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Sustainable construction of sports facilities

Sustainability – a term often used throughout the media and yet, one which many people still only relate to environmental concepts.

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In many renovation and new construction projects however, focus is put on ecology, creating an imbalance in the concept structure as to many people, sustainability indicates a drastic increase in building costs. In fact, building projects which are built in a sustainable way are often not more costly or are even less expensive than conventional building projects, as the planning phases are more intensive and fewer mistakes are made. The building materials of tomorrow may often seem expensive, but they have a good payback over many years due to good insulation and longevity. This lowers operating and energy costs, a vexing topic for many communities with regard to school sport halls and above all, the operators of sport facilities. In many cases these are often sports clubs or associations whose second highest costs are generally operating costs.
The building boom and its consequences
When the building boom started in Germany during the 1960s, nobody imagined that our requirements would change so strongly over the next few years. Today, every larger city offers a wide range of competition sport facilities, tennis courts, clay courts and indoor swimming pools, but an increasing number are being closed down as they are in need of renovation work, are too expensive to maintain or are simply no longer being used. Due to the changes in demography we now have a larger percentage of older citizens who require an adjusted exercise programme. Urbanisation has also played a role. Increased construction work and resulting lack of free areas as well as the strong increase in urban traffic, means that there are fewer possibilities for exercise available to children and teenagers. Social projects for the socially disadvantaged and marked social differences demand that sport opportunities are affordable. Sport for the disabled has also now become an inherent part of sport as a whole which means that sport stadiums must provide barrier-free access. Our user habits for sports facilities have become more short-term as we work longer hours and therefore need centrally located sports facilities which are easily accessible. Interests have also changed. Trend sports such as climbing have become popular and have superseded other sports. So what are the new requirements on sports facilities in order to ensure that they can be used for longer? They must be centrally located, functional and varied, they must provide barrier-free access and yet still be affordable from a cost point of view for users and operators. A first glance these seem to be very high requirements and would appear to be expensive. Admittedly, this kind of structural change is necessary in urban planning in order to improve the facilities on offer. In this respect, communities and clubs should work together as positive and sustainable development of sport in a city environment involves an element of social structure, integration and communication. Sport has the function of a role model and provides an improved quality of life in urban surroundings.
What can a club do for example?
It is still a fact that operators of sports facilities still shy away from 'sustainable' renovation work and it is a fact that the combination of ecology, sociology and economy is not a task easily achieved in daily club life. It is for this reason that in Germany, regional sport associations such as North Rhine Westphalia, Hessian or Bavaria have made it their task to support clubs in overcoming initial hindrances and providing an eco-check. This check involves experts clarifying questions of water, electricity and energy consumption as well as user behaviour. How much drinking water is used and for what? Is it used for watering the grass and flushing the toilets? Would a rainwater collection tank not be a profitable investment here? Do toilets and sinks have automatic turn-off taps or do they run endlessly? Do taps and showers have water-saving heads? What is user behaviour? Are there notices making users aware of how to save energy? Are there power-hungry appliances in the buildings which are continually switched on such as old monitors, fridges or heaters? What kind of insulation does the building have? Is the roof well sealed? What about plant technology? How old is the boiler? How much electricity does the lighting consume – in the building and outside on the pitch? Are energy-saver light bulbs in use?
Questions which a sport club should ask in general, for example, are along with the eco-check, the requirements made by the sport itself: Does the club need a new synthetic turf pitch or natural grass pitch or is a mini-pitch sufficient? Can areas which are no longer used be turned into something else – a fitness room for example? The money which can be saved by sustainable renovation work or sensible spending can be invested in useful building expansions.
Once these questions have been clarified it is worth taking a glance at the many possibilities for a renovation. A new, sustainable solution can be, for example, passive building construction work which offers many advantages for sport facilities. Not only does this kind of construction reduce energy costs by up to 75 percent, it also allows inexpensive and efficient climate control during the summer months. Very often, conventionally built sports centres suffer from insufficient air circulation and high temperatures in summer. Air conditioning is not necessary in a passive building. If the costs for heating water are too high, a photo voltaic plant can provide advantages. In this case there are also many possibilities for renting this kind of plant over a certain length of time or to amortise an installation by feeding superfluous electricity back into the grid. Use of geothermal energy can also be very advantageous and will drastically lower heating costs. In any case, a club can only benefit from receiving comprehensive advice from the regional sports association and should invest a great deal of time in the planning of the renovation or new construction work. There are also numerous development programmes available which can be applied for or the club members themselves become active (collecting donations or sponsoring, undertaking planning work themselves). Sports facilities which are modernised, sustainably designed and adapted to suit the times will also be more attractive for new members. A wide range of information in the shape of checks, presentations and advisory services on this topic is available from regional sports associations, the German Olympic Sports Confederation (Deutsche Olympische Sportbund) or as examples of projects carried out by clubs themselves.
Local Agenda 21
The German city of Hanover is considered a role model for its implementation of the "Local Agenda 21". Since 1995, in different work groups, it has been working towards sustainable solutions for the next generations. A large percentage of all sports facilities are rented by the clubs using them who carry out all work necessary on a voluntary basis. In addition, more than 30% of the German population are members of these clubs. One measure which can be taken to align this with urban development is to include the population and the clubs in the planning work and to make tasks easier right from the start. This already begins with available free spaces which are opened up for sport and leisure use, as well as help with legal regulations. In Hanover, after clarification of the mission objectives, a working group "Leisure time" was created which catalogued all existing clubs and scrutinised existing requirements of the population with regard to sport and leisure activities (trend and fun sports for example). During this work they repeatedly carried out surveys in order to include the population as actively as possible in the project and to take account of their needs. In this way they were well informed of all new developments through a wide information network with focussed public relations work, agenda newspapers and newsletters. It was then compared how sport is adapted into the environment or if it disturbs ecological systems. This led to development of the mission objectives: If the mission objective included people preferring to jog in natural surroundings that along streets, a measure was taken to determine certain woodland paths for this use. Following sustainable planning, financial funds were able to be utilised in a focussed way and the sport offer in Hanover significantly improved.
Sustainable sports facilities begin with large-scale planning: economic pressure can be relieved by achieving savings on operating costs. Facilities can be made more ecological through a choice of sustainable construction processes and materials and more social through a more varied range of sports which can be offered. Sustainability is not an empty phrase; it is an important step towards the future.
 

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