The Pods, Scunthorpe

A new £21million sports and leisure facility is under construction in the heart of Scunthorpe, at Central Park, based around the concept of free-form geodesic dome structures constructed in timber.

Scunthorpe’s Central Park will soon be home to a futuristic new project called ‘The Pods’. Constructed with timber framing, the collection of five giant free-form domes will house brand-new sports and leisure facilities for use by the general public, including a 25m swimming pool with training pool, state-of-the-art gym, dance studio and six multi-use sports halls. A cafe and crèche facilities will also be provided, and Central Park itself will also be undergoing a £2million rejuvenation, with new street furniture, children’s’ play facilities, boulevard walkway and even an amphitheatre planned.

Artist's impression of The Pods

The most interesting aspect of the project in terms of structural engineering is the timber meshwork that makes up the bare bones of the development. Hidden underneath a variety of roof finishes, including a sedum green roof, individually-laid shingles, a single-ply membrane and a glazed and metal dome, each unique length of glulam timber fits together to form the complex five-domed shape. The project is the largest geodesic timber structure in the UK, and project architect Ron Wallwork noted that ‘every piece of timber is a different length; every code is different. It truly is free-form’. The timbers are connected together using bolts fixed into steel sockets that are inserted into the timber. A secondary triangular timber structure strengthens the framework. Large steel sections have also been used to provide flat arches where adjoining spaces meet. Overall, the diameters of the domes range from 20 metres up to nearly 50 metres, and the largest has an area of almost 2,000m². The architects, however, were keen to create a structure that blended into the landscape rather than sat on top of it, and the slow curves of the dome give the impression of something organic to fit into the setting of Central Park without jarring.

The Pods' intricate timber frame; Photo courtesy of Paul Harrop

In addition to the structural side of the project, sustainability has been thought of, and much of the surface area of the domes is covered in structurally insulated panels, as well as utilising rainwater harvesting for roof run-off and minding solar gain and loss within the building’s glazing. The final BREEAM rating is set to be very good.

The development is currently still under construction but progressing quickly, and is set to be completed by May 2011.

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One Response to The Pods, Scunthorpe

  1. worked on th final clean in this building and i can only say i wish the architect had thought how it would be to clean the timber and steel structure over the pool after it was filled with water

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