Theories about the benefits of sport and physical education have been put forward since the Ancient Greeks and Romans and still remain current in educational programmes (remember Juvenal’s saying: ‘Mens Sana in Corpore Sano’). The British School of Brussels, a private school for the international community in and around the capital of Europe, recently reaffirmed this vision with the construction of their new sports centre. Jos Leyssens of the architectural practice Licence to Build recounts how the project came about: “It is a story of ambition and the pursuit of excellence.”
Ambition and the pursuit of excellence
The British School of Brussels (BSB) advertises itself as “a thriving, inclusive learning community for children aged 1-18”. It provides primary and secondary education to 1,350 children representing no less than 70 nationalities. The school is proud of its campus in Tervuren close to peaceful woodland, which in addition to classrooms, office space and workshops includes world class facilities for cultural education such as a theatre, a music recording studio and several libraries. And then there is the dazzling new sports centre, which was completed in 2016.
Improving site access and circulation
“Ambitions were high from the beginning,” says architect Jos Leyssens. “Sport and fitness are essential aspects of the educational programme in British schools. That’s why in 2010 BSB wanted to build an entirely new sports centre, much larger than the previous one and accommodating additional functions, including a swimming pool. They also wanted this new sports centre to be the campus hub. And it had to be state-of-the-art in every way, including with respect to sustainability criteria.”
Leyssens and his team at Licence to Build put forward a comprehensive approach, and developed a new master plan for the whole campus. “We shifted the site entrance towards the area between the existing theatre building and the new sports centre,” explains Leyssens. “This opened up opportunities to improve site access and circulation, including for cyclists and pedestrians. It also made the site more attractive while at the same time easier to protect against intruders.”
Bringing daylight into the gym
The sports centre itself includes a 25m swimming pool, dance studio, fitness suite, gym, and multi-purpose sports hall, as well as a cafeteria and a large examination space. Leyssens elaborates on the architectural challenges: “It is a fairly complicated cluster of different functions. For this reason, a fair number of the spaces were designed with a maximum functional flexibility to meet changing needs in the future. The building’s lightweight steel structure adds to the flexibility. At the same time, we also wanted to bring a lot of daylight into the gym and sports hall to improve comfort and reduce the energy needed for lighting. But this meant we had to avoid unpleasant shadows and glare, so we decided to use translucent wall panels to bring in diffuse light in a controlled manner. By the way, this also makes for a unique and elegant look from the outside!”
Named after Dr Jacques Rogge
Excellence was pursued and achieved in many ways, not least in relation to sustainability criteria. Leyssens: “The school board insisted our design met the highest sustainability standards. And we are indeed proud to say that the sports centre has been BREEAM certified, with an ‘excellent’ rating, the highest achievable rating for sports facilities. What’s more, BSB is the first school in Flanders to be awarded such a certificate” (see also ‘BREEAM for sustainable value’).
No wonder former president of the International Olympic Committee Dr Jacques Rogge did not hesitate to accept BSB’s proposal to name the building after him. With great pride, he officially opened it on 14 October 2016.
BREEAM for sustainable value
BREEAM is the world's leading sustainability assessment method for masterplanning projects, infrastructure and buildings. It addresses a number of lifecycle stages such as New Construction, Refurbishment and In-Use. BREEAM was launched in 1990 and continues to inspire developers and creators to excel, innovate and make effective use of resources. The focus on sustainable value and efficiency makes BREEAM certified developments attractive property investments and generates sustainable environments that enhance the well-being of the people who live and work in them (see also www.breeam.com).
At BSB, the extensive use of steel as the main construction material positively impacted the BREEAM score.
TCS engineered, manufactured and built the steel structure of the gym and sports hall as well as the entrance structure and a number of steel stairways and passages.
- The main structure is a series of steel arcs based on pairs of HEB400 columns spanned by 33.4-metre inverted bowstrings.
- The inverted bowstrings are made up of a HEB400 (S355) top beam and a series of 219.1-mm CHS (S355) tubes.
- 250 tonnes of steel were used in the gym and sports hall, 17 tonnes of steel in the entrance structure.