National Performance Centre for Sport, Edinburgh

National Performance Centre for Sport, Edinburgh

Location: Edinburgh
Value: £26m

Completion Date: August 2016

Contract Period: 73 weeks

The New National Performance Centre for Sport (NPCS) has developed from a partnership between Heriot-Watt University the City of Edinburgh Council, and Sports Scotland each of which are committed to supporting performance sport in Scotland. This joint vision was to create an inspiring and aspirational environment where athletes, coaches and support can staff feel empowered to excel within their chosen fields. These world class sporting facilities and the services they provide will have a positive impact on the preparation and development of athletes, and inspire future generations of Scots to aim for sporting excellence.

The site is located at Heriot-Watt Universities Riccarton Campus which is highly accessible with excellent road, rail and air links and just West of the Capital Edinburgh. The site, in addition to the University Campus also accommodates existing sports facility buildings and outdoor grass and synthetic football pitches. The area of the site is approximately 26.3ha. and surrounded by a mature band of trees, with agricultural fields beyond to the south, east and west. To the north is the main University Campus and the Avenue which is the primary route on to the Campus.

There is an existing walled garden approximately 100m x 50m, to the north east of the site that is currently used as a car park. It is surrounded by a 4-5m high wall constructed predominantly of brick. The former 19th century rectangular-plan walled garden is of a listed status.

The existing sports buildings on the site were built in the 1970s and contain a variety of sports spaces including a four court games hall, a one court hall, a fitness suite, strength and conditioning area, squash courts, studios, changing rooms and offices. The building is primarily used by students and staff from the University. The Academy Building, built in the 1990’s contains a 40 x 60m indoor football hall, changing rooms, sports science labs, break out areas, treatment rooms and offices, this is also used by students and staff as well as the Heart of Midlothian Football Club. A variety of smaller buildings, including an air inflated golf hall, and a metal clad service building are located to the east of the walled garden.

The New National Performance Centre for Sport building will be a light and airy development. The choice of lightweight, translucent cladding materials will provide cladding solutions to the vast walls and roofs that will allow light into the building whilst gently reflecting the sky and surrounding woodlands. There will be excellent levels of natural light throughout, reducing energy consumption requirements. This will generate a general feeling of wellbeing that will help to ensure that both amateur and professional athletes enjoy returning to the building time and time again.

We summarise below the key elements of this Development:-

Public Entrance
The building is entered through a new opening formed in the south-eastern corner of the garden wall. The entrance lobby and foyer have glazed roofs and a fully glazed wall connecting the spaces to the garden.

Central Street
The central public street will be 4m wide and joins the entrance of the building with the various sports spaces within the new building before it connects in to the existing sports centre via a glazed link. Fully glazed Optima walls provide views in to the fitness suite and games hall whilst carefully located openings cut through the listed brick wall provide three access points to the indoor pitch. The street is approximately three storeys in height and topped with rooflights to allow generous levels of daylight in to the heart of the building.

The upper level of the new building provides extensive areas for viewing the football hall and the games hall. The viewing areas are both linked to the café area and will be accessible without the need for spectators to travel along the lower ‘sports’ street.

Games Hall
The nine court sports hall provides a high level of even, natural light with continuous strip rooflights positioned directly above the spaces between the badminton courts to avoid unwanted glare. The area is divisible in to three separate sections using moveable nets suspended from the ceiling. There is fixed spectator seating overlooking the hall at the upper level, as well as portable bleacher seating allowing a total of 500 spectators. With the bleachers extended it is possible to access the upper level viewing area from the top of the bleacher units.

Fitness Suite
A 100 station fitness suite is located immediately adjacent to the 9 court games hall. It will benefit from high levels of daylight and excellent views in to the walled garden, through a fully glazed gable wall.

The café will be located at the geographic centre of all of the sports spaces. It is placed on the upper level of the new building with fully glazed walls to each side, providing a great view in to the walled garden on one side and a full view in to the 9 court games hall on the other side.

Elite Entrance
When required, the elite athletes will be able to enter the Building through an entrance of their own, separated from the public entrance by the full width of the indoor pitch. From the car park a path will wind through the woods and lead to a glass entrance under a high level arched canopy.

The elite changing rooms are designed so that the players are arranged in 2/3 of a circle. A table for refreshments will sit in the centre of the circle beneath a generously sized circular opening that allows daylight into the heart of the changing room. The circular changing was first seen by the designers at the Tottenham Hotspur training ground. The NPCS changing rooms are to be finished to the same standard as at Spurs.

Elite Offices
The professional offices will be placed on the level above the hydrotherapy and strength and conditioning area. With elevated views over the indoor pitch and also out to the external pitches, the offices will provide an exclusive environment in which to work. The wall between the offices and the indoor pitch will be fully glazed.

Indoor Pitch
The football hall contains a full UEFA size, 3G pitch with a playing surface of 105 x 68m and overall carpet dimensions of at least 111 x 74m. Fixed seated viewing for 499 people is provided down the northern side of the pitch and is provided with fixed moulded polycarbonate seats mounted on precast concrete terraces.

The roof over the hall was the subject of much research and discussion. There are three separate elements that make up the football hall roof; 1- Primary structure, 2- Secondary structure and 3- Roof covering.

Primary Structure: Football halls in general are very large spaces and the choice of economic structural forms are limited. Most of the full sized indoor pitches are covered by arched primary structures. Arches are structurally efficient, slender and can be elegant.

Secondary Structure: The form of the secondary structure is also a series of curved steel members, partly chosen for structural efficiency and partly chosen to suit the choice of roof covering.

The Roof Covering: For the NPCS we’ve developed the design using a lightweight coated fabric that will allow excellent levels of natural light, whilst providing a particularly attractive roof form. The height to the underside of the roof structure is 15m clear at the side lines and goal lines, whilst the overall height over the centre of the pitch is 25m.

The External Pitches: Just as there are two routes through the building, there are two routes to the external pitches. Elite access to the pitches is along a southern route whilst the more public route is located to the north of the site.

Walled Garden
The former walled garden, which was used as a car park, was originally built in the early 19th Century. It has a rectangular plan and measures approximately 100 x 50m. The wall itself is an attractive structure, predominantly made of brick with areas of squared sandstone facing and ashlar margins. The walled garden is B listed and several consultations were held with the Planning Department to discuss the treatment of the wall.

The walled garden is now an intrinsic part of the building: All of the car parking has been relocated elsewhere, and a new garden placed within the wall. The café, the fitness suite, the SGB offices and the reception foyer all have full height views in to the re-instated garden, and the Sports building now uses the southern section of the wall to form one side of the main circulation street through the building.

Strength and Conditioning
The layout of the hydrotherapy, S&C and treatment areas has emerged from the lessons learnt from talking to professional sports club coaches, physiotherapists and staff. The unit at the NPCS has fully glazed walls to the north and southern walls. The walls to the hydrotherapy area utilise opal glass to allow for privacy.

Flexibility for future expansion
One of the key benefits of such an out of town parkland site is the ability to grow as new sports desire a presence at NPCS. The existing Heriot-Watt University site has lots of space for future expansion and they have already identified areas for further outdoor pitches. Additionally the area of built accommodation could grow accordingly to meet needs for additional sport.

High performance environments are not created solely by facilities but also depend on the interactions of the people who work within them. The vision of both Client and Designers was to provide an environment that allows coaches, athletes and practitioners to work collaboratively, sharing best practice and learning from each other across their respective disciplines. In providing this flexible and adaptable space Bowmer & Kirkland hope to foster an environment of healthy competition and ambition, allowing athletes from different sports to train within the same area and be inspired by the achievements of their peers. Delivering a space that allows practitioners and coaches from different disciplines to work together will in turn develop cross-pollination of ideas and strategies that will benefit Scottish sport as a whole through informal learning and knowledge sharing.

The NPCS at HWU will nurture this philosophy in all activities conducted within the facility including internal CPD events and international conferences. It will also strive to develop a centre of expertise in athletic preparation. Such an approach will ensure individuals working within the facility have access to an inspiring and challenging environment, supported by accessibility to information and resources that nurture innovation and lifelong learning.