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Generation Gym: have you been to the gym this week?
Ask the question “have you been to the gym this week?” and more often than not the answer these days will be ‘yes’.  Within my circle of London based friends, the answer is more likely to be, “of course; I did a HIIT session on Monday, ran 5k Tuesday, rest day Wednesday, did a WOD at the local CrossFit Thursday and have a PT session this eve - how about you?” This may make some of you feel exhausted, a bit guilty or even sigh and roll your eyes, but I’m afraid to say I’m the person that will answer “that’s awesome, me too!” It seems in the past few years fitness has developed into something of a social identity - at least among the plugged-in, upper middle class, roughly millennial-age urbanists. On reflection, I can vouch for that; if I’m not working or with my family, I’m almost certainly in the gym, where I have made a good few friends and have now become part of an established community in my local area.  It is a genuine way of life and I am certainly not alone. According to research conducted by Leisure DB, we are officially a nation of gym-goers. The UK Fitness Report has found that UK gym memberships has grown by more than 5% year on year, meaning 1 in 7 of us now use a gym (or at least pay to be a member of one). It seems the current generation of 20- to 30-somethings are knowledgeable and care about health and what they are eating and drinking, right from where produce is sourced to understanding its nutritional value better.  This has recently been evidenced by various surveys, showing that this generation is generally  drinking less alcohol than our predecessors, with even a growing proportion thinking of completely abstaining from alcohol altogether.  Times are changing and there is a generational shift from the baby boomers in terms of how spare time is used and valued.  The fitness market has of course latched onto this rise in the time being spent in the gym and, over the past decade, there has been a significant boom in not only the number of gyms but also the types of gym – a trend evidenced by Colliers International in their 2017 review of the Central London Gym market. Constant changes in market trends and how the property market quickly adapts to meet new demands can be observed.  So now not dissimilar to how the retail sector has had to adapt (large format stores giving way to convenience and the likes of Aldi and Lidl providing more variety for those shopping to a budget), the fitness market is now following suit – convenience AND knowledge are king to the consumer.  No longer is the market dominated by the big, standard format gym providers like Virgin Active and Cannons, with their standard gym formats and pricey fixed yearly contracts. We are now seeing the rise of budget gyms such as Pure Gym and easyGym (yes even easyJet has recognised there’s good business to be had here) offering cheap monthly/pay-as-you-go memberships, as well as the rise of specialist studios and spaces - YourZone, Barrys Bootcamp, Crossfit gyms and Soul Cycle to name but a few.  The word ‘budget’ might conjure up images of paying for the bare minimum along the lines of budget airlines easyJet and Ryanair, where every little extra such as signing up to a class, using the pool or asking for a towel will cost extra, so by the time it’s all added up, the more expensive option might just as well have been paid for?   Pure Gym from £19.99 per month     Fitness for Less £15.99 per month             easyGym £8.99 per month       Well apparently not; ‘budget’ gyms have all the latest equipment in conveniently located spaces, full suites of classes and more often than not, they are open 24/7.  They may have slightly less staff hanging around than the usual gym, no in-built coffee shop or chill-out areas, no free toiletries and the necessity of taking your own towel and padlock but the cost of going to the gym is not an excuse anymore!  Budget gyms account for the biggest area of growth in the UK fitness industry.  There are now more 500 of them, accounting for more than an estimated 35% of all gym memberships. As well as budget, there has also been the rise in the more specialist and boutique studios/gyms, some zoning in on the latest technologies and fads taking hold in the fitness business.  A prime example is the rise of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), with the subsequent rise of franchises such as Barry’s Bootcamp; clients pay a fair-sized sum for the privilege of being shouted at by trainers, over loud music and in the dark. They burn a silly amount of calories in a packed room for 50 minutes. There is something for everyone out there now (although you may have to dig a little deeper into your pockets!). This is not to say the days of the ‘old school’ gym providers such as Virgin Active and David Lloyd are over; there is still a dedicated group of gym-goers in the market who are willing to pay more and even travel a little further for all the extras.  Given the competition presented by the budget gyms, Virgin Active have recently announced the sale of a number of UK/London clubs so it can focus on the upgrade of its luxury ‘Collection’ clubs.  So what does this mean for the development industry? Accommodation-wise and right now, any space - whether it is a 50sqm ground floor shell, old industrial shed, basement or even rooftop space – could be a gym, and potentially a new community hub.  It used to be the case that developers would often look at left-over, unusable and/ or least valuable space in a scheme and count out gym use, either due to size (too small) or lack of need (there was already a gym nearby).  Well not anymore; the market is much more flexible and tangible now.  Generation gym – being all-knowledgeable, highly demanding, and wanting to try all new fads whilst still seeking the all-important convenience factor – love choice and variety, with some choosing to be members of more than one gym (as they offer completely different things).  In fact, generation gym, particularly in London, would form a large part of the group labelled as generation rent – the same group that is driving the Build to Rent market and more often than not, that expect gyms to be a part of the purpose-built facilities they are buying into – again, convenience is key! The new gyms don’t need large floor areas so when developers are formulating their next project and considering options for uses or what to do with that basement or compromised units why not see if a gym or studio could make best use of that space. A gym/studio could even make a good temporary meanwhile use. With local authorities giving increased consideration to health impacts and benefits a gym could make just as much sense as any other commercial option. Incorporating a gym could also assist in making a genuine case to local authority planners that the facility will become a valued community asset.   


Olympic Legacy: does it have to be dereliction?
Brazil’s able-bodied Olympic Games are over and the Paralympics finished on September 18th. It will be another four years before we get to see Simone Biles defying gravity or Katinka Hosszú swimming faster than a sailfish. But once the athletes have left town, what happens to the Games’ buildings they leave behind?Olympic villages are relatively easy to repurpose and are often sold off or rented out as ordinary flats, although the local economy doesn’t always favour host nations in this respect. Abandoned housing from the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the largely unoccupied Winter Olympics Village in Turin, 2010.[1] The stadiums and other venues are a little more challenging. London’s 2012 Olympics have been widely praised as being exceptionally well-planned and ensuring the primary focus was on what would happen after the Games (‘the London 2012 Olympic Legacy’), not just the sporting events during the month and half of Olympic and Paralympic competitions. Stratford is undergoing a continuing, rapid transformation and regeneration. Housing and office buildings are being constructed next to the re-branded East Village (the former Athlete’s Village which is now private rented housing). The Velo Park, Aquatics Centre, Tennis and Hockey Centre and Copper Box Arena are all open to the public, hosting classes and events. The Stadium itself has been re-purposed as the new home of the West Ham Football team – although this has not been easy to achieve. In Rio, vast swathes of favela (urban slum) dwellings were cleared to make way for the Athletes’ Village and Olympic arenas which apparently, having been designed modularly, are to be turned into four schools, two public swimming pools and a public park now that the Games are over. The future of the Olympic Village is not quite so community-minded and the developer hopes it will become a new upmarket area of town.At least there are plans for the buildings though. The majority of Athens’ 2004 Olympic venues remain unused and are deteriorating with no clear plans for future use in place. Beijing’s fantastical Bird’s Nest Stadium – designed by Herzog & de Meuron as ‘an architecture that will continue to be functional following the Games in 2008’ - currently costs the taxpayer more than £8 million a year in maintenance fees and it’s not being fully utilised. It has hosted a handful of events since its construction eight years ago and tourists can currently zip round it on a Segway for £15. Athens’ abandoned Olympic Canoe and Kayak Slalom (left) and disused swimming pool (right).[2] It is a shame that buildings in which world records were broken and history made, or which are architectural marvels in their own right, should not have a more propitious future. Given their historical, evidential, communal and often aesthetic value, a great many Olympic venues ought, by rights, to be included on their countries’ statutory lists. In Britain, we have just one listed building which was used for an Olympic event (and we’ve hosted three)![3]Wembley Arena is a Grade II listed building, designed by Sir E Owen Williams for the 1934 Empire Games. It is built of reinforced concrete and had the largest concrete span in the world at the time. It is noted for its 15 massive concrete buttresses and gabled ends, with narrow windows which increase in height from the edges to the centre. Used for the 1948 Olympic Games, it is the only building on the statutory list to hold this accolade. Wembley Arena.[4] The Great Stadium, later known as White City Stadium, was built for the 1908 London Olympic Games and hosted a 1966 World Cup football match as well as being an important greyhound racing venue and speedway track. Hailed as the precursor to modern stadium design, and the UK’s first Olympic stadium, it was demolished in 1985 and the site was later developed for use by BBC White City. China’s Bird’s Nest Stadium, (left) designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the project architect was Stefan Marbach, in collaboration with artist Ai Weiwei;[5] and London’s 1908 White City Stadium, demolished in 1985 (right).[6] A number of the UK’s purpose-built 2012 Olympic venues are architecturally outstanding, particularly the Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid and the Velodrome by Hopkins Architects; they may well meet the criteria for listing. There are no velodromes included on the statutory list,[7] despite there being a (brief) entry about velodromes within Historic England’s Guide to Listing for Sports and Recreation Buildings. Although there are listed swimming venues, Zaha Hadid’s exceptional design must surely be worthy of consideration; listing one of her last creations would be a fitting tribute to such an outstanding modern architect. These venues are certainly under no threat of disappearing for now as they’re well-used and therefore not creating a financial burden. London’s Velo Park by Hopkins Architects,[8] and Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid.[9] Hosting the Olympics can be an incredibly expensive undertaking. London’s 1948 Olympics re-used a great many existing sporting venues to host the events, as did Los Angeles’ in 1984, the first Games to turn a profit since 1932.[10] The recycling of venues is becoming increasingly popular. LA is proposing to host the city’s third Olympiad and putting old venues to use once again in 2024,[11] and Russia is building a new stadium inside the 1980 Olympic Stadium in Moscow, to host the 2018 World Cup.[12] The stadium was built in 1956 and its refurbishment is seen as a positive re-use of a building which holds great meaning for the people of Moscow.[13] Tokyo will host the next Games and their proposals include reusing a large number of their 1964 Olympic venues, necessitating the construction of only 11 permanent new buildings. They also propose to make their Games as environmentally sustainable as possible, powering the athlete’s village with hydrogen and locating the stadiums as close to one another as possible to reduce travel emissions. Inspired by Rio, Tokyo’s Olympic Committee intends to turn some of the temporary venues into schools following the Olympic Games.[14]Olympic bids are often used as catalysts for urban regeneration with motives ranging from welfare concerns in London to purported shame at unsightly slums in Rio, but hopefully delivering social benefits in the long run. Having a long term plan for the proposed Olympic stadia is now a requirement of any Olympic bid. If well-planned, holding the Games can have an incredibly positive impact on the host cities and nations. Recycling buildings is both economically and environmentally friendly; recent Games have produced some spectacular pieces of architecture which will hopefully continue to be valued and utilised, in order to be fitting symbols of remarkable human achievements. [1][2][3] The German Gymnasium at Kings Cross was the first purpose built gymnasium in Britain and hosted the pre-cursor to the Olympic Games in 1866 (the first modern Olympic Games as we know them were held in Athens in 1896). NLP was involved in the Gymnasium’s sensitive conversion to a German restaurant.[4][5][6][7] The Herne Hill Velodrome is the last remaining venue from the 1948 Olympics which is still in use for its original purpose, but it is not listed.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14]