Feature Article - May 2011
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Suit Yourself

Locker Rooms to Fit Your Facility

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Gym or fitness center: The latest trend in these sorts of spaces is less reliance on the locker room. Many people come to work out already dressed, and then they shower at home, so they can get by with just a safe spot to stash their stuff. Known as "express lockers" or "cubbies," these smaller, easy-access spaces can be tucked into an open section of wall right on the weight room floor, near the track, or in an aerobics room or the lobby. Depending on the situation they may be open slots for shoes and a duffle bag or smaller lockers that can be closed to contain keys, phones and purses. This can even be done at poolside, Springs noted. Patrons can put their shorts and towel in a cubby on the deck for convenient safekeeping while they swim. "This is also a good tactic if you're getting complaints about your locker space," he added. "You can serve [visitors] outside the locker room."

Family focus: "This is an example of an area that didn't used to be a code requirement but is now," Houston said. Providing family changing areas or locker rooms—also known as cabanas—has long made good design sense and been a great way to please your users, but it could also be a legal obligation, depending on your local laws.

"It feels good to visit [these kinds of] facilities," Hayes said. "And special needs users can also take advantage of them." Not only do these cabana-style changing areas allow an opposite-sex parent to care for their child without impacting others' privacy, they allow a special needs user to work with an assistant of the opposite sex, such as a spouse.

The best sorts of family changing areas usually include a toilet, sink and shower, plus perhaps some hooks, a bench and a diaper-changing table—all contained behind a closeable door (which is great for both privacy and child containment!). Houston has even installed iPod docks and stationary toys to entertain a baby or toddler while the adult gets dressed. And rather than placing lockers within this small space, consider having several changing rooms open into a common room or hallway lined with lockers. The trick is to keep these family areas small enough that they don't become space hogs, yet still have all parts you need—including room to maneuver.

The pros point out that these family areas should be accessible via an entrance separate from gender-specific locker rooms, and they should include their own access to the pool or other activity area.