Feature Article - March 2019
Find a printable version here

Creature Comforts

Ever-Evolving Locker Room Design

By Dave Ramont

Patron Comfort

There are many amenities to consider that offer comfort and functionality—everything from shower seats and locker benches to grab bars, mirrors and soap dispensers. Hand dryers are now high-speed and energy-efficient, while swimsuit spin dryers can extract 95 percent of water in a matter of seconds, no heat involved.

Many facilities have embraced water-saving measures, including low-flow fixtures and touchless faucets. Armstrong said they've found great success with reducing water through these means. "As sustainable design is becoming more of the norm than an outlier, they are becoming more prevalent in our designs."

Waterless urinals are also being utilized, with manufacturers telling us that one can save 20,000 to 45,000 gallons of water a year. But they do require training to maintain them properly, and Armstrong said they create a significant challenge in high-occupancy facilities. "They require a fair amount of monitoring and cartridge replacement if there's a high amount of use."

Larson said they're also utilizing these technologies more and more. "They are more complex devices so there will be more maintenance, so it's a personal priority for the owner. If you look at minimizing germ transfer, it is nice not to have to touch things."

Dual-flush toilets, prevalent in Europe, are another growing trend. "That's one thing we're starting to slowly introduce here, but otherwise everything has gone low-flow, low-flush; that's standard now in everything we do," said Kocher.

Light selection is another important consideration, and proper lighting should create ambience. Indirect lighting is optimal for circulation or gathering, while lights above lockers or side-lighting at dry vanities is helpful for accomplishing tasks. Certain lights are listed for damp and wet locations. "There has been a revolution with LED lighting," Larson said. "You can provide a very bright and clean environment with minimized energy consumption and heat contribution."

Recreation vs. Sport

So what might some differences be when designing locker rooms for recreation or fitness centers versus sports facilities? Armstrong said the primary differences lie in the space around the lockers, since significantly more room is sometimes required in sports facilities, such as a football game halftime. "This is an environment where you have a large number of players within a concentrated space for a condensed period of time. Good flow, access and grouping of players is essential to make these spaces effective for the players."

Other differences are present in terms of materials, graphics and physical locker sizes, according to Armstrong. "Sports facilities are typically focused to a specific set of athletes or user-groups; thus the accommodations in the locker spaces are provided according to those needs. Recreation and fitness center locker rooms are more commonly geared toward the general public and are reflective of that use."

Kocher explained that for many years, Division l schools have ramped up the "wow" factor to compete for student athletes, and this includes the locker rooms. Amenities like pristine lockers, lounges, flat screens and other technology, saunas and even barber shops are commonplace. "From a trend standpoint, we're seeing that come all the way down the scale of schools; it's starting to trickle down to Division II and Division III athletics."

Which brings us back to the idea that locker rooms are taking on a more spa-like feel. Even basic facilities are more commonly offering amenities like streaming music, TVs and workstations, towels and washcloths, razors and shaving cream, mouthwash, combs, hair spray and lotion. More upscale facilities might offer robes, flip-flops, magazines, heated floors and benches, frozen lavender washcloths or eucalyptus-infused towels. There may be whirlpools, tanning beds and steam rooms.

All our contributors are involved with renovating and modernizing existing locker room facilities. Armstrong said they relish those projects because they learn from the experiences of the facility operators and, in turn, they can offer options the operators hadn't considered. "The rewarding part for us is that it helps us up our game as we can take the lessons learned from that user and provide that solution on the next project, where we are consistently evolving the design of our locker room facilities."