Overview: Green Gym Design
By Kurt A. Broadhag President, K Allan Consulting | October 28, 2008
With current trends towards the greening of the hospitality industry it seems like a logical step to include hotel fitness centers as environmental models for sustainable design and operations. After all, these two sectors share a common thread - achieving optimal health, be it personal or environmental. It seems ironic to think that fitness centers of the past, created to support health and well being, could have adversely affected both its inhabitants and the environment. With proper planning, design, and operations your hotel fitness center can achieve the stewardship needed to be at the forefront of an ever-important shift to the incorporation of green practices within the fitness industry.
Green design is fairly new in the fitness industry. Currently, there are only a handful of green fitness centers. Unfortunately, since there is no standard for green gyms outside of LEED certification, most of these centers have adopted only a few of the many different environmental elements that go into green gym design. From the sustainable environment angle, designing fitness centers with elements such as recycled flooring makes perfect sense however the process need not stop there. Green gym design is a much broader subject that involves not only incorporating environmentally friendly products but also creating an environment that fosters the promotion of healthy living.
Fitness centers offer a unique challenge in relationship to fostering sustainable design and operations. By their very nature they seem counter-productive - fitness centers use energy, deplete resources, and generate heat via exercise only to be lost in the surrounding environment as wasted energy (although there have been a few case studies associated with harnessing energy created via exercise there has not yet been a cost effective solution). The mere act of exercising creates challenges in designing a green facility - heat generated from exercising raises the room temperature, sweat either evaporates into the air increasing humidity levels or falls onto the ground and equipment leading to cleaning issues as well as unpleasant odors, and noise levels become an issue from audio/visual systems and equipment both within the fitness center as well as the surrounding areas. With proper planning beginning at the design phase and carrying over into operations these factors can be addresses and your fitness center can become a healthy workout "environment."
The first step in the design phase of the green fitness center is to determine facility size. The practice of green design is to develop the smallest footprint necessary to support the intended purpose. The smaller the facilities size the, 1) less amount of material is needed in the construction, 2) fewer pieces of exercise equipment are needed to fill the space, and, 3) the smaller the interior space available to either heat or cool. Properly identifying the demographics related to your facility size will aid in this process. As a general rule for hotels less than 100 rooms, 200 sq ft of floor space should be enough for the basic facility with square footage increasing in relationship to the size of the hotel.
The next step, and one of the most crucial design decisions for green gyms, involves developing an efficient HVAC system based on the room size. As mentioned before, the fitness centers offer a unique challenge in controlling the internal environment - more specifically the temperature, humidity, and air circulation. Not only is heat generated by exercising, cardiovascular equipment use, and lighting but the byproducts of exercising, mainly CO2 production and sweat released as water vapor, create an environment that requires additional air exchanges. The American College of Sports Medicine, a professional organization consisting of individuals involved in sports medicine has created a set of standards to be used as guidelines for fitness centers, which is 68-72 degree Fahrenheit room temperature with less that 60% humidity and 8-12% air circulation. With proper planning, design elements incorporating passive systems such as natural ventilation, window placement, glazing, etc., combined with an efficient active system, HVAC electrical demand can be drastically reduced while still maintaining a healthy environment.