Feature Article - May/June 2004
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Clean Sweep

Patron-pleasing plans for restrooms and locker rooms

By Kelli Anderson

Know who's who

Knowing your base and anticipating the need before designing a restroom or locker room space will also prevent a lot of headaches, both for the patron and the manager. Assess the peak periods of activity such as at special events, and plan enough stalls or urinals accordingly. Know if your clientele tends to be mostly collegiate, adults or families with children.

Often, college clients, for example, don't bother with lockers and providing cubbies in workout areas suits their needs best. Families with children now appreciate and expect family changing areas off of locker room spaces where they can handle the privacy needs of both male and female together. And where there are large groups of children for classes like swimming, half-lockers are ideal. Adults, on the other hand, typically expect a more service-oriented space with full accompaniment of lockers and range of services.

In all cases, providing extra-wide corridors, double-wide doors and door-less entries will make entering and navigating these spaces more comfortable for the able-bodied as well as those with mobility devices, children or children in strollers. Everyone wins.

Family spaces

One group of clients that continues to enjoy increasing trend-attention is the family. Family changing areas remain hot as the recreation industry vies for their entertainment dollars. Privacy design in locker rooms is on the increase in general but is particularly noticeable in the family changing area where parents and guardians find the privacy of these spaces a welcome change to the awkwardness formerly experienced in adult changing areas. These spaces, if designed well, can take up minimal square footage and provide an efficient, patron-pleasing use of space.

"We need to have family-friendly spaces," says Allan Wilson, director of building services at the University of Denver. "If you're going to welcome families into a building, it doesn't make sense to not offer family changing areas."

In the University's recreation center, two family changing areas that accommodate up to 20 families each were built with a central locker space and changing rooms off to the sides.

Family changing areas can house a simple changing space for four to five people with obligatory baby-changing station (now a must-feature in all restrooms and locker rooms, male and female, where children are permitted) as well as include toilets, sinks, mirrors and showers.

Even in restrooms, sinks are now being introduced with dual heights for child-friendly reach and that also accommodate wheelchairs. Also popular among children—although not designed necessarily with children in mind—is the newer foam soap dispensers. Children love the texture and are more enticed to wash, while facility managers love the cost savings from a product that takes less to use, and maintenance staff love the reduced mess from a product that does not leave sticky puddles.

Where children are going to be present, sturdy design is also critical. For example, partitions—occasionally mistaken by children as playground equipment—that are only supported from the ceiling can be more easily pulled loose than those partitions supported from the floor.