When Maidenhead and Windsor Council took the decision to replace its ageing leisure centre, it turned to national contractor Wates Construction to help deliver a landmark project that would capture its sustainability aspirations.
The recent opening of the new Braywick Leisure Centre marks an exciting new era for Maidenhead. The £33m facility replaces the Magnet Leisure Centre, which served the local community well for more than 40 years. It welcomed 800,000 visitors a year, hosting everything from pantomimes to election counts and even appearing on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.
However, as the Magnet Leisure Centre came towards the end of its natural life, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead took the decision to invest in a brand-new leisure hub – one which would not only serve as a sports facility, but act as a cornerstone for the wider community’s wellbeing.
The new centre features a 10-lane swimming pool, larger splash and training pools, a 200-station gym, four squash courts, a sports hall, cafe and all-weather football pitch. But as well as providing world-class facilities, this was a project that also had to reflect the borough’s sustainability aspirations.
At the heart of the council’s ‘Environment and Climate Strategy’ is a pledge to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It aims to reach this ambition by focusing on the sustainable use of resources, reducing consumption and decarbonising its supply of energy and supporting biodiversity, health and wellbeing.
All were key drivers in the design and delivery of Braywick Leisure Centre and posed exciting challenges for national contractor Wates Construction and Plymouth-based architect firm Burke Richards.
The sustainability credentials of the new leisure centre began with its location. It was decided to situate the hub within the town’s largest open space and next to a range of existing outdoor sports pitches, to bring new facilities to where they were already being accessed.
The design by Burke Richards embraced the centre’s parkland setting with lush landscaping and natural materials, such as timber boarding and trusses. However, its true green credentials came to the fore via its energy efficiency, designed to use just a third of the energy of its 45-year-old predecessor, as well as being delivered as a carbon-neutral project.
Wates engaged in a range of initiatives to ensure this ambitious target was met. These included offsetting carbon through investing in renewable energy schemes in India, and sourcing materials and supply chain as locally as possible to reduce the miles travelled to site throughout the construction programme.
From Wates’ perspective, sustainability is not just measured in carbon but also the positive impact of the project to the local community. The scheme provided significant benefits to local trades with more than 150 businesses from the area attending a meet the buyer event and three quarters of the supply chain were from within 40 miles of Maidenhead.
Indeed, community engagement was sought at every opportunity throughout the construction programme and, as well as investing £13k into supporting social enterprises, tree planting and gardening events, several initiatives to educate and inspire were delivered.
The project team arranged several site visits, networking events and assemblies for local schools as well as 13 work experience placements for students. Through Wates’ Building Futures programme, 17 jobseekers passed their CSCS test, with one employed as a Gateman since November 2018.
The nature of a leisure centre scheme is highly complex, not least with respect to the mechanical, electrical and public health systems used to support the facilities required with the building.
This was amplified at Braywick with its focus on implementing a range of sustainable initiatives including LED lighting throughout, solar panelling, rainwater harvesting and extra insulation to reduce heating requirements, and so early collaboration between Wates and its construction and consultant partners was paramount.
The project was the first delivered for Wates via SCAPE – the UK’s leading public procurement authority. Its direct award construction framework facilitates collaboration as a way to drive efficiency, time and cost savings. This meant Wates, Wates Building Services and ME engineer Hoare Lea were able to engage early in the scheme and support the design team prior to finalisation of the costs for delivering the building.
Wates Building Services was also able to provide valuable advice at an early stage to support the installation and co-ordination of the MEP services throughout the scheme to help streamline the final design activities prior to going into the construction phase.
Overcoming challenges with collaboration
It was this spirit of collaboration and mutual support between all stakeholders that was also crucial in overcoming the challenges that arose at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020.
The project was closed for just a week as the appropriate measures were established on site and a manual was created to demonstrate the necessary procedures to all supply chain, visitors and client team so that the site could be back running efficiently as soon as possible. The end result was that the project was delivered as scheduled in September 2020 following a 26-month comprehensive build programme.
Alec Jackman, Business Unit Director for the Southern Home Counties at Wates Construction, said: “We are incredibly proud of Braywick Leisure Centre both in terms of the quality of the building but also the wider positive impact that a project like this will have in the years ahead for the local community.
“Maidenhead is likely to see significant development in the years ahead with Crossrail coming to the town in 2022 and with the council’s strong environmental commitment, Braywick sets an exciting reference point for its future sustainability goals.
“What also makes this project really stand out is the quality of the partnerships that have been so important right through this project, from the procurement stage with SCAPE through to the delivery with the client, consultant team, supply chain and local community.
“From the outset, there was a clear vision that was embraced by everybody involved, allowing us to work through and overcome challenges together and the end result is an exemplar building that provides a powerful best practice template for the future.”