLT panels

This pool building designed by Hawkins\Brown for Freemen’s School in Ashtead uses timber construction and offsite fabrication methods to create a sustainable building that sits gently within its context.

The building replaces the school’s original pool, destroyed by fire in 2014, on a relocated site to the east side of the campus next to existing sports facilities. 

171022 hb freemens pool 052

171022 hb freemens pool 052

Source: Jack Hobhouse

The construction of the pool, led by contractor Gilbert Ash, utilises a glulam portal frame braced with CLT panels: the use of engineered timber providing a fast, efficient, carbon-neutral method of construction forming both structure and internal finish.

The all-timber construction also had a number of advantages in dealing with the challenges of a pool environment – it is resilient, a thermal insulator and corrosion-resistant. On site, the erection of the glulam-portal frame and CLT walls and roof took just over three weeks, meaning that from detailed design to full construction, the building was able to be delivered within a year.

The natural internal surface of the structural timber roof and walls have been left exposed and stained white, materially complementing the external wooded setting and helping create a softer, warmer environment to swim in.

Within the pool hall, the structurally expressive roof geometry is accentuated by a series of shifting glulam frames, creating a visually dynamic space.

To minimise its impact on the school’s Grade II-listed landscape, the swimming pool’s lower ground floor has been partially submerged, moulding the structure into its surroundings and helping preserve a large number of the existing trees, with the highest point of the gently pitched roof marking its main entrance.

The swimming pool is the second phase of a four-stage masterplan by school owner the City of London, which Hawkins\Brown is delivering to improve the quality of the school’s listed campus setting. The first phase, completed in 2014, saw the delivery of a new music school and a boarding house for 60 pupils, with future phases including the refurbishment of the Grade II*-listed main house, a new playground and improvements to the landscaping of the school grounds.    

171022 hb freemens pool 028

171022 hb freemens pool 028

Source: Jack Hobhouse

Architect’s view

Freemen’s School’s new swimming pool is a welcoming retreat that engages with the mature woodland setting through the use of natural materials and colour schemes. The deep columns of the all-timber construction and wrap-around glazing, which afford direct views from the water into the woodland, give the sense of swimming among the trees.   

Adam Cossey, partner, Hawkins\Brown

Freemansswimmingpool lowergroundfloorplan2

Freemansswimmingpool lowergroundfloorplan2

Source: Hawkins\Brown

Lower ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site September 2016
Completion September 2017
Gross internal floor area 1,750m2
Gross (internal + external) floor area 1,850m2
Form of contract Single stage tender - NEC3 Option A
Construction cost  £8.2 million
Construction cost per m2 £4,685
Architect Hawkins\Brown
Client City of London Freemen’s School
Funder client City of London
Structural engineer Eckersley O’Callaghan
M&E consultant Skelly and Couch
Transport engineer Motion
Ecology advisor Aspect
Arboriculturalist Treeline
BREEAM assessor SRL
Landscape designer BD Landscape
Project manager Pick Everard
Main contractor Gilbert Ash
CAD software used Autodesk Revit (BIM Level 2)
Annual CO2 emissions (predicted BER) 43.9kg/m2

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