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project profile


Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre


Romford’s new £28m leisure centre is one of only a handful of facilities in the UK where an ice rink sits directly above a swimming pool.


SAPPHIRE Ice & Leisure Centre is Romford town centre’s first leisure facility since the Dolphin Centre closed in 1995. In 2013, Romford Ice Arena closed, leaving the town without an ice facility for the first time since the 1980s. Local sports teams and figure skaters were forced to relocate, including ice hockey team Romford Raiders, which moved to Leyton, East London, changing its name to London Raiders. The new £28m centre re-introduces an ice


rink to the town. Funded by the London Borough of Havering (£26m) and Sport England (£2m), the scheme forms part of a larger land- swap arrangement with a national supermarket chain where the site of the old ice rink will become a new supermarket. The new facility is the flagship of the Borough


Leisure strategy and has been integral to the council’s newest Leisure Facilities Operations contract, which has been recently procured. “The council’s primary focus with this non-


statutory service is ‘Spend to Save’. Whilst this is the primary objective for the scheme, a number of secondary objectives were necessary to achieve the first,” says Nathan Swift, director at Saunders Boston Architects. These included the location. High land


values, limited local authority resources and tight budgets constrained the physical area of the site that could be acquired.


“A ‘normal’ design process would be to place


a pool hall and ice rink side by side at ground floor level, therefore the first innovation was to find a way of fitting a facility of this size into a restricted site with limited build space. To achieve this, our design became one of only a handful in the UK where the ice rink is not constructed on the ground floor. It’s also externally rare in that the entire ice rink is located directly over a swimming pool hall,” says Swift.


structural and thermal solution Constructing the ice rink over the pool hall was the only way to achieve the client’s brief in the constrained site. To achieve this the architects needed to address two fundamental concerns; dealing with the large span/minimal tolerance structure alongside a requirement for a warm, high humidity swimming pool and a cool, low humidity ice rink.


“Close collaborative research was required


between ourselves, the structural engineering designers, the mechanical and electrical designers, several specialist consultants, the contractor and manufacturers/suppliers of the external and internal fabric to ensure that we fully understood the technological uncertainties encountered in the project design. Having understood these we developed designs to solve the uncertainties and ensured that these are co-ordinated between all disciplines,” says Swift. The main pool tank at ground floor level is


17m wide, when adding pedestrian surrounds and spectator seating the primary structure supporting the ice ink needs to span over 25 metres, the final two metres are a cantilever which adds additional complication to the design. To prevent the ice from cracking the tolerances and ‘deflection’ (bending of the slab) must be kept to a minimum (circa 5mm to 10mm over the length of the ice rink. The temperature in the pool hall has a


controllable range between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius, whilst the ice rink floor needs to be kept ‘frozen’ and the ambient air temperature around 18 degrees Celsius. Therefore between the two environments controlling the temperature change and interstitial condensation are critical. To achieve this the


team, which


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