[Technical & Practice 21.10.10] Populous’ vast sports hall at Ravenscraig is light, spacious and a striking new emblem for the regenerated steelworks site
Minimum head heights
Many have dreamt of throwing a vast environmental bubble over outdoor facilities to design out the British weather. But how do you do this for £1,710/m2, without landing your client with an impractical building and impossible running and maintenance costs?
At the Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility on the outskirts of Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, which opened this month, Populous has distilled the essential elements of this vision: daylight, views, environmental filtering, column-free space and minimum head heights to produce a unique form that sits comfortably in its surroundings.
Following the new home for Motherwell College, designed by BDP and completed last year, this is the second building completed as part of the 4.5km2 Ravenscraig New Town masterplan.
The first new town to be built in Britain for 40 years, this is said to be the largest regeneration project in Europe, comprising over 3,000 homes, a town centre with 84,000m2 of retail and leisure space, up to 216,000m2 of business and industrial space and a transport network. It will occupy the site of the former steelworks, famous for its iconic blue cooling towers, which closed in 1992.
Populous’ sports facility, one of the largest in Britain, includes indoor and outdoor football pitches, a sports hall, a gymnasium and an athletics hall. It will be used as a training ground for Scottish athletes competing for places in the London 2012 Olympics and as a venue for Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games in 2014.
The building’s north-south orientation, combined with its serrated roofs, allow diffused north light to enter all year round through the clear polycarbonate rooflights, avoiding disability glare from direct sunlight, which would hinder sporting events.
This creates good-quality ambient internal daylight – unusual in a deep-plan building of this type. The level of natural light also minimises energy consumption for artificial lighting, thus lowering the building’s carbon footprint.
The north elevations of the two main halls are glazed to a height of 3.5m and the rest of the elevation has polycarbonate panels, providing uninterrupted vistas of surrounding areas. Glazing is also intended to draw visitors in from the new roads connecting the old steelworks site to Motherwell town centre to the west and the college to the south.
Tim Reeves, senior architect at Populous, says: ‘The central concept involved the idea that athletes can learn from each other’s disciplines and this led to the creation of views through the facility that provide inspiration for the athletes, as well as the general public.’
Common areas within the internal spaces and centralised gathering zones between the halls facilitate a high level of interaction between the athletes and the public. Three separate large-span structures with portal frames are interlinked around the central spine building, which houses offices, a café, the centre’s main entrance and its busiest spaces: the changing rooms.
This spine was first built to provide stability for the adjacent structures during construction. All roof trusses have unique configurations, ranging from steep arches to horizontal members, set out to provide the headroom required for each facility.
Compliance with fire regulations was problematic, but resulted in some good design solutions that enhance the scheme’s spatial qualities. Bryan Morrell, associate fire engineer at Buro Happold FEDRA explains: ‘The football hall far exceeded the maximum fire compartment size and, although sports activities carry a low fire risk, because it had to accommodate events such as concerts and exhibitions it required a smoke control system.’
Unusually, this has intakes at a high level. Compartment walls with fire glazing separate it from the spine block and sports hall, and the internal compartment wall of the athletics hall has smoke curtains. Amazingly, the smoke control system also enables internal escape stairs to be unenclosed. There is a sprinkler system in the spine block but not in the sports venues.
The environmental design is efficient and elegant, with extensive natural daylight and natural ventilation, developed through the use of CFD operation and performance simulations. An on-site natural gas-fired combined heating and power system provides efficient and controlled power and carbon neutral heat in the occupied spaces.
The design of the facility refers to Ravenscraig’s industrial past: as a ‘symphony in exposed steelwork’, with metallic silver Corus Colorcoat-finished Euroclad profiled steel sheet forming inclined segments of cladding. Their large thermal insulation build-up reduces acoustic break-out and energy consumption.
These segments integrate with the geometry of the serrated roof in a telescopic zoomorphic configuration that crouches in the landscape. So the facility’s shell has many of the qualities of an environmental bubble, but is more site-specific, was easier to build and will be less expensive to run.
The main sports hall trusses are constructed from rolled column and angle sections with bolted connections for easy on-site assembly to form the economical structure of a stepped roof profile. The football hall trusses span 72m, and vary in configuration from flat to arched, to form the profile of the building which reflects the internal headroom requirements of the football pitch.
All of the main halls use profiled metal cladding supported on purlins, with clear polycarbonate on the roof northlights and the north elevations. The changing rooms and office block have a composite beam and column structure to support slabs and flat roof decks.
Due to its location on a former steelworks site, the ground works were complicated by the extensive tunnels, basements, foundations and underground pipework. Our ground preparation therefore included dynamic compaction and the excavation and removal of basements and machinery.
This provided the formation for the ground bearing foundations for the building, and for the car park and pitches.
The technical challenges were demanding and the creation of long and column-free spaces generated an elegant and innovative structure that is integrated with low energy design and low carbon technologies.
Rod Manson, director, Buro Happold
Start on site January 2009
Contract duration 20 months
Gross internal floor area 18,300m2
Form of contract Two-stage tender with Populous novated across to the main contractor
Total cost £31.3 million
Cost per m2 £1,710
Client North Lanarkshire Council/Sportscotland/Ravenscraig/Motherwell College
Architect Populous (formerly HOK Sport)
Structural engineer/M&E consultant Buro Happold
Quantity surveyor/project manager/ CDM coordinator Doig and Smith
Fire consultant FEDRA- Buro Happold
Main contractor Balfour Beatty
Annual CO2 emissions 88.5kg/m2