Olympic Games make a splash
The Olympic Games are now about much more than a few weeks of sporting competition: they are intended to have a lasting legacy.
The construction sector has benefited massively from the Olympics: the Olympic Park has provided work for some 800 firms at a time when the industry was poised on the brink of recession. The build, completed on time and (largely) to budget, has been a triumph for our industry.
But we are also hoping to benefit in the longer term.
One sport that has enjoyed a surge in interest as a result of the Olympics, and our recent successes in the sport, is swimming.
The £260+ million Zaha Hadid-designed Aquatics Centre is one of the showpieces at the Olympic Park. After the Games, the UK's premier swimming facility will be used for training athletes and coaches, research and education, but also for local community groups to enjoy, promoting activity, combating obesity and improving health.
As a result of a 'stock take' undertaken when the Games were awarded in 2005, we have seen a wave of new pools and facilities being built around the UK.
The provision of 50m pools in the UK was particularly poor. The longer-course public facilities are obviously expensive to build, so it was left to a handful of universities to fill the gap. Even now, none of these are to Olympic standard.
In the Midlands swimming facilities in West Bromwich, Coventry and Birmingham among others have come under the spotlight and are either being reviewed or commissioned.
For local authorities, the build costs are just one issue. The lifetime costs - managing and running the facilities - are also a concern. Ideally, facilities need to be commercially viable and trade without subsidy.
The wave of interest in swimming pools has given the construction sector the opportunity to refresh its offer. In much the same way we have seen standardised schools emerge as a result of the government's 'more for less' agenda, so we are now seeing the concept of standardisation brought into the leisure market.
Sunesis, the joint venture between Scape, the local authority-owned procurement body, and Willmott Dixon, can build a four-lane pool in just 36 weeks at a fixed cost of £3,710,000. To put that into perspective, you'd get around 70 of these for the same price as the Aquatics Centre!