Swimmers Left High & Dry to get Poolside again with Cowan collaboration

Picture of entrance to a new design of swimming pool

Swimmers Left High & Dry to get Poolside again with Cowan collaboration

A Cowan Collaboration will help many of the UK’s eager and casual swimmers who have been left high and dry by the permanent, post-Covid closure of their local pools as it becomes no longer viable to continue to run the 44% of swimming pools that are 30 years old or more. Swim England has now put its weight behind a new generation of environmentally friendly, cost-effective swimming and leisure facilities that use cutting-edge building and pool technology created by a Cowan Architects collaboration with Paragon Structures.  These Sprung structures not only look good but will use insulated, tensioned membranes that offer rapid erection times and versatile designs for on-going, cost proficiency. They were used to house Millfield School’s award winning, state-of-the-art golf and cricket centres which opened to great acclaim in March.

Swim England approached Paragon Structures, a specialist sports facility contractor, to undertake a feasibility study for an innovative, high quality, cost effective and environmentally friendly swim and leisure facility solution. As the national governing body for swimming, Swim England is seeking practical and affordable solutions to replace the ageing stock of swimming pools across the UK. Cowan Architects worked as partners with Paragon Structures to carry out a feasibility report that provides a blueprint for the future of swimming facilities. Construction consultants, Synergy, provided costs for the developed concept design. The subsequent result provides unique design, construction and operating benefits and a superior swimming environment at a lower cost.

Richard Lamburn, head of facilities at Swim England, says: “We have an eye on the long-term future and the replacement of ageing, unsustainable facilities. We therefore welcome solutions such as this for local and private sector partners to consider when developing long-term strategies for the replacement and addition of swimming facilities.”

The Paragon Cowan model has numerous benefits:

  • Lower build costs: The price per square metre comes in around £2,500. In traditionally built pools, this figure is closer to £4,000.
  • Rapid build time: The fully insulated structure can be erected in five weeks, with the fit-out taking 35-40 weeks, compared to a year or more for a conventionally built structure.
  • Increased energy efficiency and sustainability: Compared to traditional pool buildings, the running costs and carbon footprint of these structures are much lower. Plus, our buildings have a BREEAM rating of Excellent (placing them in the top 10% of buildings in terms of sustainability performance).
  • Reduced maintenance: The cutting-edge design and corrosion-resistant structure keeps maintenance costs to a minimum.

In addition to providing a state-of-the-art swimming facility, the flexibility of the Sprung structure allows the design to be tailored to meet the individual needs of the community. The detailed floor plan includes space for activity areas, a changing village, café, viewing galleries, reception and offices.

Getting Back in the Swim

There’s more than just the physical benefit of taking the plunge; swimming is just as important for our mental wellbeing, social lives, and escapism.

Swim England’s Value of Swimming report showed that swimming participation in England saves the health and social care system more than £357 million each year. The report also highlights that swimming significantly reduces the symptoms of anxiety or depression for 1.4 million British adults.

If the decision around whether to reopen pools is based purely on profit, those in less affluent areas are going to miss out. This solution will help local authorities provide the benefits of swimming to everyone.


Cowan Architects is an established practice, with over 35 years’ experience offering innovative design solutions across many areas of work. It has a proven track record for residential and healthcare work, as well as projects in education, office/commercial, sustainable building and heritage. As an award-winning practice, it also has a significant reputation for its work in adapting living spaces for disability and has the additional speciality of acting as Expert Witnesses on disability needs in High Court cases.

Paragon Structures is a UK business focused on developing state of the art facilities, with a primary focus on sports and education. It is passionate about delivering modern, environmentally friendly, state of the art solutions at a fraction of the cost of the conventional methods employed in many building sectors. Whilst Paragon’s focus is on sports and education, it has a number of solutions that can fit almost any facility-based need.

Synergy is a multi-disciplinary construction consultancy providing a comprehensive service including Cost Consultancy, Project Management, Building Surveying and Specialist Consultancy. It provides a Partner-Led service on all our projects. We work across a diverse range of sectors including Education, Heritage, Ecclesiastical, Commercial, Automotive and Retail, Leisure and Residential.

Sprung Structures:

Canadian company, Sprung, developed a “fabric structure like no other” that was a uniquely tough canvas for chuck wagons and pioneers’ tents back in the 19th century. Decade upon decade has seen improvements until now the tents have become a high-performance, portable building structure that is currently finding its use in a growing number of new and varied applications. After designing and constructing the NASA Space Shuttle housing facility in the early 1980s, these portable structures began to gain a good reputation. More recently, the high-quality materials that are individually tested have proven their durability in some of the most extreme climates on earth, from the hottest desert to the windiest arctic tundra and coldest mountain highland. The only building left standing in Buras, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was a Sprung tensile structure.

These advanced, fabric tensile structures are meticulously engineered to allow total design flexibility, all-weather performance, strength, long-term quality and cost-effectiveness. But it is the speed in which they can be designed and constructed that really impresses – as does the relative cost value. Their modularity also makes them easy to re-locate but the patented technology and construction features have additional advantages that extend their applications.

Time savings are significant and can be counted in weeks rather than months. Other benefits include a 20% saving in energy running costs, an air-tight envelope, high ceiling, BREEAM Excellent rating, the need for fewer light fittings due to the Sports England compliant daylighting panels, and its easy re-location – should the need arise.