Feature Article - March 2020
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Get Smart

Locker Rooms in the New Decade

By Rick Dandes

Going the Extra Mile

To take a locker room to the next level, Boyer said, there must be attention to design detail and a variety of amenities offered. "Facility managers will decide what level to achieve," she said. "For instance, some consider providing towels as a basic service, whereas others consider towels to be a premium service. Another example is hairdryers; some may choose to provide an outlet for a bring-your-own approach, others may choose to provide a wall-mounted hotel-style hair dryer."

A variety of locker sizes ensures that diverse needs are met, Boyer continued. The size consideration should also evaluate the items being stored, such as heavy winter coats. There are multiple materials available in addition to metal, such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and highly durable phenolic.

Power outlets in logical locations for handheld appliances, such as at grooming counters, are required amenities. You can never have enough outlets. Especially in the past few years, you want to provide power outlets not only for hair, shaving and makeup equipment, but also for charging smart phones.

"Space planning should be efficient, yet reasonably and comfortably beyond code minimums," Boyer said. "Showers, for instance, can be as small as 3-by-3 feet at a non-accessible stall, but a few more inches in each direction is more comfortable and accommodates people of size. Appropriately located shelves and grooming counters accommodate toiletries."

Locker rooms serving aquatic facilities have additional considerations. Showers near the entry to the pool should be provided for pre- and post-swim showering, Boyer said. Swimsuit extractors, which extrapolate water from suits and towels, are a must. Additional floor drains along the pathway from the pool are necessary to control wet and potentially slippery floors. Create a clear delineation between wet and dry areas through the use of appropriate materials while providing a comfortable distinction between functions.

If families will be using a locker room, Boyer noted, diaper changing stations should be strategically located. Providing at least one larger room with a toilet stall, sink, shower and changing space is advisable.

Universal changing rooms serve as an ideal location for families, Boyer said. Inclusive facilities accommodate all people equitably. It is worth considering additional needs beyond code minimum for differently-abled persons. For example, providing 42-inch (in lieu of 36-inch) wide doors simplifies power-operated wheelchairs moving through a doorway. Providing power-assisted door openers at locker room doors also assists circulation. Gender-neutral showers and changing address the needs of a diverse population.

Community locker rooms are different from the campus locker rooms and will differ even more from an athletic-focused locker room, Gabel said. "You need to know your users. Community locker rooms are going to have more of that family changing space that has evolved over the last 10 years. Even campus recreation centers now have unisex or family locker room components in them. Usually there will be separate male, female and family locker room in a campus recreation facility. Ten, 20 years ago you didn't see that. Those are things we would discuss with the client, making sure that is accommodated for."

Family spaces can be small or fairly big in size, he said. There have been a few campus recreation centers where you might have a ring of lockers on the perimeter of a large space. And in the middle of that space are cabanas, little changing rooms with a door for privacy. But each cabana will have a toilet, a shower and a bench. "You can put stuff in your lockers and go into your cabana to change, put things in your locker and then exit out," Gabel explained. "That's another iteration of locker room design that is currently evolving."

Security Considerations

While a sense of privacy is preferred in a locker room due to the nature of personal grooming and clothes changing, overall, Boyer said, a secure feeling should be the primary goal in the locker room design.

The contradiction between the need to provide both security and privacy is certainly a challenge, added Springs. "No one wants to put cameras in a locker room, but they can be placed at the entrances to document who and when people go in and out," he explained. "Using strategies for visual privacy but acoustical transparency are effective deterrents for nefarious activities. An example," he said, "is the use of zero sight line partitions, with minimal open bottoms and tops. Be very careful about mirror placement. There are tons of options regarding locker locks, but many have high price points. We recommend trying out a few options for both patron and operations feedback before deploying a new lock universally."

The sense of personal security in a locker room starts with the planning.

Have an open locker room design, said Ringdahl. "Don't have any dead corners, and don't have any locker bays where you can't see into corners. We've learned through the years that our clients want no dark corners. There should be visibility everywhere. The openness can enhance the security. The more people you can get in the open space, the more self-patrolling they can do on their own and don't have to worry as much about vandalism and theft."

"Locker room entries should be visible from a central control space to monitor entrance and exit," Boyer suggested. "Ideally, the locker room is set up as a double-loaded corridor. For instance, lockers are on one side of the corridor with restrooms and showers on the other side. A double-loaded corridor provides clear path through the space. This clear path simplifies staff supervision of the space, especially when during nightly closing protocol. Obscure niches should be avoided."

Besides personal safety, Boyer continued, "a place to secure belongings is critical. Straight locker aisles provide clear lines of sight to one's belongings. The location of amenities, such as grooming counters, should take into account a line of sight to one's locker. Integrally designed digital locks are often preferred by users, whereas facility managers prefer the tried-and-true bring-your-own-lock practice. Either are acceptable provided belongings can be secured and policies are clearly communicated."

With respect to individual locker rooms, Boyer said, "it is best practice to locate these in a group. While the sense of privacy is achieved with single-user facilities, one must be cautious to create an environment that is safe and not a place for malfeasance. By grouping individual locker rooms, passive supervision is achieved by having other users in the vicinity."

Of course, one of the most important things when talking about security is the actual locker itself, said Gabel. For the most part, gone are the days of the padlock; locks on lockers have become pretty sophisticated. "You put your valuables in a locker and you trust that the facility will have locks that can't be tampered with, and that people aren't going to come in and steal your things," he said. "Locking systems have advanced exponentially over the years. You might have a fingerprint recognition system. Everybody has a cell phone so you might have a code on your phone, where you put your phone next to the lock and it unlocks (given the code). What kind of locks you offer clients often comes down to cost, but there are umpteen options."