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UKAA Roundtable, Manchester – Optimising leisure facilities in residential and BTR

Monday 16th September 2019

As we constantly think of ways to offer an exceptional customer experience, leisure facilities within residential developments become a key element in the attraction. We held a roundtable on open to all UKAA and ARMA members, presented on Monday 16th September 2019 by Rob Clarke and the team at motive8. This event was kindly being hosted by Shoosmiths.

Roundtable write-up 

The aim of the roundtable was to educate UKAA and ARMA members on the importance and detail that goes into managing gyms, pools and other leisure facilities within the residential and Build to Rent sector. Members were encouraged to share their own experiences, highlighting any problems that may have arisen and how they resolved them. The key themes of the discussion were based around exploring leisure facilities within build-to-rent schemes and why they are a strong tool for attracting and retaining residents.

Use of Technology to optimise leisure spaces in residential and BTR
In a recent survey, results have revealed that 63% of 18-44-year olds use their smartphones to track their fitness, steps and nutrition. The demand for technology is rapidly increasing across the country and the innovation is non-stop, with new creations enabling BTR operators to engage with their residents and create the communities they are aiming for.
This growing trend should be embraced in the build-to-rent sector, says Rob, and states that it can be done easily. An example of this is a wrist band which allows users to link to gym equipment and modify the functionality to their pre-saved settings (such as weight and seat position).

Not only is this feature convenient, but it also comes with an array of health and fitness benefits as it advises users on what they should be working on and their personal limits.
It was noted that the leading manufacturer in the UK is ‘Technogym’ which has created ‘Technogym Moves’, a fitness tracker for in and out of a facility with links (via QR codes) to machines to find exercises that suit users’ needs. The reason why this is a great brand for BTR gyms is because it provides a feature that creates a community of residents via a leader board. An alternative is ‘myzone’ which currently isn’t as common within residential due to its cost, however, its features are more advanced.

Virtual studios
Members were told that virtual studios are cost-effective to install and very easy to run, however, they should not be used to replace a personal trainer but instead, should be seen as an additional benefit to residents and another way to form a community.

“The ability to make fractional use of a space needs to be done in an efficient and time and cost-effective way for BTR”
David Butler, CEO of UKAA

An example of a virtual class is ‘stages flight’ which is a group cycling class that encourages attendees to compete and track their performance against their own pre-set goals. Another example is ‘skillrow class’, a rowing class done in teams of four – another effective way to form a community.

Operating a leisure space without a specialist leisure management company
Rob explains that if operators decide to run a leisure facility without a management company, there are things they need to be aware, including some of the pitfalls.
Many insurers prefer operators to carry out health and safety inductions. Rob expresses that this is fine to do in-house, however, the person delivering the induction, must be qualified. Access controls, especially for swimming pools, are very important. It is advised that access controls are reset annually so that it is easier to monitor who has participated in an induction. This is due to this usually being a fob which residents have the freedom to share and pass to others, making it harder to stay up to date with completed inductions.
Rob goes onto advising members to carry out pool tests around every four hours if they do not have a management company. Having a leisure management company in place will enable them to carry out gym and pool checks every week, enabling them to be proactive rather than reactive after residents have found a fault.
It is crucial for operators to know their region’s/council’s licence agreements as it will dictate when checks have to be carried out. For example, some areas in London require sauna and steam room checks every thirty minutes, whereas in Manchester, operators do not need to have a licence. Other insurance items and licences operators need to be aware of is music licencing (PRS), room/class bookings and tv.

During this topic, Rob highlighted the documents that BTR operators need to be made aware of:
•HSG179 – Managing H&S in Swimming Pools;
•BS EN 15288-2 2008 – Swimming Pools Operation
•HSG282 – Control of Legionella in Spa Pools PWTAG- Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group

Operating and maintenance of pools
Rob moves onto talking about swimming pool safety and what needs to be factored in not only for design purposes, but also operationally. Rob states that access controls are paramount as it keeps children safe so that they are not allowed to enter unaccompanied. This led the conversation to discussing the necessity of having rescue equipment on display – especially if there isn’t a lifeguard present. Rob advises that onsite staff (e.g. concierge) have full access to alarms and CCTV and are listening/watching so that they are able to respond/take action immediately. It is also very important to have signage with rules displayed and to inform residents if there isn’t a lifeguard onsite.

The roundtable discussion lasted two hours and ended with a Q&A led by the members. One member asked if there is a market for nutritionists to attend BTR schemes and advise residents on eating habits. Rob explained that it’s still not mainstream but it is swaying towards it, however, it’s still not up there with well-being and fitness. This question led to an idea whereby schemes open a dedicated space that morphs into multiple uses (e.g. from meeting rooms to bars to co working).
Rob suggested that residential gyms can also help retain residents when it comes to renewing their tenancy agreement. He later expanded on this and promoted opening leisure facilities to the general public as an additional income stream. Doing this could mean that the space then becomes rateable so advise should be sought before doing so. It may be that additional space is also required for changing rooms etc.



It was agreed that residential gyms are designed to attract the majority of people but not all – especially if people are wanting to specialise in something (i.e. if someone wanted kickboxing, they’d go to a dedicated boxing gym). Rob suggested that a gym should be changed every five years to keep-up with new trends and ensure equipment lasts (quality and functionality).
A few attendees raised the concern of having extra expenses if they had to factor in a leisure management company. Rob clarified that this isn’t a necessity but there should be processes in place and training undertaken to ensure legal standards are met. He stressed that plant rooms should be locked so it gives the third-party management company full control so nothing is incorrectly configured but if it is being looked after in-house, they should be qualified. Rob went onto explaining the routine checks that had to be done which highlighted the advantages of outsourcing leisure facilities management; someone must hoover the bottom of the pool at the end of the night and backwash it weekly to ensure they clean all debris. If the footfall of the pool is greater than usual, this must be done more frequently. It was also advised that pool preventative maintenance was carried out every three to five years.

The roundtable discussion ended with Rob reciting the risks of not employing a leisure management company but showcasing a few solutions including new technology that allows the operator to put controls into place. An example of this is new anti-drowning facilities such as children’s wrist bands and pool cameras which track movement in order to prevent drowning.
facilities such as children’s wrist bands and pool cameras which track movement in order to prevent drowning.

Please click here to download full report.