In any building the role waterproofing plays should never be underestimated, but in modern sports stadia and facilities which can hold more than 100,000 spectators it is absolutely crucial. Many new stadia may now have retractable roofs but water can never be kept out completely, so how can these complex structures remain protected from the elements to ensure their longevity and guarantee the safety of spectators?

Water on a sports pitch is undesirable but water ingress in the structure itself has far greater consequences. Less than 5% of a typical construction budget is spent on waterproofing, yet as much as 90% of post-tenancy problems are attributable to water ingress. As seemingly minor imperfections lead to long term structural damage, it’s vital to get the waterproofing specification right first time.

Trusted by sports stadium architects, designers and contractors for over a quarter of a century, Grace Construction Products offers an expansive range of waterproofing systems which have been chosen to protect some of the world’s most famous and iconic sports stadia – from the Yankee Stadium in New York to the City of Manchester Stadium and Old Trafford in Manchester, England.

“Sports facilities have become extremely complex structures to waterproof,” said Neil Chapman, Regional Manager Northern UK and Scotland at Grace Construction Products. “With parts of the structure demanding specific waterproofing requirements – such as car parks, offices and even swimming pools located under pre-cast concrete seating areas – every element of the construction process must be carefully considered and a suitable waterproofing solution specified.”

“Across the North West of England we have completed a number of waterproofing applications which perfectly demonstrate our capabilities to meet the ever changing demands of modern sports facilities,” he adds. “And with each project presenting a unique challenge, it’s crucial that every waterproofing system is fit for purpose.”

Versatility and flexibility have proven key in many of Grace’s specifications. Offering a portfolio of products which meets virtually every demand, Grace installed a waterproofing system beneath the UK’s longest indoor skiing and snowboarding slope at Chill Factore, whilst the company’s membranes also met the challenging gas and water remediation requirements at the new Eastlands training facility for Manchester City Football Club.

From the substructure to the roof, and the structural steel to the engineering façade, high performance bonded systems from Grace have been proven to offer the highest levels of waterproofing protection at every type of sports facility. Specified to protect racetracks and indoor arenas to multi-use concert and sports facilities, the company’s products rise to the challenge and meet clients’ ever-changing demands.

In recent years the concept of the sports stadium has evolved considerably. Not only do these complex structures welcome thousands of spectators every time they host a high-profile sporting event, they often act as cultural and architectural icons and stand as exemplars of modern construction techniques and capabilities.

A sports facility’s waterproofing specification has never been more crucial than at one of the world’s most iconic venues – the new Wembley Stadium in London, England. As the first of a new generation of sports stadia, it offers state-of-the-art facilities which make it the most versatile stage for both major sporting and musical events.

With the structure’s design incorporating a ground bearing slab and the original specification calling for a self-adhesive waterproof membrane, Grace was required to provide a system which could be applied directly to the blinding concrete. Ground conditions also meant any future settlement of the soil beneath the slab could leave the membrane unsupported and not fit for purpose.

Due to the presence of high voltage electrical transformers and heating systems to power the stadium, a high grade waterproofing system was a necessity. Grace offered in-situ concrete contractor PC Harrington a comprehensive waterproofing system, comprising Technical Design Service, on-site technical support and a combination of its Preprufe waterproofing membrane and waterstops.

Grace’s full specification included Preprufe 300R pre-applied waterproofing membrane and Bituthene 4000 & 8000 self-adhesive water and vapour proof membrane. Using Preprufe waterproofing membrane enabled contractors to report up to 50% savings in installation times when compared to traditional systems – whilst also enabling work to resume quickly following inclement weather.

In addition to improving productivity on site and reducing the risk of membrane failure, the unique bond that Preprufe forms with the poured structure provides long term benefits to the client. Structural waterproofing at Wembley Stadium will remain unaffected by ground settlement for the lifetime of the structure and moisture will be prevented from migrating around the external face of the basement.

“Responsible for the installation of all concrete work at Wembley National Stadium, we understood that the client wanted delivery of the project safely, on time, to budget and with the quality that suits the greatest stadium in the world,” said PJ Harrington, Project Director at PC Harrington. “That’s why we chose to use Preprufe rather than other membranes.”

At the €410 million Aviva Stadium in Dublin, more than 8,000m2 of Grace’s Preprufe waterproofing membrane was chosen to ensure waterproof protection under the stands and beneath slabs in all the stadium’s habitable areas.

Utilising an advanced acrylic surface coating developed by Grace, the Preprufe membrane simplified the installation process by removing multiple layers and complicated detailing. Protective layers of concrete or boards were eliminated, reducing the depth of excavation and spoil and minimising materials required – all accelerating the critical path of the project to ensure it was delivered on time.

Grace completed the specification with 7,000m2 of Bituthene 8000 self-adhesive waterproofing membrane. Applied to the retaining walls around the stadium stands, the ultra-tough Bituthene membrane has been tested to withstand more than 70 metres head of water when fully supported, so will ensure the watertight continuity of Grace’s fully bonded waterproofing system.

As well as the Preprufe and Bituthene application to the main stadium areas set to host 51,700 spectators, Grace also provided waterproofing protection to the pedestrian underpass and access tunnel into the underground car park. The Aviva stadium welcomed a new era of stadium construction in Ireland by combining contemporary design elements with the versatility to host major sporting and music events.

For almost 50 years, owners, architects, engineers and contractors at many of the world’s most high-profile projects have turned to Grace for proven, high performance waterproofing solutions. From providing structural durability and maintaining modern stadia’ aesthetic appeal to waterproofing below-ground building components – Grace has the technology portfolio and expertise to bridge differences in construction practices, regulatory requirements and cultures.

Whatever the next generation of sports stadia looks like, it’s crucial that they receive the same levels of waterproofing protection to ensure they provide a warm and dry welcome for generations to come. The successful applications of Preprufe® at sports stadia and facilities worldwide perfectly demonstrates the importance of specifying a waterproofing membrane which is fit for purpose, economically and environmentally sustainable and delivers performance like no other system on the market.