Mike Lawless was asked by Swim England to talk at their event at Elevate in London. The question was what is the future of swimming pools in England? Or to put it another way, what does a pool look like in the future, who uses it and what will they use it for?
The fact is that whilst there have been over 500 new pools built in England between 2006 and 2015, the number of people using the pool has gone down by 24% in that period. The issues are further increased when consideration is given to who is using the pool and when.
"We need to balance these competing demands and make sure the casual swimmer doesn't come off worst, as they represent a huge market - three million people across England say they would like to swim but don't currently."
- Jennie Price, Former CEO of Sport England
In fact, the reports produced by Sport England show that there is a huge drop in users over the age of 16 to 70. Only 17% use a pool regularly and by regularly that is less than once a month.
Yet the briefs have not changed. We asked the questions:
Are we designing for the minority?
Why are people not coming to pools?
What do they want from the design and operation?
How do we change the designs to provide for the people who would like to come but do not?
This does not mean that we should not build more standard pools but as Richard Lamburn of Swim England stated what is clear is that we cannot build a like for like replacement of the large number of pools that will need to be replaced over the coming years.
We ended the talk by providing some thoughts on pools that can welcome a larger number of user needs and those pools look very different to the current standard pool.
What is clear is that as designers and specialists we will work closely with owners and operators to make pools that ask the right questions and meet the real needs of the people. In that way the pools of the future can be more popular and successful.