Feature Article - March 2016
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Lock it Up

Locker Room Design Trends

By Rick Dandes

What's Right for Your Clientele?

If you have a wellness facility that has a wellness pool with therapy water, all you might need are cabanas, or family-style designs. "Because those wellness classes tend to be smaller; they tend to be people with mobility issues, who will take advantage of the cabana-type space, or they have an assistant who would like to help them," Bouck said.

The number of people moving through the locker room at a wellness center usually works with the cabana, or family-style stalls. There isn't a big group of people moving quickly through the area, so you can get away with the cabana-only option. The exact number would be determined by the class size.

If you have a leisure-only facility, no competitive swimming teams coming or meets, you have more choices. You can do the all-cabana option or you can do a mix, what's called a blended locker area. Some communities are not ready for the all-cabana option—it's too big a change. Depending on throughput—if it is a drop-in facility, the all-cabana option can be great. If you are going to have big classes there, you may want to do more of a blend so that you can get more people through the traditional men's and women's locker room and still have cabanas.

If your facility has a lap-swimming component, Bouck said, and you play host to swim meets, you have two options: One, you can do what is now traditional, men's women's and cabana combined and you appropriately size it based on your user need. Two, you provide a very big cabana, where 80 to 90 percent of the locker room is all-cabana, called wet cabanas with sinks and shower and toilets, and 10 to 20 percent are dry cabanas, meaning that you really just need to get in and out.

Bouck has a hint for those centers with lap pools that are not always occupied. "You might have eight lanes, but only eight people in them. When a team shows up, the facility is full. If you build a big locker room it's not cost-effective. What we have been experimenting with is, we build men's and women's locker rooms adjacent to this cabana space but, those are only open during those peak times. When the teams show up or when the meet happens, those rooms get opened up, get used and then cleaned and get shut down again."

It's like a relief valve, he said. It makes it easier to supervise, because now you can control and maintain one big locker room, the cabana space. But you are never caught short-handed. You can always use the release valve if you need to get more people through your facility. People will still use the cabanas first, but if they don't want to wait or if it is crowded, they can go into the other spaces.

Living in a Material World

There are several new products in the marketplace that are competing with traditional metal lockers, Bouck said, "… but I've been doing this for more than 20 years in hundreds of facilities, and I've yet to have to use metal lockers. It is one of the choices, but it hasn't made it into any of the facilities I've worked on."

Agreeing with Bouck is Keane. "We very rarely use metal lockers anymore," he said, "unless our client specifically asks for it."

In fact, added Bob Martin, president of an Ontario, Calif.-based locker manufacturer, "there are a number of choices of materials: synthetic plastics, specially treated particle boards and laminates, and phenolic lockers, the material of choice when a high degree of design flexibility is desired or where durability and strength are required."

Phenolic lockers are fabricated to stand the test of time. The dense components, combined with stainless steel brackets and fasteners, stand up to the most extreme conditions of moisture and humidity. So, if you want a locker in your facility that is impact-, water- and corrosion-resistant, and does not support bacteria, phenolic is the answer.

The first question you should ask is what look you are trying to achieve, Martin suggested. What is the aesthetic experience you would like your users to have? That doesn't necessarily dictate a material, but it helps you narrow things down. If you want a warm feel, you might like the look of wood.

The next question is, what is your expectation for maintenance? And what is your expectation for durability? A private club can charge their members to replace worn lockers. They may even choose real wood, which you see in some golf clubs. Other options provide the look of wood without its drawbacks and expense.

The message, Bouck said, is to educate yourself on the variety that is available, but approach it from what you want your user's experience to be? What is your initial budget and your long-term commitment to maintaining these things? And what is the life-cycle cost of each of these choices? Nail those down first, and then see which of the options fit with the criteria that you have. This is a wonderful way to approach things. Because you are not locking yourself into one particular brand, one particular material, you will find the right one for your facility.