The 'Issue' Is Facility Design
Ronale Tucker Rhodes
Size makes a differenceMost of the ACSM standards apply to all types of facilities, regardless of size. But, for some standards, it does help to define the two major types of facilities: fitness-only and multipurpose. According to the ACSM book authors, the average fitness-only facility is 42,402 square feet, while the average multipurpose facility is 70,368 square feet. Fitness-only facilities include "exercise studios, free weight gyms, apartment fitness areas, corporate fitnes centers and express facilities." Multipurpose facilities include "racquet courts only, pools only, gymnasiums only, facilities with tennis courts and facilities with a blend of several activity areas."
The type of facility you operate will determine the space demands in the various areas of your center. But, as the book's authors emphasize, "the key issue for a health/fitness facility is whether it is able to serve its intended and actual audience safely and efficiently."
Following federal and local laws is "required"There are "required" standards, and then there are "recommended" standards. A fitness facility owner/operator is required by law to adhere to the "standards of building design that relate to the designing, building, expanding or renovating of space as presented by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)." Facilities are also "required" to be in compliance with federal, state and local building codes.
It's up to you to research local codes to ensure you are meeting the requirements. But, the ADA requirement is not so black and white. A recent article published in Fitness Management's October 2007 issue, titled Equipping for Diversity, discusses the fact that many fitness centers still do not provide access to individuals with disabilities. That is not to say that fitness facilities have gotten away with not providing handicapped parking spaces and things such as access ramps. But, it is a different challenge altogether for individuals with disabilities to easily partake in fitness activities inside the center. This is because, in most cases, the ADA has established clear requirements only for making facilities accessible "when a facility undergoes significant renovation or expansion, or when a new facility is built."
The ACSM book authors outline five key requirements for ADA compliance: 1) A ramp or lift with a slope of 12 inches must be in place where any elevation changes in excess of 0.5 inches. 2) Doors, entryways and exits must be at least 36 inches wide to accommodate wheelchair access. 3) Light switches, water fountains, fire extinguishers and AEDs must be able to be reached by wheelchair users. 4) Essential signage, such as emergency exits, must be able to be viewed by those who are visually impaired. 5) Each piece of fitness equipment must have an adjacent clear floor space of at least 30 inches by 48 inches.
Following ACSM standards and guidelines is "recommended"The "recommended" standards are those set forth in the ACSM book. As stated earlier, these recommendations have gone through two revisions, the first revision being much more substantial due to the controversy over the book's first edition, which substantially reduced the number of, and, in some instances, the preciseness of the recommendations.
All that said, the 10 recommendations in the facility design and construction chapter are reasonable and not overly restrictive in any sense. They include the following:
Get more informationThis outline should not serve as a substitute for becoming knowledgeable about the complete set of standards and guidelines set forth in the ACSM book. I would encourage facility operators to obtain a copy as a reference for all aspects of fitness facility operations. Other chapters in the book include discussions on activity screening, risk management, professional staff, education and a lot more. (You can purchase this book on FM's website at www.fitnessmanagement.com/bookstore/book.aspx?isbn=9780736051538.)
In addition, read on in these pages for ideas about facility design and layout from other industry professionals and suppliers. In this special report, we highlight how to make the most of your spaces, what design considerations to look at when choosing flooring for outdoor fitness areas and how to determine whether you fitness center's locker rooms have enough of the "required" elements.
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