Since obtaining its university status in 1992, the University of the West of England (UWE) has grown steadily. It is now ranked among the top 25 higher education institutions in England for its graduate employment prospects.
To improve the facilities for its growing student sport community, the university in 2018 invested £4.5m in the development of a new, state-of-the-art sports complex. Built at the university’s Hillside Gardens, the sports hub has become the new home for UWE Sport – providing pitches for football, rugby, lacrosse, American football and Ultimate Frisbee.
The sports hub was built and delivered by Verde Recreo in what the company describes as one of its most challenging projects to date.
During the building work, more than 60,000 cubic metres of material was relocated, repurposed and crucially retained on site, while more than 16,000sq m of subsoil was stabilised to minimise importation of virgin stone. This not only guaranteed the performance standard of the formation, but reduced CO2 emissions and the traffic impact on the local road network and neighbourhood. More than 3,000 cubic metres of storm water storage were also provided, as part of a complex sustainable drainage system.
Facilities at the new sports hub include changing room block, two floodlit synthetic pitches – with a separate warm-up area – undercover seating for spectators, pitch-side dugouts, a natural grass football pitch and training grids.
“Throughout the design process we engaged with multiple stakeholders to provide a genuine ‘soft landings’ experience,” says Jonathan Bland, Verde Recreo’s Business Manager.
“The project team also executed the design development via an authentic BIM (Building Information Modelling) Level 2 procedure. This enabled the design team to fully collaborate and deal with clashes in the virtual world. It also provided a platform for review and comment by the end user.”
A key requirement was for the facility to be able to operate completely autonomously of the main campus site.
To enable this, Verde Recreo included a Building Management System (BMS) within the design, to control the various equipment within the changing room block. This, coupled with full access control, a CCTV system, floodlight control link software and smart field technology, means that the entire site can be operated and monitored remotely.
The £4.5 million contract was delivered on time, on budget and with zero HSE incidents.
“Working with Verde Recreo, we’re excited about the fantastic facilities at Hillside Gardens,” said Alex Isaac, Head of Sport at UWE Bristol. “With teams, players and supporters able to be together at one venue we will be able to create a great atmosphere and improved experience for students.
“Throughout the delivery, the project team took extensive time at the start of the project to listen and understand our needs and end objectives. I can’t praise the team highly enough, everyone involved was highly committed and extremely supportive throughout. In a complex organisation with sometimes difficult processes they were able to find creative solutions and work around problems to resolve issues.”
Laurence Gully, assistant head of sport at UWE Bristol, added: “The attention to detail from Verde Recreo is exceptional and the response time/reactiveness of when we have wanted something completed on the project was brilliant. From day one the project team listened to what we wanted for the project and completely delivered the vision.”
Simon MacSorley, director of estates at UWE Bristol, said: “Providing students and staff with facilities to maintain health and wellbeing is very high on the University’s agenda.
“Having first class sports facilities such as these also encourages wider engagement with local communities and businesses. Hillside Gardens will be an asset to the estate and local community for many years to come.”