Ten Tips For Locker Rooms

For most patrons, using a recreation center locker room ranks somewhere between public speaking and skydiving on a list of things to avoid. Besides being an unpopular place to spend time, it is also one of the most expensive to construct, one of the most troublesome to maintain and one of the most difficult to renovate. With all of these challenges, it is a wonder that locker rooms haven’t been phased out along with group showers, but they are necessary, convenient and, if planned well, actually a positive experience for users.

Locker room use appears to have declined in recent years, which can be attributed to a trend toward more cubbies and backpack lockers within activity areas, or users simply having busier lives and less time to spend at the gym. Whatever the cause, it is clear that new locker space must be more specialized and better planned for comfort, convenience and efficiency.

By following 10 simple rules and understanding certain realities of this type of space, you can build a great locker room.

The Layout

In many cases, the locker room anchors the layout of other activities within the overall plan, either to directly access pool areas from showers by health code, or to ensure that changing areas are adjacent to other activity areas for convenience.

Visibility also is important. Clear views of the entry area by staff can offer a better sense of security and avoid many problems. The layout of the changing rooms should allow for clear circulation through the space to restroom and shower areas, but still offer screening of shower, drying and dressing areas.

Comfort

Comfort is usually a secondary concern in locker rooms, and is not improved by the institutional quality of most facilities. With the use of some basic techniques, even a simple community recreation center can feel like a private club.

Adequate seating areas and large, ample benches are simple ways to provide more useful space to dress. Or replacing the old linear benches with large, pedestal-style seating can provide a noticeable improvement.

Providing ample vanity counter space and drying areas near showers is another simple solution that is not costly, but adds a level of convenience that gives the impression of a more upscale facility. Combine this added area with warm, comfortable materials–wood benches and solid-surface counter tops–and a normally institutional space begins to feel like an upscale club.

The Smell

Even the cleanest, most well-maintained locker rooms occasionally suffer from unpleasant odors, and no amount of scented cleaning products can compensate for stagnant air and poor ventilation. Often, the cause of the odor is not the users of the space, but the mechanical and plumbing systems.

Designing systems to exceed code ventilation and fresh make-up air, and installing carbon dioxide sensors to detect a rise in occupants can have a significant impact on air quality.

Another suspect in the fight against odors can be floor drains. A direct conduit to the sewer system, floor drains seldom function as they are intended. Drains require a near-constant source of water to remain “primed,” and can begin to smell when they lose their seal, or dry out. One solution is to “trap-prime” a floor drain by routing a water line from sink or shower drains to the floor drain to provide a constant water source and ensure proper sealing. Even though maintenance requires floor drains, having too many increases the chance that some will malfunction.

Durability, Durability, Durability

Recreational buildings suffer from wear and tear unlike other building types. The real test is not on opening day, but after several years of use to prove whether the buildings stand the test of time. The challenge in locker room design is to employ materials that are comfortable as well as durable.

Floors are normally the first area of a facility that begins to show wear. Tile floors are probably the best solution for locker rooms if tile and grout colors are dark enough to mask dirt buildup, but tile can be costly. Poured seamless epoxy floors are more economical, but it is difficult to find good installers. The system has also been known to crack, the abrasive finish can be hard to perfect, and color selections are limited. Another possibility is the use of seamless rubberized surfaces with a small amount of non-slip additive.

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