Feature Article - May 2015
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Finding Synergy

Collaborating & Combining Functions in Multipurpose Designs

By Rick Dandes


As they grow up, youths from 9 years old to teenagers like adventurous opportunities like rope swings or climbing walls that start in the water, where you pull yourself out of the water. "There is a perceived element of risk, but the wall leans towards the water, so that if a kid falls off it is into an appropriate depth of water."

For adults and active agers, consider providing an area for low-impact water aerobics. Active agers, Blackburn said, also prefer warmer water and their fitness regimen might include resistance walking. "Technology is also helping active agers with hearing difficulties," he added. "There are Bluetooth hearing aids that allow an instructors to speak in a normal voice in a microphone, through a Bluetooth device so seniors can hear her clearly."

In locker rooms, family changing rooms are trending. Picture a father going to an aquatic center with his daughter, who is 7. She is too young to go to the women's locker by herself, and a bit too old for the men's locker room. So designers have created the family changing room, a modern comprehensive cabana with everything a young family would need: showers, toilet, lavatory, hooks on the wall, a child seat for infants. "Family changing rooms are having a worldwide impact," Blackburn said.

Technology in Design: Be Careful

Computer experts say that every 18 months you are cycling through a new IT planning horizon. So, when you think about buildings, where your planning horizon is 20 to 40 years, the key, from a facilities standpoint, is to accommodate what's going on technologically today, said Andrew Barnard, principal, president Sink Combs Dethlefs Architects, of Denver. But don't get overly focused, and make sure that whatever you are doing, whether it is architecture or IT infrastructure, make sure you are forward-thinking and building in the flexibility that you'll need.

"As designers, we always used to be so concerned about conduits and providing pathways to get infrastructure into rooms or around rooms," Barnard said. "Now, everything is wireless, so we have 10-year-old buildings with all these conduits when we tried to plan for the future and now the future doesn't require conduits. But maybe they'll be valuable for some other level of technology that comes in the future. Nobody has a crystal ball, so one thing we always stress is to make sure that you're not doing things that are unadaptable in the future."

Design Challenges and Solutions

Sink Combs Dethlefs Architects had an interesting challenge in Winter Park, Colo., which is a resort district. The goal for the Grand Park Recreation Center, Barnard said, was to fulfill the community needs, like meeting rooms, fitness and wellness areas, aquatics, gymnasium space and a gymnastic area, and also be able to make it incredibly popular for tourists and the resort community.

"We focused on the aquatics environment to drive business," he said. "The idea was to invite people through the door, and once through the door get them to experience these other pieces of the facility, whether open gym or meeting rooms. Because, ultimately, it is the tourist dollar that helps fund the building and its day-to-day operations. That was a pretty cool project for a smaller community."

Meanwhile, BKSK recently completed the Convent of the Sacred Heart's Athletics and Wellness Center in New York City. An independent girl's school that serves students pre-K through 12th grade, Sacred Heart's academics are housed in a former mansion on Fifth Avenue, which did not have its own athletic facilities. For years, students were reliant on rental spaces and city facilities to support their competitive sports programs and gym classes.

The new 53,000-square-foot center features a competition-sized six-lane swimming pool, a NCAA regulation-sized volleyball and basketball court, a dance studio, a cardio and weight room, and several multipurpose rooms, with space for regulation-sized fencing pistes. The project has applied for LEED certification at the Gold level.

"As the school had never owned and operated a fitness building previously, the project team was challenged to design a building that not only served its core constituents, the school's female students, but also could be flexible enough to welcome and serve the broader community, which was initially undefined," Nelson said.