In the September/October 2022 issue, Salvatore Canciello, a principal at S3 Design, shares advice on campus rec renovations.
What are you seeing as current trends when it comes to renovations?
SC: The pandemic has galvanized campus recreation’s attention to holistic wellness. Whether under one roof or spread across campus, physical fitness, mental health and clinical health are collaborating, sharing spaces and integrating services.
Another trend spurred by the pandemic is embracing virtual fitness. Group studios can be outfitted with virtual fitness equipment to allow for individual or small group exercise during off-peak times. Accommodating virtual technologies inside the rec center brings social interaction back to individual workouts. It also gets students out of their residential halls and into a space that is designed for workouts.
Continuing a pre-pandemic trend, there is still an increasing demand for functional training. These spaces are becoming the heart of the fitness center.
What are the top challenges for directors in campus rec renovations?
SC: One of the biggest challenges to getting started with a renovation is establishing programmatic goals and aligning them with a budget. This is often a chicken or egg stumbling block where directors either have a funding amount without knowing what it will buy them, or have a program goal without knowing what it will cost. Either scenario can prevent a renovation from getting off the ground.
Another major challenge with renovations is taking spaces and programs offline. Traditionally, semester breaks have been used for “summer slammer” renovations to minimize program downtime and swing space needs. For the near future, supply chain issues require more advanced planning, design and early procurement to make these smaller incremental renovation strategies fit into a limited construction window. Larger scope renovations require even more advanced planning to properly phase projects and strategize swing space to minimize the amount and duration programs are not available.
To overcome these challenges, we recommend allocating the initial funding to complete a study to create a roadmap for renovations. The study process will provide a framework to understand and justify needs, prioritize programs, assess existing building conditions and systems, strategize phasing, establish schedules, and align renovation packages with potential funding and budgets.
Once you decide on a renovation, what next steps are key?
SC: Reach out to other recreation directors who have completed renovations for lessons learned. Get the right team, both internal campus stakeholders and external consultants, and be sure to engage students. Don’t underestimate the ability for even small renovations to have a big impact.
Finally, what questions should directors be asking architects?
SC: I would ask about their specific renovation experience and look for before/after images to understand how transformational their projects have been. Call references, specifically other recreation directors. Finally, I would ask them about their approach to solving the functional needs for recreation while at the same time creating spaces that reflect unique aspects of a school’s culture and identity.