An evidence-based approach to leisure and hospitality design

  • 13 Jun 2016

Traditionally associated with healthcare architecture, evidence-based design (EBD) is making inroads into the leisure industry.

1Paul Campbell, commercial sector manager at British Gypsum, takes a closer look at the benefits of EBD and how it can help create better leisure and hospitality spaces for both visitors and staff…

Designing any facility is ultimately about creating an environment that is tailored to the people using the building, based on what matters to them. This makes it of crucial importance for specifiers to start out with a strong understanding of the purpose of the space and the experience they want to impart on visitors. This is where EBD comes in.

What is evidence-based design?

EBD is an approach to developing better spaces through the use of credible and rigorous evidence. The process involves evaluating how the built environment affects and interacts with those using a space, and then feeding the resulting data back into the design process to help better understand building performance and make more informed decisions for future projects.

What to consider

Poor acoustics and indoor air quality have been identified as two key topics in EBD, as these factors can have a significant impact on a user’s ability to relax within a space and, more widely, affect general health and wellbeing.

The issue of acoustics is particularly prevalent in leisure facilities, especially given the current popularity of stripped-back design trends which use many materials that reflect sound, such as glass and hard surfaced tables.

While surface level acoustic improvements can be made, for example carpeting an area or choosing furniture with rubber feet, real enhancements must come from the design and construction of the building itself. In practice, this means considering how various spaces will be used post-occupancy, and incorporating tailored acoustic systems within the walls, floor and ceilings to control how sound passes through and resonates within a space.

Keep employees in mind

It’s not just the impact a space has on visitors that must be considered when designing a leisure facility; employees must also be taken into account. 

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), for instance – in which people who spend prolonged periods of time in one building experience health issues related to no particular illness – has been linked to poor indoor air quality. The symptoms can include throat and eye irritation, dizziness, headaches and the inability to concentrate.


The average person typically uses 15kg of air each day just through breathing, compared to 1kg of food and 2kg of water, so it is vital that specifiers understand exactly how to ensure good air quality in a building in order to create comfortable and healthy working environments.

An example of this is specifying products which work to actively improve indoor air quality by removing pollutants

such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which can cause health problems and a reduction in our general wellbeing.

Meeting design requirements

What’s clear is that as design trends continue to evolve at a rapid pace in the leisure and hospitality sector, the construction industry must be ready to adapt, follow and support. By taking an evidence-based approach, specifiers can use available information from real users to create leisure environments that significantly improve user experiences.

Considering the entire picture and taking these often overlooked elements into account is ultimately what will create a welcoming leisure environment that customers will want to visit again and again, and staff will enjoy working in.

Evidence Space is an online resource which has been developed specifically for specifiers to access the latest research and data on how building design can improve experience of the spaces in which we work, learn heal and play. With a dedicated leisure and hospitality section, the online hub provides a link between academic research and real-life building user benefits.

Find out more in the June issue of ABC+D Magazine

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