16 trends in swimming centres of the future

The International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities (IAKS) NGO has compiled a report on a number of trends in the swimming centres and outdoor baths of the future.

The 16 trends cover a wide range of aspects that impact on architecture – from economics and digital features to new usage patterns.

Swimming and water exercise are popular activities among all ages and at all skill levels. We also use swimming centres to relax – or to be active with our families. The varying usage scenarios place demands on form and function when developers, architects and builders have to jointly arrive at the perfect design.

In a report from late 2019, the German International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities (IAKS) NGO listed trends in future swimming centres. The 16 trends can be useful to keep in mind – right from the drawing board stage.

Read about all of them in this article, and view the report with the full descriptions here.

Pandemic not impacting on design

A few months after the report was released, COVID-19 began to spread around the world. However, the epidemic is unlikely to have a major impact on the design of swimming centres and outdoor baths, according to Dr Stefan Kannewischer, President of IAKS.

“In general, public pools seem to be relatively safe facilities due to their high technical standards. The disinfection in the pool water treatment is normally sufficient to kill any viruses or bacteria. And operations under COVID-19 have proven the importance of high-performance ventilation with heat-recovery. And that is already a given today in most pools,” he says.

“The entrance halls and circulation areas will perhaps be designed more spaciously in the future, but on the whole pool experts do not expect significant changes in future pool design for the moment.”

>> Read the full interview with Dr Stefan Kannewischer here

The 16 trends

  • Swimming is popular
    Blurred boundaries between work and leisure are making individual, flexible activities such as swimming, running and cycling increasingly popular. This entails a need for better access to swimming pools and extended opening hours.
  • A lifelong healthy lifestyle
    Exercise in water helps fulfil the desire to lead a healthy life at any stage of life. An increasing number of seniors are demanding good exercise pools. Since fewer parents are teaching their children to swim, there is also a need for teaching pools – ideally with an adjustable/movable floor.
  • Wellness is gaining ground
    The combination of sport and relaxation has become more popular. It is therefore a good idea to complement the classic competition and exercise pools with wellness facilities such as spas, saunas, Turkish baths, treatment facilities and lounge zones.
  • Fun for children and families
    Families with children are an important target group for swimming centres. It is therefore important to have facilities that support play and give children a good introduction to the water.
  • Designing for inclusivity
    Accessibility is not only about focusing on users with physical disabilities. Changes in demographics and ethnic diversity also place special demands on swimming centres. Everything from stairs and changing rooms to signs and lighting can have an impact. It is important to involve all key stakeholders early in the design phase.
  • Pools as places for socialising
    Leisure activities are also a hub for socialising. It is important to encourage young people to meet at the swimming centres. And again, it is important to involve users in the design process.
  • Sustainable and healthy facilities
    Sustainability and carbon footprint also play a major role in the construction of swimming centres. Measures that save water, recover heat, harness solar energy and minimise waste must be in focus. Ideas about a healthy lifestyle also place demands on technical conditions in relation to things like water and air quality.
  • Safe and secure pools
    The risk of ‘anti-social behaviour’ may necessitate video surveillance above and below the water, and increased use of security personnel at swimming centres.
  • Competing demands on public finances
    Government investments have to be prioritised. To secure funding for a swimming centre, the parties behind it have to be able to highlight the social value of the project. Partnerships with non-profit organisations or private companies may be a model for financing.
  • Improving economics
    Swimming centres should ideally be operated without incurring losses. A swimming centre can be combined with a sports hall, a gym or even – as seen in England – a library. Achieve economies of scale by managing indoor and outdoor facilities in the same region in a single unit.
  • Private sector focuses on profitable cases
    It can be difficult for municipalities to balance their budgets. Private players often invest in the most profitable business cases, such as gyms and large wellness centres. This can leave municipalities with the less attractive ones. When this happens, it is important to focus on the social rather than the economic benefits.
  • Digital transformation
    Digital features also have an impact on the architecture of new swimming centres. The ability to track your performance in the water, water slides with virtual reality and cash-free payments are examples. In terms of the actual construction process, building information modelling (BIM) will become increasingly significant.
  • User expectations are growing
    People are travelling more and experiencing more online. This can increase expectations of user experiences – including when visiting the swimming centre. It is therefore important that new swimming centres meet current international standards.
  • Scarcity of space
    Given the shortage of space in many cities, swimming centres need to serve multiple purposes. For example, an outdoor baths in summer could double as a skating rink in winter.
  • Fight for talent
    When the economy is healthy, it can be difficult to find enough skilled staff for swimming centres and other sports facilities. Internal training can be one way to attract and retain employees. Technological solutions may in some cases be able to replace employees.
  • Good design
    As evidenced by the trends outlined above, designing and building a new swimming centre is a complex task. But it is important to do this well. Good design is essential to ensuring a good user experience – so that visitors keep coming back, the IAKS report concludes.

About IAKS

  • The International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities (IAKS) was founded in 1965 with the aim of creating functional, sustainable and high-quality sports facilities around the world.
  • IAKS is the only non-profit organisation involved in the development of sports and leisure facilities at a global level.
  • IAKS identifies and promotes new active lifestyle trends, and facilitates the exchange of knowledge and ideas between architects, engineers, developers, designers, local authorities, technical and operations managers, sports federations and clubs.
  • Read more at https://iaks.sport