London & South East Premier Construction

Blackbird Leys Competition Pool

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Written by Roma Publications

The construction of a brand new swimming pool at Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre is progressing well with works due to complete by December this year.

The project has been commissioned by Oxford City Council in a bid to update the leisure facilities at Blackbird Leys as well as create a benchmark facility in the Oxford area.

Premier Construction caught up with Adam Khan, Senior Project Manager at Mace Group the scheme project managers, to find out more about the development. He told us that the £9.4 million scheme was initially delayed due a judicial review meaning works came to a standstill for 15 months.

The scheme had been almost completely designed and main contractors Wilmott Dixon had been appointed in March 2012 but works didn’t begin on site until August 2013. Mace Group was appointed as the lead consultant and acted as the project and cost managers of the project as well as a CDMC and BREEAM coordinators. Faulkner Brown has acted as the architects, Curtains Consulting has provided the structural and civil engineering services and Hall Leigh is the Mechanical & Electrical consultant.

The 58 week programme is now well underway and involves the extension of the existing leisure centre which currently comprises a pool, sports hall, dance room facilities, meeting rooms, conference spaces.

The new project involves the construction of an eight lane, 25 metre pool to the centre alongside a smaller front pool and wet changing facility. The new pool comprises a moveable floor which offers a varied depth facility. The scheme is on target for a BREEAM rating of “very good” which is in line with Oxford City Council’s sustainability drive which places a lot of emphasis on energy efficiency. A biomass boiler has also been installed as part of the extension.

Mace has worked with the operators of the leisure centre throughout the project coordinating fortnightly stakeholder meetings in a bid to minimise disruption. Although most of the project has progress well Adam said the team had encountered a number of challenges, he commented:

“A large challenge we encountered was the high water content within the ground; this posed a problem for us as we needed to dig into the ground and install a pit for the new pool. Installing the pool tank in the ground was a worry as we did not want there to be too much discharge of water into the tank itself and during construction.

“We overcame this by using a decant, fully-enclosed piling system which worked extremely well. The extension cuts into the Blackbird Leys Park so the surrounding area is Greenland; the ground water has therefore been retained in the existing greenlands.”

The team has also encountered difficulties whilst trying to gain planning permission for the recently installed biomass store. Mace also had to undertake an extensive value engineering process in order to reduce the value of the project which meant revisiting the design and lessening the structure in terms of the frame of the building to achieve the saving the clients required.

Adam added:

“The scheme has come about because of Oxford City Councils directive to update this leisure facility and other similar ones in the area. Throughout the project the local community has been kept up to date with the works through regular leaflet drops and consultation programmes.

“Mace has maintained a strong relationship with the council during this scheme having been involved as a consultant for the project during the past five years. It is very satisfying to see what was previously a thought in the mind of the architects come to life. We are hugely impressed with the performance of the team and the end product.”


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