Feature Article - November 2006
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Magnificently Multipurpose

Managing all-around facilities

By Kelli Anderson

Speaker of the house

Designing the multipurpose space with sound in mind also means having to consider the sound system.

"We see a lot of sound systems going in cabinets in the front of the room," Keane said. "Wireless microphone systems so an instructor is free to move around and transmit are pretty common, and speakers are typically in front of the room or in the ceiling to disperse the sound."

When it comes to designing a sound system, Blackstone's is one for the textbooks. Their 11,000-square-foot gymnasium, named the Competition Center, not only had to meet the high standards of competitive sports play, but also had to be the ideal venue to host regional and national events such as training seminars, Lego team competitions, robotic challenges, fashion shows, public speaking events and more.

"We have speakers in the ceiling to take care of audio," Jackman said. "We have five different arrangements for sound. One for the large room, and when divided up into smaller areas, we have sound broken up into zones so we can separate by different configurations with separate mics in each zone."

The result is that music can be enjoyed without distortion, and the same level of sound is experienced throughout the space, whether divided into smaller rooms for multiple meetings or left open for larger events.

Lighting the way

Breaking a space into its zones of activity not only allows sound systems to be fine-tuned to specific needs, it also helps determine the different lighting solutions.

For example, stage lighting with colored lights or gel lights may be needed at the performance-end of a space. Natural light might be great for overall play, while incandescent is best for setting a warmer tone, and fluorescent can be great for flood lighting. Many lighting solutions are not "either/or" but "and." Mix and match to get the best solution for your space.

"Gyms for competition play require high levels of light with no shadows," Grundstrom said. "But they give a color and intensity not suitable for seminars. You can control lighting with dimmers or through strategic switching. If you have 30 fixtures, zone them. In a divided gym, zone them so that half can be fully on and half can be fully off when you're only using one side of the gym."

Incandescent and fluorescent lights can be mixed and zoned to meet the needs of both athletic and non-athletic activities in the same space. Different lights, different moods. Dimming incandescent lights will also create a different mood ideally suited for low-key activities like yoga.

Another great cost-saving measure is the use of natural light. Be sure that windows are not designed to allow direct sunlight to flood the space and blind its users.

A north-facing window or the use of translucent window material can prevent any problems with glare.