Dec 07, 2019 Last Updated 10:52 AM, Aug 14, 2019

Multi-purpose public leisure environments

Published in Leisure
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Paul Campbell, Commercial Sector Manager at British Gypsum, explores how the use of robust materials in leisure sector construction can help to create effective multi-purpose environments.


The need to create multiple use spaces is common in commercial projects, and sport and leisure environments are no different. In fact, leisure settings are often some of the most demanding spaces to specify for. Every leisure space requires high quality, versatile building products to meet a range of performance requirements and to maintain an excellent finish in high traffic areas.

When it comes to specifying building materials for a leisure environment, it is not a case of ‘one size fits all’ and specifiers are often faced with the challenge of meeting a whole host of legislative and performance criteria that can, in some cases, differ from room to room.

Whether to accommodate a game of squash or a yoga class, when it comes to selecting plasterboard and drylining solutions, factors such as acoustics, impact resistance, moisture protection, aesthetics and fire protection all need to be considered in order to achieve a safe and pleasant space for customers.

Creating the right environment

While some visitors may prefer the bustling environment of a recreational centre, others seek relaxation. A good way to effectively create distinct areas designed for different purposes is by managing levels of noise transmission.

To help, manufacturers have created building products that minimise the transfer of sound between partitions. For example, plasterboard with a higher density core can provide greater levels of sound insulation, which can be an ideal way to control acoustics in a loud sports environment.

As well as sound insulation, sound absorbing materials used on walls and ceilings can significantly reduce the build-up of unwanted sound echoes, known as reverberation. Using sound-absorbing materials such as perforated plasterboard (usually supplied with an integral acoustic fleece backing), can significantly reduce levels of reverberation in areas like sports halls, reception lobbies, changing rooms and communal areas.

Managing the acoustic environment in a leisure facility, both insulation and reverberation can make a significant contribution to the comfort and experience of facility users and staff alike.

Specifiers also need to take into account the longevity of the building materials chosen. It is vital that any construction solutions used make building maintenance as easy and as cost-effective as possible. The use of low-grade construction materials may help to reduce costs during the initial build, but they are often susceptible to damage due to knocks from sports activities and wear from continual high traffic. Choosing an internal lining solution, which offers robust properties to limit this damage, is an important step to maintaining a pleasurable environment for visitors.

The aesthetics of a leisure environment can often be overlooked for other performance criteria. Options such as curved walls should be considered as they enhance cleanliness and help to create a more welcoming pleasant space and are ideal for large, communal areas. When used in corridors, curves have a calming effect, controlling the speed of visitors walking from one part of the building to another and helping them to remain safe and relaxed.

Moisture is often a problem in leisure centres, particularly in changing rooms and swimming pools. These spaces are exposed to constant levels of moisture in the air from condensation, which can compromise the quality of the substrates due to moisture penetration. The walls can also be subjected to higher levels of water from splashes, so it is recommended to use plasterboard with a water repellent core in these areas, to help maintain a good quality finish.

A variety of options available to meet such needs, for example British Gypsum offers a Gyproc Moisture Resistant board, a plasterboard with water repellent additives in the core and suitable for intermittent moisture applications. Alternatively, for areas prone to long periods of moisture exposure, Glasroc H TILEBACKER provides a long lasting performance against mould and water damage, and is a third lighter than cement boards.

Fighting fire

Specifiers are required to meet certain fire regulations as specified under Building Regulations, so it is crucial that building products are used to sufficiently protect against fire. In order to meet these requirements, but also perform in other areas, plasterboard manufacturers have created solutions that feature both fire and moisture protection qualities. This makes it easy to meet a range of specifications with one product.

A recent example of a project where products were carefully selected to create a multi-purpose leisure environment, is the construction of a new build sports development in Plymouth. In order to meet the practical demands of the busy sports and leisure environment, a range of solutions were specified including Gyptone Quattro 41, Gyproc Moisture Resistant board and Gyproc FireLine MR.

The Plymouth Life Centre, operated by Everyone Active, on behalf of Plymouth City Council, is home to facilities including a 10-lane swimming pool, climbing wall and a 12-court sports hall. It required partition solutions throughout to meet specific acoustic, fire and moisture resistant performance requirements.

Gyptone Quattro 41 board was used in parts of the main foyer, in the multi-purpose room and in the bowls area for its sound absorption properties. Featuring a special sound absorbent tissue backing, the product provides an ideal acoustic ceiling system, achieving up to Class C absorption. The product was also specified for its ease of application. The system is easy to install, simple to maintain, and robust enough to withstand everyday knocks and scrapes common in a sports facility.

Fit-out contractor, Diespeker Interiors, who installed the solutions, specified Gyproc Moisture Resistant board, for use above ceilings and in areas such as the changing rooms and pool stores, for protection against intermittent moisture damage. The gypsum plasterboard contains water-repellent additives in its core, designed to withstand intermittent moisture applications, and is lined with durable paper for an easy to decorate, smooth finish.

Peter Niblett, Contracts Manager at Diespeker, said: “For a busy and noisy environment like a sports centre, it’s important that the acoustics are just right. Each room needed quality sound absorption, and Gyptone Quattro 41 offered a great acoustic performance and was so easy to use.”

Peter added: “As a multi-purpose environment, Plymouth Life Centre has a whole host of demands and needs. With a variety of high performing specialist solutions, we were able to meet these requirements, and also stayed under budget.”

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