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Pool at Riverside set to reopen in the summer after massive rebuild project

Published: 28 January 2021

Riverside Update Riverside Leisure Centre

The pool at Exeter’s Riverside Leisure Centre is on course to reopen this summer after a massive rebuilding programme to rectify serious structural weaknesses, councillors have been told at an update briefing this week.

The popular pool has remained closed since a fire broke out at the centre in February 2017, although the gym and sports halls were able to reopen later that year.

While the fire damage was being repaired, serious structural weaknesses unrelated to the fire were uncovered which had to be rectified to make the building safe.

Cllr Duncan Wood, Lead Councillor for Leisure & Physical Activity, said he welcomed the fact that the huge restoration work is getting closer to completion.

He said: “No-one could have predicted that the pool and health facilities would have remained closed for so long following the fire in 2017.

“It has been a very frustrating time for everyone and I am grateful for the patience people have shown while this crucial work has been taking place.

“Safety will always be our top priority and the major structural faults uncovered had to be fixed to make the building safe and to bring it up to required modern standards. The length of time this has taken is exasperating but the issues uncovered were significant and not easy to rectify.”

He added: “I really can’t wait for the pool to reopen in the summer, all things being well and subject to any further disruption caused by Covid. It remains a major asset to the city, and alongside St Sidwell’s Point, which is also expected to open this summer, it will be a major boost to our leisure facilities which are now run directly by the Council for the benefit of the people of Exeter.”

Riverside Leisure Centre Montage

During an update briefing this week councillors were told that following the fire, a close inspection of the surface roof structure above the Health Suite revealed it would need to be replaced in its entirety.

A specialist inspection on the two large 42m long roof lights on the top of the building revealed that the glazing was defective, and all panes needed to be replaced with 276 individual double-glazed units.

During internal works in the main pool hall, a significant area of corrosion was then discovered in the original roof well away from the fire area, and a decision was taken to replace the remaining areas of the flat roof over the main pool hall.

This required a massive internal birdcage scaffold involving several kilometres of scaffold tube, thousands of fittings and hundreds of boards. An external scaffold was also required to provide a safe working platform before we could strip the roof and begin the reinstatement.

An investigation into the pool surround revealed ‘worrying deterioration’ in the structural elements. After investigation it was shown that the deterioration was widespread and the entire poolside floor needed to be replaced.

The floor removal was completed with a remote demolition vehicle. The design of the new floor was complex and workers had to manage unexploded ordnance surveys, tight working areas, variable ground conditions and the effects of Covid which prevented close proximity tasks.

The eventual solution involved the installation of several hundred metres of piling to support a lower concrete slab. This provided a stable base for us to construct channels to route the new pool filtration pipework, and form blockwork bays that could be mass filled with foamed concrete. The addition of a top concrete slab and screed provides a solid base for the new tiling.

With the extended programme a decision was made to invest further in the facilities and the team designed and procured an internal refurbishment for the Changing Village areas and first floor changing rooms, involving new tiling, wall cladding, cubicles, lockers and sanitaryware. This work could be carried out without delaying overall completion.

Work is currently progressing with the installation of the cubicle package in the Changing Village areas, with cladding and tiling works completed throughout.

Project managers working on site have revealed that excellent progress has been made on-site. The Health Suite fit out continues, with the new steam room, sauna and spa pool are being fitted in the coming weeks.

In the main pool hall, floor tiling works will be commencing shortly, and the installation of new acoustic baffles and wall acoustic material has just been completed.

New ductwork is being constructed around the base of the curtain walling and different flooring on the balcony and seating area will also be fitted in advance of the modern spectator seating installation.

Other works have also been undertaken to upgrade the plant serving the main and learner pools, alongside other mechanical and electrical engineering work to improve the future operation of the facility.

Riverside Leisure Centre Montage 2

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