Feature Article - May 2010
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Behind the Scenes

Recreational Locker Rooms, Restrooms More Refined

By Kellye Whitney

Aside from parents, the elderly and the shy or sensitive, he said those who are in sports therapy also enjoy the cabanas for physical training or rehabilitation program use.

"The combination of all of those really has opened up a lot more program opportunity, and also a better feeling of accessibility to more members of the community," Bouck explained. "And, it's really changed the way the natatorium, in particular, is being utilized and being looked at from a revenue-generating and a community-service point of view."

Bouck said that having more options for facility use and broader patron appeal also brings greater opportunities for education. Certainly, designers are more focused on the finishes patrons see. He said they likely know not to put plastic laminate on the countertops and to put the sinks in an undermount position, in order to eliminate the constant maintenance of cut joints and to make them easier to clean.

Still, mistakes can and do happen.

"There's still this belief that if you can't see it then it's probably fine. People focus on the kind of tile, the color of the paint and the countertop surfaces, but one of the most significant areas where we see degradation pretty quickly is in the construction of the shower rooms," he said. "Unfortunately, there's still people building with metal studs and putting in drop ceilings in moist environments and things like that."

He said that if facility owners and managers really are interested in doing something sustainable, they must think through how all the surfaces work together. For instance, they should imagine how ceramic tiles will be sprayed down by maintenance staff with varying levels of sensitivity. How durable will they be under the rigors of daily cleaning? That level of attention and detail should extend all the way down to the type of soap offered.

"You have to sort of make them bomb proof," Bouck explained. "Think of not only the finished surface material, but the structure behind them, and don't forget that kids still love to throw gobs of soap on the ceiling and wet paper towels everywhere. It's just a part of what these buildings are about, but they can definitely be done in an attractive way that doesn't have to feel institutional. It's just a matter of attitude and creativity when using more industrial materials."

McKenna agrees. "Sustainable materials aren't really a trend anymore," she said. "Size, shape, durability and comfort level is starting to drive the majority of the changes that I see on the functional side of it."

However, the patrons must remain at the center of the conversation, as their experience while using a facility is the most important factor.