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Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands complete sustainable sports centre for Birmingham's next generation of athletes

The University of Birmingham has officially opened an indoor sports centre, designed by British architecture studio Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, with the ambition “to provide future generations of the city’s athletes with world-class sports facilities.”

The centre, which is open to students, academics and the public, includes the city’s first Olympic-standard swimming pool and a range of sports halls and gyms, laboratories, testing facilities and a large climbing wall.

The building is located on a former brownfield site, and, according to Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands – who worked in collaboration with architecture firm Space & Place – “its composition responds sympathetically to the existing context and a dramatic change of levels, to connect the city to the heart of the University campus, located some 10m above.”

The design scheme has been conceived as four discrete volumes, detailed in brick and bronze, which each have a different use: the swimming pool; a gym and changing rooms; sports halls; and a car park. These shift in plan and section in response to the topography of the site.

A public colonnade encourages access to the building and the campus beyond, while a glazed double-height façade provides “an invitational glimpse” of the swimming pool inside.

“The stature of this new building reflects Birmingham’s position as a leading global sporting university, both academically and across the range of sport and fitness opportunities for participants of all ages and aspirations,” said Zena Wooldridge, the university’s director of sport

“Our aim is to provide a fabulous sport and fitness experience, not just via the quality of the facility, but also through the huge choice and the quality of programmes and the expertise of our staff. The whole project is designed to enhance the quality of life in our community.”

The services inside are laid out to facilitate future upgrades to meet changing environmental standards with minimal disruption. To maximise sustainability, good daylight in the heart of the building significantly reduces the projected CO2 emissions by artificial lighting, and natural ventilation in spring and autumn will also reduce energy consumption.

In summer, cool night air is introduced into the building to lower the temperature of the exposed thermal mass of the fabric and to damp heat gains the next day. When large crowds of spectators attend the sports hall, a natural ventilation ‘boost’ facility, powered by PV panels, improves conditions. A heat-recovery system also allows the ‘boost’ to be used in winter.

“It’s a wonderful project on so many levels – a civic gateway to the Aston Webb campus, a highly sophisticated university sports destination, yet also a place for the people of Birmingham,” said Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands director, Paul Sandilands.

Last week Birmingham overcame Liverpool in a two-horse race to be named the preferred candidate city for the UK’s bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, with the city's existing sports facilities one of the factors behind the decision.

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands  sports  Birmingham  University of Birmingham  design  architecture 
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The University of Birmingham has officially opened an indoor sports centre, designed by British architecture studio Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, with the ambition “to provide future generations of the city’s athletes with world-class sports facilities.” The centre, which is open to students, academics and the public, includes the city’s first Olympic-standard swimming pool and a range of sports halls and gyms, laboratories, testing facilities and a large climbing wall. The building
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The design scheme has been conceived as four discrete volumes, detailed in brick and bronze / Paul Riddle
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