Locker Room Design Strategies
Durable Fixtures Enhance Image, Reduce Operational Costs
By Jon Villwock
Locker rooms may be relatively small spaces in recreational centers, but they are notorious for making big impressions with clients and visitors. The total sum of the style, functionality and condition of the lockers, showers, washrooms, flooring, tiling, lighting, etc., can make or break patrons' overall satisfaction with a facility.
When you factor in the high traffic and repeated use these facilities endure on a daily basis—especially in an environment that can be affected by moisture, humidity and salt from pool areas—it becomes a real challenge to keep such fixtures in good working order and looking like new.
Vandalism is another obstacle to keeping locker rooms in good repair. Unfortunately, graffiti on lockers, benches, counters and lavatory partitions, and tampering with showers, faucets, toilets and accessories are facts of life in recreational and sporting areas. The resulting damage not only looks unattractive, but can also raise questions about a facility's safety.
The best solutions for locker room furnishings are not only attractive but possess a solid level of quality and durability that withstands daily wear and tear. Initially it may cost more to choose higher-quality and vandal-resistant products, but down the road a facility will reap the financial benefits. Lower-cost products oftentimes require repairs and incur replacement costs sooner than expected.
Using sturdier and higher-quality locker and washroom fixtures also translate into less upkeep and maintenance, freeing up time for staff to focus on other duties. And that's not to mention the good impression quality fixtures make on patrons.
Whether you are updating an existing locker room or planning to build a new one, consider the following selection strategies for two major locker room elements: lockers and showers.
When comparing materials for lockers, metal lockers are proven to be a substandard product for locker rooms and pool areas because they cannot withstand the water and moisture in these environments. There's no surefire method to prevent them from becoming rusty, foul-smelling lockers.
In terms of durability, solid plastic lockers are an ideal solution because they are unaffected by moisture, humidity, chlorine or salt water and will not rust. The resilient plastic material also stands up to dents and impact that would easily damage metal lockers. The color in solid plastic lockers extends from the surface through the entire thickness of the locker, making scratches hard to detect. Graffiti can be easily wiped away with everyday cleaners, and they can even be completely cleaned out with a hose for fast washdown.
Plastic lockers are available in a range of colors beyond tired gray that can complement just about any locker room design. It's a good idea to coordinate the locker color selection with nearby fixtures such as toilet partitions, lavatories, flooring and walls to ensure that your restrooms and locker rooms have a cohesive, well-thought-out look.
Selecting plastic lockers not only promotes quality and durability, and reduces maintenance costs; it is also a wise environmental choice. Solid plastic lockers are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), a plastic that uses post-consumer recycled content. Some manufacturers also offer a 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic option. Each locker is made from 500 recycled milk jugs that otherwise might have ended up in a landfill.
Better plastic lockers carry a 20-year warranty and will never need to be painted or stained. There are a number of different size configurations available to suit any application. In pool or fitness areas, it makes sense to provide cubby lockers where users can temporarily store belongings such as a towel. For locked storage, there are several space-saving alternatives to the traditional full-height locker. For instance, the space under locker benches can be maximized with benches that house built-in locker storage.
Stacked "Z" lockers are designed to give each locker additional height, allowing more hanging space for clothing and bags. The "Z" design stands out as an efficient way to achieve multi-tiered storage.
When more space is needed for athletic gear and bulky equipment, look for a locker design that is wider and deeper than standard-sized lockers. This type of locker is designed with a built-in seating area, open-faced closet area for clothing and equipment storage, and lockable storage areas, including a large foot locker for bulky gear and standard cubby locker.
For high-traffic areas used mostly for rinsing off near swimming pools, column showers offer a cost- and space-efficient option. Choosing commercial-grade shower fixtures with vandal-resistant features will help keep order in locker rooms and deter vandalism, which will minimize repairs and maintenance costs.
Column showers with vandal-resistant features, such as security screws, usually perform better than other types of showers better suited for less traffic. An added benefit to column showers placed in the center of the shower room is that they minimize water sprayed on the outside walls, making the shower area easier to keep clean. Further, column showers can be configured with two to six user stations.
To maximize the number of showerheads in high-traffic locker rooms, combine column showers and wall showers to utilize available space. Today's newest fixtures offer a wide variety of valves, showerheads and options.
When wall showers are preferred, look for a streamlined, pre-assembled design, which will reduce installation time, since it's not necessary to mount the unit into the wall, as is typical of other showers. Because the valve bodies and components of this type of shower are easily accessible from the front or by unscrewing the unit from the wall, they are particularly suited for tight spaces. This compact version accommodates both exposed and concealed piping so there is no need to cut into the shower room tile during renovations.
Hinged pivoting wall showers can also be quickly installed. The hinged door simplifies installation and ongoing maintenance, saving time and money. By removing vandal-proof fasteners from one side of the shower panel, the unit swings away from the wall, providing easy access to components.
Finally, keep in mind that low-flow showerheads can reduce water use by 50 percent or more—these fixtures save about 14 gallons of water during a seven-minute shower. Today's low-flow showerheads can use as little as 2 gpm (gallons per minute), and since they reduce the flow of water, they also generate energy savings because there is less water to heat.
Locker rooms with quality fixtures like plastic lockers and sturdy showers will not only have a longer life span and cut maintenance and replacement costs, they will reflect positively on the recreational facility, staff and management.
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