We chatted with Bright Architecture about the best practices for installing showers and lockers in your gym or studio.
1. What is the first step in thinking about putting in showers?
Building systems play a significant role in your ability to install showers. The first step really has to be a survey of the existing sanitary (drain) lines, water supply into the space, increased hot water needs, opportunities for mechanical exhaust ductwork, and proper air circulation. Without solving those problems, the showers can’t happen.
2. What is the ideal flow or layout for having showers in a space? Are locker rooms a necessity?
This depends very much on the specific culture of a space and its clientele. The ideal from a design aspect is the traditional large locker rooms containing both showers and water closets, but we recognize that those configurations take up a much larger footprint than breaking up the different parts. Our main goal is always focusing on providing clients with modesty when designing shower rooms, typically building individual stalls that include a changing space within them so you can undress and dry off in privacy.
3. What kind of permits should I look into?
Installing showers require both mechanical and plumbing permits in addition to the general construction permit. This means proper engineering and layout for fixture counts, exhaust requirements, and ADA clearances, to name simply a few concerns that would need to be addressed. The main issue to understand is that only certain occupancy types are allowed to legally install showers. For example, showers are not allowed in retail spaces. In NYC specifically, this presents an additional change of use filing which must be coordinated with the Physical Culture Establishment permit.
4. Are there certain types of contractors that specialized in this?
You would need a quality general contractor who can coordinate the different trades: plumbing, mechanical, tile work, glass enclosures, and all of the fixtures and finishes. The biggest mistake we see are gym owners trying to try to hire a single trade, like a plumber, to coordinate a complete shower room installation. It may seem like a small project, but there are numerous moving parts that need to be understood.
5. How long is the build-out process for installing showers?
Obviously it depends on the scale, but for a renovation project in an existing gym we would plan on 3 to 4 weeks. As part of a new buildout, the addition of showers are typically not the driving factor with respect to time as they will be sequenced along with the overall scope. The major waypoint is usually the building department inspection process, which requires the showers to have been properly designed, filed, approved, and coordinated prior to construction starting.
6. How should I think about the cleaning and maintenance of the showers?
The details of maintenance are more of an operations team question, but choosing durable and easy to clean materials, such as Corian or porcelain tile, is step one. Step two is water removal and making sure there are not water collection areas on floors, niches, or counters. Finally, a good grout job goes a long way.
7. How many will I need to make it “worth it”?
The cost to do it the right way (properly designed, filed, and executed) probably would not be worth it for a single shower room if not part of a larger project and scope of work.
8. How should I think about the ratio of showers to students per class?
It depends on a number of factors, including the culture of the studio (CrossFit vs. indoor cycling), the location of the space (Flatiron vs. Scarsdale), the typical client type (business executives vs stay-at-home moms), and how much time there is between classes. In general, we have found that 3 showers for women and 2 showers for men can comfortably handle the demand for most 40-45 person studios.
9. What additional amenities are crucial if I have showers?
Additional things to think about are having enough space for clients to change clothes and get ready (hair and makeup) while maintaining the appropriate amount of privacy.
10. How do I account for maintenance costs of the shower, including cleaning and increased towel usage?
Designing with appropriate, quality materials that are installed with care and attention to detail initially will help with maintenance. Towels seem to be the largest cost increase due to professional service costs for washing/folding and areas to store both clean and dirty towels.
11. Are there “deal breakers” that if I’m not able to offer, I shouldn’t invest in showers?
The thing to understand is that if you are using square footage for showers, you taking away square footage for other vital things – storage, changing rooms, and common areas. First and foremost, your studio has to function and space is usually the constraint.
12. Glass doors vs. curtains? Things to think about here?
Glass doors are simply classier, look better, and are easier to maintain.
1. What is the first step when thinking about putting in lockers?
The first step is understanding the space you have available and to locate the lockers in areas that will avoid crowding between classes.
2. What is the ideal flow or layout of having lockers in a space? Are locker rooms a necessity?
The flow/layout depends on the space and the client, but elbow room is key. Separate men’s and women’s locker rooms are not a necessity but help avoid overcrowding the common areas and maintains the appearance of the front of house.
3. What kind of permits should I look into? Do I need them?
If simply part of a furniture installation, then no permits are required. If installing lockers requires walls and electrical to be removed/relocated, then we would recommend a general construction permit. If lockers are part of a larger scope of work, some jurisdictions will consider locker areas as a “locker room occupancy” type which requires additional ventilation (which you should already have) and additional occupancy counts.
4. Are there certain types of contractors that specialize in this?
Hollman is the industry go-to company that makes a nice standard locker, but you still will need a contractor to install them. We typically work with our millwork outfits to build the lockers so that we can tailor the size and design for our clients. The material costs between a locker company and custom fabricated lockers actually are about equal.
5. How long is the buildout process for installing lockers?
The standard lead time once you order lockers is about 4-6 weeks and, if designed right, can usually be ordered early in the construction process. Actual installation time depends on the number of lockers.
6. What are some alternative solutions to the standard idea of a locker?
We have designed integrated open cubbies and coat hooks to help give people alternative places to keep personal items. Bear in mind that lockers actually do not solve all personal storage problems, like winter jackets.
7. How do I think about the ratio of lockers to students per class?
We aim to have at least enough lockers for two full classes so that clients are not having to search for that last open locker.
8. Are there maintenance costs associated with lockers?
Electronic locks require upkeep and numerous headaches. Lockers do get damaged as par for the course, so choosing a durable material is key to keeping the maintenance down.
9. What is the average cost of a locker?
Typically, a 4 high locker bay costs about $300-$350.
Bright Architecture is a Brooklyn-based design studio with a broad portfolio of boutique retail spaces and fitness studios. Their practice is rooted in the command of architecture as a craft, to provide clarity and simplicity to the spaces we work in, live in, and exercise in. Fundamental to that philosophy is a focus on the design of the process as much as the product, allowing his work to respond to the demands of each project through rethinking the boundaries of the architecture profession. For more information, visit www.brightarchitecture.com or check them out on Instagram or Twitter.
Images courtesy Bright Architecture.