University of Portsmouth Sports Factility, UK

A world-class sporting facility achieving the highest level of sustainability


Project Details

  • Scheme & Version: Bespoke 2014: Other Buildings
  • Certification Stage: Design Stage
  • Rating: Outstanding
  • Overall Score: 89.0%

Team Details

  • Developer / Client: University of Portsmouth
  • Architect: FaulknerBrowns
  • Building Services: Max Fordham LLP
  • Assessor Company: Max Fordham LLP
  • Project Manager: Gleeds
  • Structural Engineers: Mott MacDonald
  • Landscape Architects: LDA Design

About the Building

The new indoor Sports Facility at the University of Portsmouth is the first step of a wider masterplan aiming to reshape the University Quarter located within Portsmouth city facility. The University wish to deliver an inclusive, high quality sport and leisure facility for all which communicates the University’s ethos and enhances its relationship with the city and local community.

The sports facility is to be situated on the site of an existing car park on the south-west corner of Ravelin Park bounded to the south and west by trafficked roads. Ravelin Park is an historic and important focal point of student life beyond more formal activities and the Project Team wish to integrate the new sports building with the park.

With a gross internal area of c. 11,009m2 the sports facility includes a variety of sport and leisure facilities including an 8 lane, 25m swimming pool with a moveable floor depth and spectator seating, a minimum 175 station fitness suite, multi-purpose studios, squash courts, “grab and go” catering facilities, ski simulator and treadmill, climbing wall, and a multi-purpose 8 court sports hall.

Overarching Objectives

The University of Portsmouth undertook extensive work to develop a set of core project objectives for the wider masterplan that have been contextualised for the sports facility:

  • Deliver a student focused facility that meets the needs of the entire student community;
  • Provide an excellent student experience with focus on University values and ethos;
  • Offer facilities and support services to support the broad range of users from participation to performance;
  • Consider inclusivity and flexible access for all user groups including University staff, students and members of the local community; and
  •  Meet the University’s high sustainability aspirations such as BREEAM ‘Outstanding’
  • Achieve the lowest possible in-use energy rating, with the best possible DEC rating, targeting ‘A’, after two years
  • Provide a first class facility inspiring participation and delivering sporting excellence and contributes to the prestige of the University
  • Create a sustainable and flexible facility designed for the future;
  • Deliver a functional facility that improves operations and minimises maintenance.

Key Features:

  • Day lighting and views
  • Natural Ventilation
  • Green Infrastructure
  • Spatial Layout
  • Integrated Pool Cover
  • Heat Recovery from Pool Backwash
  • Pool Water for WC Flushing
  • Fitness Suite to Heat Pool
  • Roof Mounted PV
  • Location, Activity and Occupancy Based Controls
  • Fitness suite HVAC Strategy
  • Water Quality and Sustainable Drainage


Why did the building undergo BREEAM certification?

The Portsmouth Plan, Portsmouth’s core strategy for development, requires that BREEAM ‘Excellent’ is achieve for all non-domestic development over 500m2. However, this did not match the aspirations of the University of Portsmouth and a target rating of ‘Outstanding’ was written into their design brief for the project. BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ was achieved at the Design Stage with a score of 89.0%.

Although the Client’s sustainable priorities ensured that a holistic approach to sustainability was implemented the Design Stage assessment scored particularly strongly in both management and water, achieving 100% of the core credits available in both sections, and Health & Wellbeing, Energy and Transport, scoring 88%, 91% and 91% in each section respectively.

Where a Soft Landings approach is implemented from the beginning of a project, as has been the case for the University of Portsmouth Sports Facility, a project can be assured that it will be rewarded within the management section. Not only through those credits directly linked, e.g. aftercare, the Soft Landings approach encourages engagement with all relevant stakeholder and consideration of issues such as commissioning, maintainability and training provision from an early stage.

In addition to the specification of low-consuming sanitaryware items, using excess pool water for WC flushing has allowed 5 out of 5 credits to be awarded under Wat 01 ‘Water Consumption’. Again, the Soft Landings approach and aftercare activities has ensured that the water metering strategy captures all significant water-consuming end uses.


Green Strategy

The biggest challenge facing the Design Team were delivering the challenging objectives set by the Client and the overarching list of sustainable priorities that all development undertaken as part of the University’s wider masterplan strategy are required to adhere to.

Split into high, medium and lower, the University of Portsmouth developed a set of sustainability priorities to aid the development of their wider masterplan, of which the Sport Facility forms part of:

High Priorities

  • Reducing energy consumption
  • Wellbeing – creating buildings and public realm that are a pleasure to be in
  • Engaging academic expertise

Medium Priorities

  •  Reducing carbon emissions
  • Sustainable sourcing of construction materials
  • Travel – enabling use of public transport, walking or cycling
  • Water
  • Greening the city

Lower Priorities

  • Ecology – ecological value of the city-facility estate is low and likely to remain so, however the University is keen to safeguard any existing ecological value at its sites
  • Waste – the University has already made significant progress in reducing waste

An initial review of BREEAM was undertaken to determine whether the framework it provided would be a good fit for the project and the Client’s priorities. What began as an appraisal into whether BREEAM should be used on the project at all became a means of providing ‘flesh to the bones’ of the Client’s sustainability priorities, turning a list of high level aspirations into a detailed sustainable design brief.

The flexibility of the BREEAM framework has allowed the development of a ‘route to Outstanding’ tailored to the building typology and reflective of the Client’s aspirations. This prioritisation of issues relevant to the University of Portsmouth’s Sustainability Priorities resulted in a ”base score”, not simply by targeting the “lowest hanging fruit” but targeting issues that have real value to the Client, the development and future users.

Energy Efficient Performance in Operation

Achieving the lowest possible in-use energy rating, with the best possible DEC rating after two years is a challenge for any development let alone a sports facility with significant unregulated loads and must be planned for from project inception. As well as encouraging Project Team member engagement from as early a stage as possible, the Energy section of BREEAM in particular provides the Project Team with a toolkit of issues to help minimise and monitor operational energy consumption.

To achieve the best possible DEC rating within two years of operation the project has been designed, and will be constructed, commissioned, operated and fine-tuned to reduce the operational energy consumption and CO2 emissions significantly below benchmarks for this type of building.

Detailed TM54 operational energy analysis, akin to the assessment methodology outlined in BREEAM NC 2018, was undertaken to help develop an energy strategy that not only performs well under BREEAM NC 2014, Ene 01 but is a future proofed solution reflecting the ongoing decarbonisation of the national grid. The study highlighted end uses that consume the most energy and strategies within the design that when combined with the passive design and low & zero carbon technology (LZCT) studies undertaken as part of the BREEAM process, help minimise energy consumption whilst ensuring the required indoor comfort.

The LZCT study helped narrow the list of technologies to a future-proofed (with the decarbonisation of the grid in mind the team was quickly able to dismiss gas-based solutions), cost effective solution (for instance an air source heat pump led strategy had a shorted payback period compared to a ground source heat pump led strategy) suitable to the site/building (being on the edge of an air quality action area a biomass based system was deemed inappropriate).

The Soft Landings approach, encouraged by a selection of BREEAM issues, taken on the University of Portsmouth Sports Facility will be crucial to achieving the best possible DEC rating and the process is well underway with key end user stakeholders contributing in the design development of the building’s operational systems (controls, metering, etc.).

Universal Design Solutions

In reflection to rapidly evolving diversity of the UK population, this project aims to challenge how toilet and changing facilities are configured in sports buildings. It is now apparent that a traditional binary male-female approach is failing to satisfy the demands of changing societal needs and expectations. The design team in collaboration with the University of Portsmouth are trialling a new Universal Design solution, promoting spatial arrangements that can be easily understood, accessed and safely used by all people regardless of their gender, religion, personal convictions, abilities or disabilities.

Extensive research undertaken by FaulknerBrowns determined that in this transitional period when our understanding of gender is being redefined it is important to offer people enhanced privacy and choice. In addition to abolishing the notion of gender-specific WCs, the project is introducing a wide range of changing opportunities. The typologies range from individual cubicles with built-in shower accessed from a genderless universal space to traditional group changing rooms with private cubicles and showers inside a gender-specific environment. This approach has been presented at multiple national and international conferences discussing the innovation in design and operation of sport and leisure facilities and was positively received at the 2018 Gendered Intelligence conference looking at issues of safety of non-binary people in public facilities. We believe that this design approach will open more opportunities for non-binary and religious minority groups to engage in sport and physical activity.

Benefits of assessing to BREEAM

The challenge to achieve BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ presented to us by this very ambitious project has brought the design team together and dared us to innovate and test new brave ideas and solutions. I have immensely enjoyed working in this collaborative environment fostered by this challenge. This experience has illustrated to me the importance of the process in delivering a building with high sustainability agenda and encouraged me to take on further training in sustainable design and become a certified BREEAM AP. -Irina Korneychuk, Project Leader, FaulknerBrowns Architects