The Ayr Academy is a secondary school with a rich history. It has existed, in some form, since at least 1233. The current main building, dating from 1880, has in recent years been fully refurbished to become the new home of the school. The full restoration included demolition of a 1930’s extension, in order to create a more modern space and to allow state of the art facilities.
With external space at a premium in the old grounds, Allsports was tasked with the design and construction of an innovative pitch and play area formed on the roof of the new Library and Early Years Centre extension, located to the rear of the building.
Being installed on a flat, reinforced concrete roof required extensive use of lightweight materials. In addition, the pitch and play area had to have excellent drainage properties and durability.
“The project was unique,” says Gordon Thompson, MD of Allsports Construction and Maintenance.
“There were a number of challenges we faced due to the location, one being the roof not being accessible by plant, so all of the materials were hoisted to the works area and manually placed.
“For the play area, we also needed to source a very lightweight resin, as we were restricted on the weight we could place on the roof.”
Allsports tackled the challenges – including drainage – in a number of innovative ways.
“Our design solution incorporated the use of Permavoid Permatex 300 membrane above the roof insulation, creating a porous barrier to retain the 80mm levelling layer, while maintaining ideal, free draining properties.”
For the playing pitch, Allsports chose FieldTurf Optimal XT 23mm carpet, a sand filled slit-film fibre system which offers a highly durable solution. It is also versatile and suitable for a range of sporting and leisure applications – including fully FIH- and ITF-certified for hockey, tennis and multi-use applications.
For the adjacent playground area, Allsports used resin bound gravel.
Underneath, Allsports installed a shared layer of interlocking 52mm Sureset Surecell modules – developed specifically as an eco-friendly alternative to asphalt or concrete bases – in innovative ways.
At only 4.58kg per sq m, the cells below the playing pitch were left unfilled to create a drainage void space, and the rigidity required for the pitch was provided by the installation of Neobase 18mm interlocking shockpad tiles, weighing just 0.68kg per sq m.
Meanwhile, the Surecell modules in the resin-bound playground areas were retained using custom-manufactured galvanised angles to create a seamless flush fitting edge with the surrounding landscaped areas and pitch interface.
The modules were then filled with a lightweight Lytag-manufactured, sintered PFA aggregate – of between 4mm and 8mm in rounded particle size and with low water absorption – prior to the final application of a 24mm layer of resin bound gravel.
“The finished playground makes innovative use of the unusual shape and space available on the roof of the new extension, while maintaining excellent permeability and durability using the lightest materials currently available,” Thompson says.
The new playing pitch and play area is part of a larger, £16m scheme to breathe new life into the school. The project has been hailed as “remarkable” by South Ayrshire Council.
A council spokesperson said: “The new Ayr Grammar campus project is an excellent refurbishment and repurposing of this important and historic listed building.
“We’ve worked closely to sensitively refurbish the building in close cooperation with Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to ensure that the character of the building both internally and externally is retained.
“The refurbishment has retained as many existing features as possible, ensuring that the building is brought up to modern standards and complies with health and safety regulations.”