Five Design Essentials of the Well-Planned Locker Room
By Valerie Bonney
In today's competitive market, a well-appointed locker room makes all the difference in attracting and keeping members and patrons. Whether the locker room space is within a gym, athletic or country club, school or university, enhancing its condition and functionality through good design can help create a better overall experience for users, while achieving operational efficiencies for the facility.
The primary goals of a well-planned floor design is to provide the utmost space utilization while promoting efficient traffic flow, comfortable personal space and high usability. Integrating a central circulation path in the layout should allow adequate room for two people to walk side-by-side. Providing users dry locker spaces that are easy to access, while being semi-private, is ideal, as is situating private or semi-private changing areas in both wet and dry areas.
Traffic patterns also benefit by keeping the wet and dry vanity areas, showers and restrooms in a somewhat close and central location to help minimize dripping water that can cause slips and falls.
It's also important to ensure an unobstructed path to a lit emergency exit door for all patrons, while incorporating Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, such as earmarking 48 inches of space around accessible lockers. Locker manufacturers can provide customized floor plans that take into account space, locker size and configuration, and design requirements.
Durable Locker Materials
Since lockers are the centerpieces of any locker room, the look and durability of the locker material is extremely important. Gone are the days of smelly, dented and rusted-out metal lockers. Solid plastic lockers are a much more durable solution because they will not rust, dent or delaminate, and are ideal for humid or wet environments. Maintenance staff can easily wipe away dirt and graffiti with everyday cleaners. They are also available in a range of shades beyond bland gray or taupe, and can be customized to various specifications and industries.
In addition, plastic lockers foster a quieter user experience, as they don't slam loudly like metal. Also, plastic typically includes recycled content—in some cases 100 percent post-consumer recycled material—and therefore is better for the environment.
Aside from appearance, upkeep and sustainability, there is also a cost difference between plastic and metal lockers. Although plastic lockers have a higher initial cost, over the long run they have a longer lifecycle and are more cost-effective than metal since they don't need painting, door replacement or other maintenance that requires downtime and costs.
Locker Customization Enhances Usage
An analysis of facility needs and requirements—and demographic preferences—should also be considered when selecting lockers and accessories. Locker units come in a variety of sizes that address all types of storage needs. For locked storage, there are several space-saving alternatives to the traditional full-height locker. Oversized models hold bulky athletic gear while cubby lockers or locker baskets are effective for open storage of supplies and sports equipment. The space under locker benches can be maximized with built-in lockers below for extra storage.
Stacked lockers, such as "Z" lockers, are designed to give each opening additional height on one side, allowing more hanging space for jackets and other clothing, which helps prevent users' belongings from getting mashed and wrinkled. The "Z" design offers an efficient way to achieve multi-tiered storage.
Another consideration is the total number of lockers needed and the different levels or tiers of lockers that can be combined to meet this need. The type of door is another feature to consider. Mesh locker doors are a popular choice for schools, as the open-concept doors prevent odor build-up inside lockers.
Lockers also come with a variety of customization features that complement individual locker room spaces. Options for design, color, accessories and locks address facility and clientele needs, traffic patterns and the room's overall aesthetic.
An Enlightened Space
Good lighting is an important design element that creates ambience as well as an illuminated locker room experience. Lighting placed above lockers or indirect lighting can create a welcoming atmosphere. Using side lighting at the dry vanities promotes a spa-like experience, and aids in the process of grooming, shaving and applying makeup. Fixture selection that ties into the space's aesthetic is also key.
Speaking of grooming areas, amenities like lit magnifying mirrors, outlets for electric shavers, hair appliances and cell phone chargers are now the standard. Guests also appreciate locker room staples and conveniences, such as wall-mounted swimsuit water extractors, state-of-the-art scales, shelving, touchless fixtures such as faucets, and hand and hair dryers.
Cleanliness Speaks Volumes
A consistently cleaned, sanitized and well-maintained locker room, shower area and restroom will go a long way toward impressing clientele, encouraging them to utilize the facility and recommend it to others. Keeping floors, countertops and restroom surfaces clean and dry will help to avoid slips, germy touch zones and unhappy patrons.
Also, airflow must be able to pull the wet, moist and humid air from the area. Upgrading HVAC systems to address these conditions may be necessary to provide comfort for users and preserve materials and finishes in the dry areas.
In all, locker room areas deserve just as much consideration and attention as lobbies and other public-facing spaces. To that end, facility owners and managers have many cost-effective locker room design options, which can be customized based on each facility's needs. Creating and maintaining an exceptional locker room that focuses on the aforementioned design principles is a smart business strategy and excellent long-term investment.