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The Centre,a state-of-the-art leisure facility, was a key development in an exciting and far-reaching regeneration programme for the borough of Slough. Delivered by Slough Urban Renewal(SUR), a partnership between Slough Borough Council and Morgan Sindall Investments, The Centre was to play a major role in achieving a bold aim of getting more people, more active, more often.
Supporting a mix of wet and dry sports activities, The Centre was designed to provide the local community with the recreational facilities it needed for the next 25 years. An £18 million investment, the leisure centre includes a 25 meight-lane swimmingpool, 15 m learner pool, sauna and steamrooms, four-court sports hall,125-station fitness suite, dance and group cycling studio and treatment rooms.
The building design made extensive use of Everlite Concept’s Danpalon® polycarbonate façade and rainscreen cladding products, specified by the architects GT3. The main contractor was Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure, and the project took just 20 months from start to completion.
Slough Urban Renewal’s promise to create iconic new buildings with maximum benefit to residents and minimum impact on the environment formed the basis for a forward-thinking design brief. The leisure centre needed to play its own part in making Slough a more desirable place in which to live, work and invest – both now and in the future.
The brief required The Centre to be eye-catching, it needed to be modern and future-proof. To be constructed in place of an ageing 20th century three-storey conference centre building, the new facility would need to fit within the confines of an existing 0.8 hectare brownfield site alongside the A355 Farnham Road, a main north-south artery between Amersham and Windsor.
At the same time, the leisure centre building design had to integrate harmoniously within a busy townscape setting. Surrounded by an incoherent mix of sub-urban residential, commercial and industrial units, community and school buildings, the new building had to create a clear and yet complementary identity of its own.
As a cutting-edge leisure centre offering Slough people an all-new mix of both wet and dry sporting activities, the building design would also clearly communicate its function and facility to the passing public. One of the earliest schemes within SUR’s regeneration programme, it needed to make a bold statement.
Both main and learner swimming pools, the fitness suite and public areas needed to maximise the amount of natural light entering the interior without incurring any glare. The sports hall had to maintain a consistent ambient light level, and the swimming pools’ thermal efficiency had to be taken into account.
The Centre’s linear design is composed of three very distinct interconnected rectangular box elements: the swimming pool hall, the fitness suite and the sports hall. The dry leisure elements being predominantly solid volumes and the wet leisure elements being more transparent in nature.
To clearly differentiate between the leisure centre’s sports facilities GT3 Architects specified the use of Everlite Concept’s coloured Danpalon®® polycarbonate façade and rainscreen cladding panels, cleverly combined with solid and perforated aluminium rainscreen cassette cladding and extensive glazed curtain walling. It was to be the architect’s first experience of using Danpalon®.
The subtly translucent nature of Danpalon® with its wide range of contrasting colour options meant we were able to meet the differing technical needs of the swimming pool and sports hall elements while at the same time maintaining a perfect consistency in overall appearance. For the double-height main swimming pool a 22mm thick blue Danpalon®® façade maximised daylight from the west facing elevation. And with Everlite’s Softlite extrusion on both exterior and interior faces we were able to avoid any glare inside and out – from sunlight during the day, and from interior lighting at night. GT3 Architects’ Senior Architect , Simon Robertson
To maintain a consistent look and feel the blue Danpalon®® façade was also applied to the swimming pool hall’s two other elevations. For the north elevation it was deployed on a solid wall with integrated glazed slot windows, while for the building’s rear, east elevation it was used as frame-mounted visual screen for a first floor plant well.
Robertson commented, “For the sports hall, the leisure centre’s tallest element, we then used 16mm thick orange Danpalon®® rainscreen panels mounted on a composite panel, combined with recessed vertical slot windows created using 16mm thick white Danpalon®® Ice façade panels. We also installed energy-efficient LED strip lighting top and bottom of the rainscreen.”
The Centre’s third key element, the large first-floor fitness box is clad in a light grey combination of aluminium rainscreen cladding panels with large floor-to-ceiling glazed curtain walling and a part-glazed ceiling to maximise the natural light in the fitness studio.
The prominent grey fitness box, the cafe and reception area below and the blue swimming pool hall alongside very deliberately front onto the busy Farnham Road. Their attractive complimentary colouring and full-length glazed curtain walling designed to act as a visually active advert that maximises views in and out of the leisure centre.
The Centre’s elegant box-like design, its size and scale integrate seamlessly into the surrounding areas’ busy landscape. The dry leisure elements’ solid square volumes in subtle greys and vibrant orange reference the metallic boxes of the neighbouring trading estate, while the translucent blue volume of the wet leisure element reflects the swimming pools inside.
The building’s frontage onto the Farnham Road is modern and striking, providing passers-by with a clear indication of the building’s function and facilities. Continuous end-to-end curtain wall glazing at both road and first-floor levels delivers dynamic views of the leisure centre in operation; the pools, fitness suite, café and reception area. The sports hall sits brightly in the background.
The use of a Danpalon® façade has played an important role in managing the swimming pool’s thermal efficiency and combating condensation in a naturally humid environment. It tackles the sun path from the west to minimise heat gain and glare, and keeps the heat in and the cold out to ensure the right ambient temperature is maintained. For the sports hall the Danpalon® slot windows ensure players on court experience a constant level of diffused light throughout the day.
And the careful selection of translucent polycarbonate cladding materials has also enabled the leisure centre to maintain its dynamism and vibrancy both day and night.
During the daytime, the swimming pool hall’s uplifting blue Danpalon® façade lets in the maximum amount of diffuse natural light, whatever the weather. At night it becomes a shining beacon, back-lit by the interior lighting. And the sports hall, brightly clad in orange Danpalon®. It’s eye-catching during daylight hours, and equipped with its LED strip-lighting it glows invitingly at night.
The Centre is welcoming and accessible to all, the building design positively encourages new visitors throughout the day. It’s a major leap forward in sports and leisure provision in the borough of Slough, a safe and pleasant recreational facility to be enjoyed by the local community for many years to come.