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Out of the blue, a story of water and ice - Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre

A competition swimming pool and an ice rink for 1200 skaters, in a busy city centre location. The Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre would need to stand out in a crowded urban environment while maximising the natural light reaching pool and ice rink spaces. Danpalon® translucent polycarbonate panels from Everlite Concept helped provide a stunning solution.


At the heart of Romford’s town centre regeneration plan, the state-of-the-art Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre was conceived to help improve the health and wellbeing of local communities throughout the busy borough of Havering in East London.

A ground-breaking £25million development funded by Havering Council and Sport England, the flagship sport and leisure complex was designed to house a 25m, eight-lane competition swimming pool, a learner pool, full-size ice rink, a 100-station fitness suite, dance and spinning studios, sauna and steam room and café area,

And as the new home for the National Ice Hockey League team The London Raiders, the multi-million pound facility was also to include a 900-seat spectator area for fans. Measuring 56m x 26m, the ice rink itself can accommodate 1200 skaters.

Everlite Concept worked on the project alongside Cambridge-based architects Saunders Boston Architects and local cladding specialists SD Samuels (Special Projects) to provide the leisure centre with a Danpalon® façade and rainscreen solution.Overseen by Willmott



Faced with two specific creative cues, ‘blue’ and ‘ice’, the design uses 16mm thick blue polycarbonate Danpalon® panels for the leisure centre’s rainscreen cladding. Everlite presented eight different tones of blue panel spanning a spectrum from near white to navy blue, with four complementary blues being chosen for the final scheme.

Arranged in what is seen to be a random pattern on all four sides of the building, the blue Danpalon® rainscreen is cantilevered above the ground floor’s glazed façade. Appearing to be almost floating in the air, the blue rainscreen ‘cube’ is composed of three distinct levels, with panel lengths of respectively 8m, 7m and 6m.

Nathan Swift, Director at Saunders Boston Architects said, “The great versatility of the four-colour Danpalon® solution meant that we could define a unique panel pattern that would avoid any obvious repetition or ‘clash’ of adjacent dark or light blue colours. It appears to be completely random and looks more organic, or naturally-occurring, as a result. It’s created a very pleasing effect.”

To further enhance the leisure centre’s appearance during the night, the Danpalon® rainscreen structure also integrated additional brackets to support vertical LED lighting strips on the external face of the rainscreen surface.
Chris Taylor, UK Sales Manager, Everlite Concept commented, “The installation of LED lighting strips to the outside of the rainscreen façade was key to the aesthetic at night. It needed a custom solution and we were happy to provide it. By combining our universal panel connector with an additional T-section aluminium support arm we created a simple solution that didn't compromise the integrity of the rainscreen.”

romford led

Behind the Danpalon® rainscreen, horizontally-laid composite wall panels provide the building’s sleek façade, with thermal insulation properties, handling a significant temperature differential. The swimming pool on the ground floor is heated to 30ºC, while the ice rink on the floor above needing to maintain a temperature of -5ºC.

To optimise the amount of natural light entering both swimming pool and ice rink spaces, large window recesses were incorporated into the façade at the upper levels of the building. Into these were installed a double layer of 22mm thick clear Danpalon®. Ensuring the thermal integrity of the façade, the panels also prevented any glare, with the inner layer incorporating Everlite’sSoftlite anti-glare co-extrusion.
Constructing the leisure centre in a built-up town centre location, surrounded on all sides by buildings, busy car parks and roads, meant there was very little space available to store incoming Danpalon® panels. The cladding company found the perfect solution, as Bill Hedden, SD Samuels’ (Special Projects) Director explains:
“Being such a lightweight, easy-to-handle cladding material we could crane-in and store the Danpalon® panels on the roof of the building as they arrived on site and crane them off when we needed them. Panels were delivered to a storage warehouse and brought in by a logistics company on demand. It was all very efficient.”
He continued, “Panel installation for both the outer rainscreen and inner façade was also very straightforward. Once the levels for the first Danpalon® mullion section are accurately set then the others really just follow on. Installation is very rapid, it’s a good product.”

romford swimming pool


Nestling between more traditional red brick buildings and opposite a multi-storey car park, the Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre has injected an immediate vibrancy and positivity to its urban location. It’s a development that signals a bold intent for the local council’s ongoing city centre regeneration and cultural renewal programme.

Only the third leisure centre in the country to feature an ice rink suspended above a swimming pool, it has been very well received by communities throughout the East London area. It is also expected to have a major impact on the local economy by helping to attract new inward investment to the Romford city centre. During the day the iconic building’s bright blue tones and sharp linear design are without doubt eye-catching. Whatever the weather conditions, it catches the light and stands out. It’s different, playful, family-friendly. Its bold aesthetic says icebergs, icicles and glaciers, there’s no doubt there’s water, ice and fun inside.

The Danpalon® translucent panels have clearly maximised the amount of gently diffused daylight reaching both the swimming pool on the ground floor and the ice rink on the first. Combined with artificial poolside lighting it has removed the problem of glare from the pool surface and helped reduce energy costs.
And during the night the building positively glows. A shining blue ice cube backlit by the interior lighting emanating from the large windows, punctuated by bright icicle-like lighting strips. Sapphire Ice looks stunning, and has already proved its worth in helping to revitalise the night time economy of the city centre.


  • Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre, Romford, UK
  • Danpalon® façade and rainscreen in an eye-catching leisure centre design
  • Architects: Saunders Boston
  • Installer: SD Samuels (Special Projects)
  • Main contractor: Willmott Dixon
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facade   ▪    Vented rainscreen   ▪    roofing   ▪    canopy   ▪    interior

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