A technical site feasibility study should be completed by a competent consultant in all but the smallest of development projects.
An initial appraisal of the site will ensure that the project is planned appropriately and can save money by ensuring that the correct approach to development is taken. Proper project planning and management is the key to success. It is important to consider the following aspects during the initial stages of the project:
A site location plan with clearly marked boundaries and access points should identify the site earmarked for development. A brief description of the site in its current state and any constraints to access should be noted.
It is important to identify the client and any other consultants who may be involved in the project, or indeed required, such as engineers, architects or planners.
Early discussion with the potential client or project manager is essential to help formulate a client brief. It is important to ascertain what the client’s aspirations are for the facility and the standards being catered for. This will have a significant influence on the type and form of construction. Early indications of the type of budget available are required to ensure that the proposals and recommendations made in the feasibility study are realistic.
It is important to gather any existing information relating to the site to avoid duplication. This may include, for example pitch maintenance reports, topographical surveys and ground investigative reports.
The pitch development may only form a small part of a wider development and key timelines should be identified to allow proper co-ordination of resources. Natural turf pitches have to be constructed in a manner that allows for the vagaries of the weather and optimises the growing season. Proper grow-in and turf establishment need to be considered as part of this process.
Time on site is invaluable in formulating a complete and accurate picture of existing conditions, and identifying any constraints to the development. Identifying these at an early stage will ensure that they can be engineered out of the development and taken care of in the most cost effective manner.
It is important to build up a picture of the local climate and environmental conditions as this will influence the type of construction and grass selection for a natural grass pitch.
The boundaries of the site should be identified and the opportunity taken to ascertain if the adjacent properties will influence how the site may be developed. Developing a pitch in a built-up area will require a much different approach to one in the countryside.
Existing vegetation within the site will have to be removed to develop a new pitch. The environmental impact of this process should be considered and, where practical, the destruction of natural habitat should be kept to a minimum. Certain species may have protection under local government legislation and it may be necessary to ascertain if the site contains any such species. An environmental impact assessment may be required as part of the planning process, particularly on larger developments.
If the site is adjacent to environmentally sensitive habitats, then the site’s development should proceed in a cautious manner, as the site may be controlled by local government legislation that seeks to protect the environment.
A topographical survey is essential for the development of a new site and for the drainage design of an existing facility. Surveys can be undertaken cost effectively with modern satellite based equipment. This can be more difficult where tree canopies are present but the objective is to develop a three dimensional Auto CAD drawing. Site conditions will determine how the information is gathered but spot heights collected at between 5-20m centres are normally appropriate. This information is used to ascertain the evenness, levels and gradients of the site. The site’s aspect and orientation should also be included as part of this detailed survey as these have a strong influence on grass growth rates.
The nature of the existing topsoil must be assessed. The range of soils across a single site can vary and all should be fully assessed. Topsoil is a precious commodity and should be treated with the utmost care, particularly if it is to be reused in the development of the site.
The proportions of sand, silt and clay together with the soil’s structure and organic matter content will determine its natural drainage characteristics and the way it reacts to handling and earthworks. The lime content and pH will determine its nutrient availability. Representative samples should be collected and analysed by a reputable laboratory.
Stone content will be important in terms of player safety, whilst rock, sand or peat on site will play a major factor in determining the choice of construction method and the success of the project.
If there is insufficient topsoil on site, then adequate materials or alternatives may have to be sought.
It is important that the site profile is examined through the full depth of any likely excavations or earthworks. This may require a detailed survey by a firm of ground engineers. It should be noted that the accuracy of this information is only as good as the number of boreholes or trial pits excavated and the uniformity of the ground conditions below the site. The location of all trial pits or borehole logs must be accurately marked on a site map.
It is important to ascertain the condition of the subsoil for any potential risks to the development or for the installation of services such as drainage.
The construction of pitches on reclaimed, derelict or contaminated land, such as landfill, is never ideal and requires particular care. Whilst these sites often appear attractive for sports pitch development, it is almost always inevitable that the works required to produce a satisfactory surface will prove to be more costly and much more extensive than when dealing with a greenfield site. On all such sites, pitches should only be constructed following very careful consideration and proper site investigations to ascertain all risks involved.
Existing services on-site present a potential hazard to any contractor undertaking work to improve or develop the facility, whilst services need to be provided for a new facility.
A detailed services search must be completed prior to any development occurring and even before land is purchased. Way leaves may be required by utility companies and these can affect the site’s potential development.
Where pavilions, club houses or stands are to be developed as part of the facility there is likely to be a need for water, electricity, sewers, telephone and possibly gas.
On the pitch, consideration should be given to the need for irrigation, under-soil heating and sub-surface ventilation systems such as ISASS or Sub-Air Systems.
Site development is becoming much more complex as the potential impacts of any development on our natural resources, landscape, heritage and environment are increasingly scrutinised. These may be controlled by government legislation and should be reviewed at the feasibility stage of the development.
There may be a requirement to complete detailed studies of the effects of the development on the existing site and propose appropriate mitigations against the development to minimise its impact.
Water is one of the most precious resources on the planet and practical design needs to consider water use during establishment, and ongoing future maintenance as well as any potential drainage water discharge. In an urban setting sustainable drainage systems are often a requirement of pitch design.
Local knowledge is important in helping to identify any special constraints that may be required as part of the development.
Few sites can be developed without local government consent. A thorough understanding of what is required at a local level is important to ensure that the appropriate documentation is prepared. Local planning consultants can assist with the preparation of a submission to ensure that the project is not delayed unnecessarily.
This may involve a detailed proposal dependent upon the sensitivity and complexity of the development. Each project should be assessed on a case by case basis.
The site feasibility study should provide advice and guidance under all of the headings 1-6 above. This should comprise a report, photographs of existing conditions and plans showing existing site conditions and illustrating proposals or options for development.
This provides structure to the development process and helps to ensure that the project will proceed in a logical manner.