King’s Cross Sports Hall by Bennetts Associates


A community sports centre and gym that has been designed to have multiple lives



Project Info

Architect
Bennetts Associates
bennettsassociates.com
Executive architect
Stride Treglown
stridetreglown.com
Client
Argent LLP
argentllp.co.uk
Structural engineer
Arup
arup.com
M&E consultant
E3 Consulting Engineers LLP
e3ce.com
Cost consultant
Gardiner and Theobald
gardiner.com
Landscape consultant
Townshend Landscape Architects
townshendla.com
Acoustic consultant
Ion Acoustics
ionacoustics.co.uk
Project manager/ Employer’s agent
Gardiner and Theobald
gardiner.com
Principle designer
David M. Eagle Ltd
Approved building inspector
London Borough of Camden Building Control
Main contractor
BAM Construction Ltd
bam.co.uk
CAD software used
Microstation / Revi

 

Start on-site
January 2019
Completion date
July 2020
Gross internal floor area (GIA)
2,032 sq m
Gross (internal + external) floor area (GEA)
2,166 sq m
Form of contract or procurement route
Design and build


Words by Sophie Tolhurst

The new King’s Cross Sports Hall is a community sports centre for Argent LLP’s 67-acre King’s Cross redevelopment – an area behind one of London’s biggest transport hubs that has been transformed in recent years and is now home to high-profile developments including Coal Drops Yard, Granary Square, and Gasholders, with the enormous new offices for Google and Facebook on the way. On a smaller scale, but of great use to the community there, is the new sports hall by Bennetts Associates.

From the outside, the low-level building is clad in zinc. Image Credit: John SturrockFrom the outside, the low-level building is clad in zinc. Image Credit: John Sturrock

The centre will offer a two-level health and fitness suite and an indoor sports hall designed to meet Sport England standards, which can be used as four badminton courts, a basketball court, a volleyball court or a five-aside football pitch.

The facilities will be open to a community made up of local residents, workers and visitors. The building is operated by Camden Council, and when it opens later in the year the gym will be managed by Better Gyms (the brand of the charitable social enterprise Greenwich Leisure Ltd), which has partnered with local authorities across London and the UK on more than 270 leisure centres.

Bennetts Associates’ first completed all-timber and ‘near zero-carbon’ building Image Credit: John SturrockBennetts Associates’ first completed all-timber and ‘near zero-carbon’ building Image Credit: John Sturrock

But first, the sports hall will take on another role: hosting the King’s Cross Construction Skills Centre until its own permanent location opens in Euston. The centre will help local people to gain employment from the construction of the development itself, via a mix of training, advice, apprenticeships and job opportunities.

There were a number of challenges facing the team involved with the building of the sports hall – made up of Bennetts Associates, engineering company Arup and BAM Construction – due to the sensitivity of the site, located just 3m above the underground tunnels of the Thameslink railway line. This meant the design needed to have shallow foundations and use lightweight materials, resulting in the use of a cross-laminated timber (CLT) frame (soldier walls and slabs) and glulam timber columns and beams. Julian Lipscombe, director at Bennetts Associates, describes the building – the practice’s first completed all-timber and ‘near zero-carbon’ building – as ‘hugely significant’. As he explains: ‘Particular delights are rationalising extreme soldier walls and slab challenges into a deceptively simple superstructure that echoes the site’s railway heritage and the warmth of the timber interior acting as a beacon for the community.’

Bennetts Associates’ first completed all-timber and ‘near zero-carbon’ building Image Credit: John SturrockBennetts Associates’ first completed all-timber and ‘near zero-carbon’ building Image Credit: John Sturrock

The structure required innovative work from all involved. Francesco Ferrari, senior engineer, Arup, says the team was ‘excited by the challenge of “as light as possible” and responded to this by innovating and pushing the limits of concrete and timber design, embracing the critical interactions between what lays above and below ground’. The substructure combines bespoke-mix concrete slab with strip foundation footings, running perpendicular to the tunnels to prevent concentrated loads.

Christian Clues, BAM project manager, notes: ‘We conducted extensive tests on the bespoke concrete mix to ensure it wasn’t too heavy. This regime affected batching plant operations, and meant independent testing on-site, and reweighing before a pour commenced.’

He continues: ‘The timber also had its technical aspects – CLT’s moisture-retaining properties making it hard to dry. We came up with a vented design solution where we could install the roofing membrane and allow air/ moisture to escape so the timber dried out. This worked very successfully.’

Bennetts Associates’ first completed all-timber and ‘near zero-carbon’ building Image Credit: John Sturrock
Image Credit: John Sturrock

The innovative timber-framed design has impressive sustainability credentials, while ventilation and glazing are used efficiently to provide plenty of daylight while reducing heat gain. The building also benefits from using the wider development’s Central District Heating and Cooling Network – one of the largest in the UK – as this is far more efficient than having conventional boilers on-site.

From the outside, the low-level building is clad in zinc, with the internal window frames highlighted against it. Its form is distinct, with a serrated roof of the building that references the railway heritage of the area. Inside, the layout follows a ‘social spine’ around which key spaces are arranged. Throughout, the exposed timber gives a feeling of warmth to the space.

The UK lockdown interrupted the work, and social distancing measures have delayed the opening of the Construction Skills Centre, but the team still managed to complete in July, meaning this impressive building is ready for the first of its intended uses.

Bennetts Associates’ first completed all-timber and ‘near zero-carbon’ building Image Credit: John SturrockBennetts Associates’ first completed all-timber and ‘near zero-carbon’ building Image Credit: John Sturrock

bennettsassociates.com

 








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