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Facility Profile - January 2009

A Health & Wellness Sanctuary

ACAC Downtown in Charlottesville, Va.

By Christine O'Neal Thalwitz


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CAC Fitness & Wellness Centers are unique in the health club industry, both operationally and structurally. While many gyms cater to individuals who are already fit, ACAC's primary mission is to reach out to inactive adults and their families. Senior and medically-based programming is also a priority.

With a vision of creating a sanctuary for health and wellness, ACAC's team of architects, facility managers and senior leaders began planning a new club in downtown Charlottesville, Va., in 2004. They gave primary consideration to how the building's design could inspire individuals to become more active. Some of the biggest barriers to exercise are feeling uncomfortable in an exercise environment, losing motivation and lacking social support. The team at ACAC believed that these obstacles could be overcome, at least in part, by thoughtful facility design.

"In addition to traditional fitness amenities, ACAC facilities combine health and wellness services, including physical therapy, mind-body programs and medical care," said Dave McCorkle, facilities and project manager for ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers. "We want to provide a comfortable, beautiful and inviting environment for all of these populations."

According to McCorkle, planners gave careful thought to the emotional architecture of the club. The presence of natural elements, such as sunlight, plants and water, throughout the facility provides emotional, aesthetic and environmental benefits. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the foyer, fitness area and aquatics center offer expansive views and invite the outdoors into the building. The abundance of natural light boosts energy and enhances mood. Upon entering the sunny foyer, members feel uplifted and energized for their workouts.

Plants are plentiful throughout the building. They add color and life to spaces that might otherwise seem barren. In addition to providing pleasant scenery, lush greenery improves indoor air by decreasing airborne molds, reducing dust and toxins and increasing humidity. Some studies have even shown that plants lower stress levels and decrease blood pressure. Stress reduction seems not only possible but probable as members move about these verdant spaces.

Creative water features give members a mental lift. The waterfall garden outside the mind-body studio appeals to the eyes and ears and promotes relaxation. The rooftop oasis with its tranquil vanishing edge pool and scenic mountain views is the perfect retreat from the pressures of daily life. These water elements create soothing spaces within the busy club setting.

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