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Commonwealth Pool, Edinburgh

Commonwealth Pool, Edinburgh

The refurbishment of one of Scotland's most prominent modernist buildings in time for its use as a venue for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. 


While the world was watching the east end of London for the new wave of swimming facilities and debating the issues of legacy, in Scotland Edinburgh’s Royal Commonwealth pool has be quietly going through its third regeneration as a major competition and community venue.

Originally commissioned for the 1970 Commonwealth games, designed by RMJM and given Grade A listed status in 29 March 2006 the pool attracted over half a million visitors a year. This icon of modernism has throughout the years fallen short of modern FINA requirements for international competition standards. The Client recognised this problem. The building had been described by the Scottish Centre for Conservation as Edinburgh’s foremost building of the first age of modernism. Edinburgh City Council took the bold decision to refurbish the existing building. After considerable debate the vision of a new competition venue being rebuilt inside a refurbished shell was taken up with S&P Architects. 

Orignal Commonwealth _pool _bw


S&P Architects, Buro Happold and Graham Construction have just completed this major refurbishment of the facility, which everyone involved believed would be extremely technically challenging as the works progressed this belief was born out. However the project team worked together to resolve the challenges and have provided modern building with facilities for competitive swimming, water polo and synchronized swimming up to national standard, and diving to international standard, while providing a popular high quality and affordable health club and leisure facility possible for local patrons. The Royal Commonwealth Pool will be Scotland’s Centre of Diving Excellence and will also include a new dry dive training.  Other new facilities include Health Club, Gym and Studios. A Café, Crèche and Children’s play facilities have been provided around the redesigned entrance foyer. The refurbished RCP will be the venue for the diving competition at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. 

Royal Commonwealth Pool 1


The client, City of Edinburgh Council, required that the project employ the most sustainable techniques practically available in keeping with their philosophy and the Councils KPIs on sustainability

Water is conserved through the use of water-saving appliances, and waste shower water will be recycled through a grey water system and used for toilet flushing. An 800m2 solar roof has been installed, which should generate 458,000kWh, saving 70 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere each year. Furthermore, a 237kW(e) combined heating and power (CHP) system will provide 225kW of heating, with a combined saving approximately 400 tons of CO2 per year.  All timber had to be certified as being from a sustainable source. No MDF was permitted in the new construction and pvc/upvc use was avoided unless there was no practical alternative

In addition to this the project was subjected to the WRAP process to ensure minimization of waste during construction and the resulting case study is available to download here as a PDF.

The well received project recently won a prestigious award at the Scottish Design Awards 2012 for the ‘Re-use of an Existing Building’. This enables us to demonstrate our ability to not only fully understand how to redevelop an existing facility both economically and environmentally sustainable, but that we are able to do this to the highest quality possible.

This is the first building which will have been used as a venue for three commonwealth games whilst serving the community of Edinburgh and beyond for the period between the games, thereby demonstrating sustainability in the flexibility of the design as well as the materials selected.


Due to the date of the original construction and the prominent use of asbestos related materials the lessons learned from this would be to establish detailed asbestos surveys and test materials during early design stages of the project and include this within the risk assessment and management.

3163-059©Mc Ateer



AFSL+P Architects

Edinburgh Commonwealth Pool


Resource Efficient Scotland supported the preparation and presentation of this case study for the Retrofit Scotland website.

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