Making a splash

Melanie Warnes, Principal at The British School of Brussels (BSB), discusses the school’s innovative sports centre

Why did the school decide to build a new sports centre? What were your objectives for the new facility?

Our plans for a new sports centre were grounded in the school’s commitment to provide a modern, progressive education. 

A key part of this provision is offering state-of-the-art facilities that are equipped to meet our educational aims. As a result, our vision was to create a world-class centre of sporting excellence which would see BSB become home to some of the best indoor school sports facilities in Europe and the only international school in Belgium with its own swimming pool. 

Flexibility and mobility were key objectives during the design stage. 

All areas are connected and can be used for multiple purposes. Lifts connect all floors and there are ramps and wide corridors. Pedestrian and cyclist safety were also important issues in the planning of the entrance, as well as the car and bike park. Sustainability was also a major consideration as we focused on lessening the building’s potential environmental impact and energy consumption. I am proud to say that the building was awarded an ‘Excellent’ rating from the BREEAM international scheme 

as a sustainable building for its high standards on ventilation, light, security and reusable energy. 

Please describe the design and build process, what were the challenges and surprises during the project?

With any building project you focus on building for the future; however that also happens to be the most difficult part of a project. Replacing like for like is easy but working on an innovative project with a less tangible vision is something else. Another challenge was the tight timeframe to deliver the building – just two years – and to make sure that it fell within the practical time constraint of the start of an academic year. 

Melanie Warnes (second left)

When did the facility open? What was the initial feedback?

The facility opened in September 2016 with an Official Opening Ceremony held in October with Dr Jacques Rogge, athlete and ex-President of the International Olympic Committee. The new building is named after him and, as well as a sporting centre, it houses administrative offices, meeting rooms and a reception area. The initial feedback was incredible. Parents, staff members and students were simply blown away by the incredible new spaces that they would soon be enjoying like the beautiful swimming pool area, state-of-the-art fitness suite, dance studio, multi-purpose sports hall and the gymnasium dedicated solely to gymnastics.

What is your favourite part of the new facility, and why?

This is a difficult question to answer as the building works well as a linked environment: it serves many of our needs as a dynamic community. We have a long-established partnership with the Special Olympics Belgium and some of our senior students will be leading an initiative for a swimming gala to take place later in the year between BSB athletes and Special Olympians. We also host events with members of other local and international schools. If I could only pick one, it has to the swimming pool as no other international school in Belgium has one!

Do you have plans to further enhance the school’s sporting facilities?

Our attention has turned to revitalising our outdoor sporting areas, and of course we have ambitious plans in other areas too. For example, we have plans for a new state-of-the-art primary school building. At BSB we are constantly considering new ways to improve our facilities and increase the opportunities that we provide to our students; this is just one of the many reasons I am so proud to be its principal.   



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