The Facility Audit, Part 2

Despite the recession, there is a definite building boom in parks and recreation. Its reasons are multiple — whether based on demand, more creative ways of procuring funding or the need to update outdated facilities — but in this series we’re not concerned with the reasons, but with the means to the end.

This article is the second in a series regarding planning, designing, and building a new sport or recreational facility. The first, published in April, looked at the planning/design process and focused upon three critical steps to success: planning guidelines, the architect and the facility consultant.

This article will consider several key components of facility design (as they relate to operation and safety), including:

• Program space

• Circulation (traffic patterns)

• Surface materials

• Electrical and mechanical

• Ancillary spaces

• Storage

This article and following articles will also identify and describe several significant considerations regarding the legal aspects of facility design.

Program Space

Facilities are frequently labeled as single purpose or multipurpose. Single purpose facilities have a single activity space or venue. Such facilities might programmatically focus only on gymnastics (a gymnasium), dance (a studio), ice hockey (an arena), basketball (a court), swimming (a pool, usually with locker rooms), and so on.

Multipurpose facilities are just that, multiple activity or venue spaces. Organizations that can afford to build and maintain single purpose facilities are somewhat limited to those with outstanding or recognized programs. Otherwise, organizations will typically build facilities where the spaces can be utilized for a variety of programs.

The importance of single vs. multipurpose is really a matter of programmatic needs and anticipated outcomes. If an organization strives to provide quality programs offered in spaces that are both appropriately designed and safe for a variety of activities, they need to focus on planning that will achieve activity spaces that are functional, flexible and maintainable.


Facility circulation references a concept that begins with the access and egress to program spaces and considers the most effective and efficient people (and equipment) traffic patterns. There are absolutely no good reasons that in any newly designed facility users (staff and participants) find getting around from place to place difficult. Yet too often this becomes the case with improper planning.

Proper planning has professionals (architects and facility consultants) frequently utilizing bubble diagrams or schematics to consider space placement, adjacencies, access, and egress. Such a diagram serves to fully map out the facility circulation.

Properly determined access and egress manages facility and space availability, and establishes appropriate traffic patterns. These traffic patterns move people most effectively and efficiently to and from the spaces they are intended to use, and are essential outcomes of facility circulation planning.

Sawyer and Smith (1999) included the following examples in their list of facility circulation planning considerations:

• Locker and shower facilities need to be easily accessible to both indoor and outdoor activity venues.

• Shower facilities need to be located between wet areas such as a controlled access corridor to a pool, and dry areas like the locker area. And, between the showers and the locker area there needs to be a drying area.

• The placement of service, activity, instructional, and spectator areas should provide for efficient means of supervising those using the facilities.

• The size and placement of corridors, lobbies, stairs and doors, between related activity, instructional, and service areas needs to carefully considered to ensure efficient user movement.

• Spectator areas should be separated from activity space and the spectators should enter directly into the spectator spaces from outside or lobby without going through other activity or service areas.

Surface Materials

Surfaces: Interior (ceilings, walls, and floors) surfaces and exterior (roofs and walls) surfaces are significantly important to the quality of the facility and the ability of the facility to meet the intended needs.

Ceilings: Impact durability, acoustical properties, illumination refraction (sending diffused light back toward the floor), insular level, ease of maintenance, anti absorption qualities (for wet areas), and aesthetic characteristics.

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Related posts:

  1. The Facility Audit, Part 1
  2. Grounded In Safety
  3. Play By The Rules
  4. Parks & Hypergrowth, Part 1
  5. Giant Miniature, Part II
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