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Feature Article - May 2018
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Everyone's Welcome

The Latest Trends in Sports Facility Design

By Chris Gelbach

Budget-Conscious Benefits

When designing facilities on a budget, architects stress an emphasis on function and inclusion as ways to get the most bang for the buck. Larson, for instance, recommends against viewing lobbies as wasted space. "They're opportunities for people to casually associate with these facilities in a non-intimidating way," Larson said. So instead of cutting there, he recommends making the building as simple as possible by not spending any more money than necessary on structural elements.

This can also be the case with larger indoor facilities. Baker is working on another new project at Wilmington College that's an indoor running center that's a large-volume, pre-engineered metal building. "What we're doing is that at the entry and strategic parts of the building, we've spent a little money on architecture," Baker said. "You look at the building as a whole and invest appropriately with design elements, whether they are entry pieces, signage pieces, materials in one particular area to get your best bang for your buck from a design perspective." Baker sees this kind of strategic dressing up of larger barn-like facilities as a large trend across athletics to maximize functionality on a budget.

Sefton additionally recommends looking at buildings holistically. "How does it sit within its own building? How does it sit within a collection of buildings? How does it sit within the broader campus?" he said.

By answering those questions for Phillips Andover Academy, Perkins + Will is making the school's new sports facility one of the first net-zero facilities of its kind. The facility uses waste heat from the chiller plant of a nearby ice rink for heating that offsets the energy needed to heat the new building. The new facility also uses rooftop photovoltaic solar panels, a lot of natural lighting, LED lighting and other sustainable approaches to require only onsite resources to power the building. "Pushing energy around and thinking of these things as big systems is definitely the wave of the future," Sefton said.

Baker also recommends designs that maximize the use of natural light and ventilation whenever possible, including the use of operable windows and features like overhead rolling garage doors. "It's tough to make them a hermetically sealed box just because of the nature of the space with the sweat and moisture," he said. "Moving the air around also helps with the operational costs—you don't have to heat and cool the thing all the time."

As facilities move toward a growing emphasis on graphics and branding, these elements can also be approached in a budget-conscious way. In Texas, Klaus is doing this in stadiums used by multiple school districts by using programmable LED lighting. "So if they're home or away, the stadium is lit in the color of that school, so it becomes a wayfinding thing but also customizes the stadium to that school for that night," Klaus said.

When working with budget-conscious clients, Casai also recommends using colored banners in the ceiling instead of opting for an entire ceiling plane of finish material. "You can space them out and make it look happy and fun and cool, but it's a smarter way of using your dollars but still getting a finished look," she said.

And fun is the ultimate goal as school districts and universities look to make fitness and wellness a more inclusive endeavor. "A lot of people hear the word gym and think of sweat and odor and pain," Larson said. "So in these facilities, there's the opportunity to change this image so they're actually fun buildings to be in and hang out in. Not just someone's idea of a torture chamber—they're real places to be."