Leisure Centres - Why Survey?

Jenny Beilby
Exploring the benefits of carrying out condition surveys on leisure centres.

Faithful+Gould are seeing an increase in activity around the Leisure sector, with many Local Authority clients re-tendering their leisure operator contracts and requiring our services to assist with surveys related to the condition of the leisure stock.

Why survey?

Procurement of a new leisure operator can be a long and time-consuming procurement exercise and some of the issues for the tendering operators is understanding the condition of the leisure centres.  Without accurate condition survey data, the tendering operators cannot formulate an accurate tender.

Therefore, part of the tender package that is prepared by Local Authorities should include information on the leisure centres to ensure that tendering leisure operators are able to make sound business judgements for their bid to run the leisure contract.

Faithful+Gould are often engaged by Local Authorities prior to the tendering exercise to undertake a condition survey and provide a forward maintenance plan.  This information is used to provide the tendering leisure operators with valuable data on the condition of the properties and what the likely forward maintenance costs could be.

Local Authority spends have been restricted, and being able to undertake regular inspections throughout the life of the buildings has been limited, therefore lack of planned maintenance quite often goes unreported.  Some of the challenges we face include buildings which have not been maintained properly for many years, or are aging buildings that have become very difficult and expensive to maintain. 

Risk of asbestos             

Unfortunately, many leisure centres are in aging buildings, and very often asbestos is an issue when it comes to carrying out maintenance works.  The location of asbestos can limit the amount of maintenance that can be undertaken, and in some instances asbestos may be concealed and un-surveyed to the extent that it is only identified when the maintenance work has commenced. 

The associated costs of removing and dealing with asbestos can make maintenance work unattractive which adds to the lack of regular maintenance in older buildings.   

Common problems

When carrying out surveys, the key area that we repeatedly note as being poorly maintained is building services, as the appearance of the facilities tends to be prioritised to maintain a good customer experience.  Unfortunately, we have undertaken many condition surveys where mechanical plant is either in poor working order, or has been switched off due to failure.  Although this may seem like good economy initially, very quickly the failure of this plant will affect the building structure and materials. 

The most extreme example of this occurs when mechanical air handling plant is turned off in the wet areas (pool hall/changing rooms), this allows the humidity levels to increase and over a period of time the building fabric deteriorates rapidly.  The worst-case scenario can lead to   reinforcement in concrete structure corroding and weakening the structure to the point where areas of the building have to be closed off due to the risk of roof collapse. 

Future proofing

Although spending time undertaking regular inspections over the life of a building may seem expensive, it is a false economy to ignore this.  Maintenance issues would be more cost effective to deal with in the early days of identification, before the wider knock on implications of failure spread to other building elements and become exponentially costlier to deal with.

The most important point to remember is to regularly inspect leisure centres as prompt resolution of issues will be much more cost effective in the longer term.  Finally, it should always be borne in mind that a well maintained building should lead to better financial offers when re-tendering for future operators. 

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