Back to Facility Basics

facility

Chances are your rec center has seen years of various renovations, programs and countless graduation classes of students, so it’s easy to forget where it all started. But today, it’s time to go back to the basics.

Taking a good look at facility basics — components such as lighting, flooring, layout and many others — can help you identify new ways to improve how your facility operates.

“The basis of everything is the facility itself,” said John Lentz, the campus recreation director at Indiana State University. “It’s hard to do programming if the facility is not up to snuff, not allowing you to do what you want to do. With that in mind, there are different things you have to think about, things we as practitioners in campus rec might not normally think of.”

Here is a look at several facility basics that deserve your attention. Improving these areas can improve how your whole department functions.

Lighting

“Lighting is absolutely essential, especially from a safety perspective,” said Christopher Suriano, the director of wellness and health promotion at the University of North Dakota. “You’ve got to make sure areas of public use are well-lit so people can see.”

In fact, lighting was a subject of great importance at Northern Kentucky University, when the school’s campus recreation department underwent a massive renovation project of its facility in 2015.

“The ideal outcome was a 180-degree turnaround from the dark, closed-off building we had, so bright open spaces were the goal,” said Pat McGrath, the associate director for facilities at Northern Kentucky University. “We’ve accomplished this through significant amounts of windows and plenty of indoor lighting. While many of our lights are the traditional fluorescent bulbs, we have a lot of LEDs and we have MUSCO outdoor lighting to help achieve a LEED Gold Rating.”

Two common trends — LED lighting and natural lighting — are perfect for big, open spaces like campus rec facilities. They are aesthetically pleasing and much more energy efficient than the use of traditional light bulbs.

“Most of us who have built new buildings, or are in the process of renovating buildings, are looking at converting to LED lighting,” said Lentz. “It’s so much more functional and allows you to not worry about changing the lights for years. Many of us are still using non-LED lights, which causes a lot of grief.”

But choosing the right type of bulb isn’t your only concern — placement is also very critical. “If you’re developing a facility or you’re going to be installing new light, consider where those lights are located,” said Suriano. “Sometimes a fixture may look good, but when you have to replace it, you might be stuck figuring out how you’re going to get to that light.”

Flooring

“Lighting is absolutely essential, especially from a safety perspective,” said Christopher Suriano, the director of wellness and health promotion at the University of North Dakota. “You’ve got to make sure areas of public use are well-lit so people can see.”

In fact, lighting was a subject of great importance at Northern Kentucky University, when the school’s campus recreation department underwent a massive renovation project of its facility in 2015.

“The ideal outcome was a 180-degree turnaround from the dark, closed-off building we had, so bright open spaces were the goal,” said Pat McGrath, the associate director for facilities at Northern Kentucky University. “We’ve accomplished this through significant amounts of windows and plenty of indoor lighting. While many of our lights are the traditional fluorescent bulbs, we have a lot of LEDs and we have MUSCO outdoor lighting to help achieve a LEED Gold Rating.”

Two common trends — LED lighting and natural lighting — are perfect for big, open spaces like campus rec facilities. They are aesthetically pleasing and much more energy efficient than the use of traditional light bulbs.

“Most of us who have built new buildings, or are in the process of renovating buildings, are looking at converting to LED lighting,” said Lentz. “It’s so much more functional and allows you to not worry about changing the lights for years. Many of us are still using non-LED lights, which causes a lot of grief.”

But choosing the right type of bulb isn’t your only concern — placement is also very critical. “If you’re developing a facility or you’re going to be installing new light, consider where those lights are located,” said Suriano. “Sometimes a fixture may look good, but when you have to replace it, you might be stuck figuring out how you’re going to get to that light.”

Layout

“The layout of the building is very important,” said Lentz. “Does your building flow well with the activities you have planned? Does it flow well with your participants?”

The perfect floor layout will keep students moving in and out of each area of the facility with little to no resistance, while keeping them within close proximity of their preferred workout equipment pieces.

“We have a very open floor plan allowing for great traffic flow,” said McGrath. “Continuing to analyze what spaces are intended for and what patrons find a use for is very important.”

But in addition to preventing traffic jams, an effective layout can enhance your ability to keep your facility clean, according to Suriano.

“We are very well spaced, which helps with cleanliness,” said Suriano. “We’re able to get in and around equipment a little bit better, even under it. The layout of our equipment takes the user and the cleanliness of the area into consideration.”

Electrical Systems

“You have to consider where the power is located for cardio equipment,” said Suriano. “You have to have good cable management so people aren’t going to trip over the cables, and you’re not running the cables in weird places or plugging them into extension cords. That’s something people often overlook — they just don’t think about it.”

Outside of being a safety hazard, misplacing cables or overloading outlets could send your building’s power bill through the roof.

In fact, it’s critical to predict your facility’s energy consumption as closely as you can. “When you’re going through the design phase of a building or doing a renovation, you have to discuss upgrading your electrical service in certain rooms if necessary,” said Lentz.

According to Lentz, neglecting to accommodate for massive events can put a strain on your electrical system you might not have enough time to correct.

“Electrical outlets can be a problem,” said Lentz. “For example: You’ve got an event scheduled and you’re planning to have a bunch of inflatables in one of your gyms for a carnival or festival. Next thing you know, you’re tripping breakers. The electrical outlets aren’t built to accommodate the needs of that activity. That’s something we don’t think about but get caught on all the time.”

Making Decisions

Whether you’re building a brand new rec center or renovating your current one, it’s important to have good relationships all over campus, especially with other departments that can influence the construction or maintenance of your facility.

“On our campus, facilities management staff are the ones who get the lights, change them out, things like that,” said Lentz. “You need to be able to position yourself politically on campus, especially in regards to your relationship with them. Even if you are ‘in charge’ of your building’s operations, there could come a time when you have to work with your university’s facilities management staff.”

Positive relationships will help drive the progress of your rec facility, with fellow campus departments and with your students. When making choices about facility components, keep the needs of your students in mind.

“I think a big factor in making decisions is watching how the facility is being used,” said McGrath. “Walt Disney planned the locations of trash cans in his park by noticing how far guests would walk before just dropping trash on the ground. The concept can apply to any facility – observe tendencies and uses, then incorporate them in your design.”

Bobby Dyer
Bobby is a staff writer at Peake Media. Reach him at bobby@peakemedia.com.

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