Will The Lessons Learnt From the Current Pandemic Bring About A Change In School Sports Hall Design?

15th December 2020

As we look forward to 2021 and (hopefully) the end of the coronavirus crisis, at Ball Hall we have discussed what we have learnt with respect to school sports hall design and have also asked ourselves what changes may result in the future

The most obvious point is that it is very apparent that any large open space can be invaluable for social distancing. So, for example, we have seen that when bubbles that affect many pupils outside of their class bubble such as “bus bubbles” or “sports club bubbles” need to self-isolate it has often been necessary to bring the affected children out of their class bubbles and congregate them at a safe social distance in one area ready for their parents to collect them. A large sports hall provides the ideal emergency space for this purpose.

Before schools returned in September, we were also asked about the practicality of using sports halls as classrooms. We did look at options including: how many classrooms could be safely accommodated in a hall with temporary partitions, what spacing for desks could be created, how sound would travel, and how interactive whiteboards and projectors could be installed. Whilst the conclusion was that on a temporary emergency basis a sports hall could be converted to serve such a purpose, in the end all the schools we work with chose not to use them in this manner. Generally we found they decided to create class bubbles and manage the risk by keeping the bubble together in a single classroom base as much as possible.

Looking to the future, we have identified the need to discuss these matters with schools when they first consider their brief. It is now clear (if it wasn’t already) that sports halls can be used as excellent respite areas not just for social distancing in the event of a pandemic, but for any emergency (flooding, fire, electrical failure etc) that affects the school. Discussions at an early stage could lead to future-proofing the buildings, for example this could be as simple as providing more electrical sockets etc so converting for any future emergency use would be more straightforward.

We may also see that there is an even greater desire for retractable seating to be designed into the sports hall at the outset combined with projectors, screens, microphones and speakers. This is something that we have seen become more and more popular in recent years as it allows schools to turn their sports halls into halls for whole school (or house) assemblies, presentations, prize giving etc venues.

In the new post-coronavirus world though, will these retractable seating and AV installations also give greater flexibility for schools to turn their sports halls into respite or temporary teaching spaces in emergencies?

Whether or not lessons learnt from this pandemic lead to significant changes to school sports hall design is unknown, but what is certain is that things will not be the same again. Everyone will be thinking twice about matters that used to seem mundane (the siting, spacing and types of appropriate drinking fountains to give just one example).

To end on a positive note, now vaccines are being rolled out, we all hope the coronavirus crisis will soon be over and, at Ball Hall, we extend our thanks to all the schools that we have seen working so heroically to carry on teaching our children through these tough times.

Projects

Every one of the 50+ sports halls that we have delivered, has been designed especially for the client with their sporting needs at heart.

Whether you are a school, an academy, a university, a local authority or a sports club, we understand that, when it comes to a new sports facility, you will have your own set of special circumstances.

St James Senior Boys School

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St John’s Northwood

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Rossall School

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