FITNESS DESIGN & PLANNING
FITNESS FACILITY DESIGN
With current trends towards the greening of the leisure / gym industry it seems like a logical step to include gym / leisure centers as environmental models for sustainable design and operations. After all, these two sectors share a common thread – achieving optimal health, be it personal or environmental. It seems ironic to think that fitness centers of the past, created to support health and well being, could have adversely affected both its inhabitants and the environment. With proper planning, design, and operations your gym / leisure center can achieve the stewardship needed to be at the forefront of an ever-important shift to the incorporation of green practices within the fitness industry.
Green design is fairly new in the fitness industry. Currently, there are only a handful of green fitness centers. Unfortunately, since there is no standard for green gyms outside of LEED certification, most of these centers have adopted only a few of the many different environmental elements that go into green gym design. From the sustainable environment angle, designing fitness centers with elements such as recycled flooring makes perfect sense however the process need not stop there. Green gym design is a much broader subject that involves not only incorporating environmentally friendly products but also creating an environment that fosters the promotion of healthy living.
Gym / Leisure centers offer a unique challenge in relationship to fostering sustainable design and operations. By their very nature they seem counter-productive – leisure centers use energy, deplete resources, and generate heat via exercise only to be lost in the surrounding environment as wasted energy (although there have been a few case studies associated with harnessing energy created via exercise there has not yet been a cost effective solution). The mere act of exercising creates challenges in designing a green facility – heat generated from exercising raises the room temperature, sweat either evaporates into the air increasing humidity levels or falls onto the ground and equipment leading to cleaning issues as well as unpleasant odors, and noise levels become an issue from audio/visual systems and equipment both within the fitness center as well as the surrounding areas. With proper planning beginning at the design phase and carrying over into operations these factors can be addressed and your gym / leisure center can become a healthy workout “environment.”
The first step in the design phase of the green gym / leisure center is to determine facility size. The practice of green design is to develop the smallest footprint necessary to support the intended purpose. The smaller the facilities size the, 1) less amount of material is needed in the construction, 2) fewer pieces of exercise equipment are needed to fill the space, and, 3) the smaller the interior space available to either heat or cool. Properly identifying the demographics related to your facility size will aid in this process.
The next step, and one of the most crucial design decisions for green gyms, involves developing an efficient HVAC system based on the room size. As mentioned before, the gym / leisure centers offer a unique challenge in controlling the internal environment – more specifically the temperature, humidity, and air circulation. Not only is heat generated by exercising, cardiovascular equipment use, and lighting but the byproducts of exercising, mainly CO2 production and sweat released as water vapor, create an environment that requires additional air exchanges. The American College of Sports Medicine, a professional organization consisting of individuals involved in sports medicine has created a set of standards to be used as guidelines for gym / leisure centers, which is 68-72 degree Fahrenheit room temperature with less that 60% humidity and 8-12% air circulation. With proper planning, design elements incorporating passive systems such as natural ventilation, window placement, glazing, etc., combined with an efficient active system, HVAC electrical demand can be drastically reduced while still maintaining a healthy environment.
Lighting is another important design element to incorporate into the planning stages of the interior space. In green design it is important to incorporate as much natural lighting within the fitness center as possible. Not only does natural lighting provide individuals using the fitness center a connection to the outdoor environment but also it can significantly reduce the amount of energy required for interior lighting. The fitness/gym center should have some sort of window view directly in sight with the cardiovascular equipment. Depending on the window location and the hemisphere the hotel is located in, special features such as window blinds or special gazing might need to be incorporated to keep the glare to a minimum and to block out unwanted internal solar heat gains. This, in combination with lighting control systems, such as motion sensors, and high efficiency bulbs can result in lowering operating costs while providing your guests with an outdoor connection.
The interior green design elements chosen for the gym / leisure center are no different than other rooms. All elements used, such as paints and finishes, should be low VOC. Other elements, such as the flooring, should be carefully researched to determine lifecycle costs and function within the space. This is especially useful for the fitness center where floor coverings must hold up to the wear and tear associated with exercise while still being able to be easily maintained. This is one of the few areas current green gyms focus on. There are a number of products, such as rapidly renewable bamboo wood flooring or recycled rubber flooring, that are easy to clean and are currently being incorporated in gyms. Carpet tiles made from low VOC products that can be easily replaced can be incorporated in areas of the fitness center that are not prone to excessive sweating such as the entryway, walkway, and free weight areas.
FITNESS EQUIPMENT SOLUTION
Although the fitness industry has made advancements over the past years in terms of equipment and electrical demands there has not been a major green movement in terms of equipment manufacturing. The majority of the cardiovascular equipment is now self-powered eliminating the need for electrical power. The one exception is the treadmill, however current models are being sold using 30% less power than traditional treadmills. Buying commercial grade equipment assures a longer lifecycle in terms of holding up to the wear and tear of the workout environment. All being equal among the top manufacturers choose the equipment built closest to your region thus lowering the embodied energy of the product by reducing the transportation costs.
One last design obstacle to consider in relationship to the green fitness center is controlling the noise levels. Noise; be it from music, televisions, or equipment usage, may affect your guest’s workout experience or even the surrounding room occupants. This is especially problematic in terms of treadmill noise from the motor and reverberation of running stride on the belt/deck system. Proper planning of room acoustics, floor support, and insulation are important considerations in the design phase. Also, a proper personal audio/visual system in the fitness center, be it personal screens or some type of cardio-theater system that eliminated the television audio will create a much more quiet, peaceful workout environment for your guests.
Green gym design does not end at the design phase. The operational phase plays just as important of a role. Although energy efficient ideas were incorporated in the design specific procedures should be developed to assure the fitness center operates in an environmentally friendly, efficient manor. The major component in this phase involves implementing a detailed cleaning/maintenance schedule.
There are a number of benefits to maintaining a clean fitness facility. First and foremost it creates a healthy environment for your guests. Gyms are breeding grounds for bacteria because of the higher temperatures, moisture in the air, and the fact that they are high traffic areas. Proper cleaning will keep the facility smelling fresh and will decrease the risk of spreading any type of illness. In addition, a proper cleaning schedule will extend the life of your equipment and design elements. When choosing cleaning materials make sure they are low in VOC’s and lack strong scents that might affect your guests. Also, daily spot cleaning as well as once a day heavy cleaning after fitness center hours is a must to maintain a clean facility.
In addition to cleaning, equipment preventative maintenance is another important factor in green gyms. Preventative maintenance not only limits liability from faulty equipment but also extends the equipment lifecycle. Each equipment manufacturer has a set maintenance schedule divided into daily, weekly, monthly, semi-yearly, and yearly tasks. Properly educating the housecleaning staff and maintenance staff in combination with hiring a reputable fitness equipment tech company will not only extend equipment life but will maintain the appearance of new equipment.
Your clients will benefit from green design. By developing a green gym / leisure center you are not only acting as stewards for the green movement but are creating a healthy environment for your clients and, by a product of both, are increasing business for your gym facility. Promote the fact that you offer a green fitness facility. With the proper planning and implementation your gym / leisure center can be at the forefront of the green movement.
With a team with over 60 years’ experience in the fitness industry we know what makes a great gym. Not to mention which piece of equipment is right for you. And, because we cover all UK in Ireland we there any time you need us. Plus, because we’re not tied to any one supplier, you can be sure that the kit we recommend is recommended because it’s right for you, not because it meets a contractual quota.
We work with some of the best manufacturers around the world, not just in fitness equipment, but also in fitness furniture, club management software, sales and marketing, and fitness club flooring. And, because we’ve worked in the industry ourselves, our team has the expertise to deliver some of the best product training around.
When it comes to planning and design, we use the latest 2D and 3D CAD layout technology, so you get a real feel of how things will be. Plus, our design team can advise on all the latest legislation and regulations, from layout requirements to Disability Discrimination.
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