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Entries in design (9)


At L’Usine Club, Design and Customer Service Go Hand-in-Hand 

L’Usine Club isn’t your average health club chain.

The company, which has two facilities in Paris, one in Brussels, and one in Geneva, prides itself on providing exceptional and meticulous customer service. Its highly trained staff (outfitted by Armani), premium sound system (installed by Devialet), and sleek facilities (designed by a team of architects) have attracted several global celebrities to stop in for a workout.

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Answers to Your Pressing Gym Design Questions

The success of your health club depends in part on making the most of your available space. Here are some tough questions you need to ask yourself before remodeling or designing your next gym.

Q: How often should I freshen up my health club's design?

A: Hervey Lavoie, architect and president of Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative, recommends that every health club maintain a five-year plan and re-examine it every six months. Lavoie offered that the most important thing is to not paint yourself into a corner.

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Everything You Need to Know About Health Club Locker Room Size

Locker rooms and their amenities and features have become increasingly important as health clubs compete to attract new members and retain existing ones, but choosing the right size for your facility can be tricky—especially since there are a number of factors that should be considered in addition to the basic square footage percentage. 

An upscale locker room design by Fabiano Designs.

“Like all good design, locker planning is a case-by-case puzzle that needs specific attention and understanding of the target market,” says Hervey Lavoie, architect and president of Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative in Denver, CO. 

To help club owners and operators determine the locker room size that’s best for each facility, we talked to three experts about all things locker room. 

Locker Room Size Rules of Thumb 

Since there are no specific industry standards on locker room square footage, expert opinions are varied—but most agree locker rooms should take up 10-15% of the facility’s overall square footage. 

“As a rule of thumb, the quick answer is in general about 12-15% of the overall club size, meaning if you have a 20,000-square-foot club, the total size dedicated to both locker rooms may be between 2,400–3,000 square feet total, or about 1,000-1500 square feet each,” says Rudy Fabiano, architect for Fabiano Designs in Montclair, NJ. “Likewise, a 60,000-square-foot facility may have between 3,500 and 4,500 square feet for each locker room. These are base numbers that should get modified depending on the various factors.”  

But keep in mind that there’s a limit to this rule of thumb—as units get smaller, the required locker room percentage may grow to accommodate the minimum fixtures and facilities required, Fabiano says. 

“Many times this will preclude the ability to have any locker rooms at all,” he says. “With smaller clubs, under 5,000 square-feet as an example, we may opt for common locker areas, with dedicated individual toilet and shower rooms.” 

It’s important to consider the types and number of fixtures required by the plumbing code, occupancy load, etc. in the club’s jurisdiction. 

Member Demographics and Membership Cost 

There are a number of factors that may cause a club owner to modify the locker room size beyond the 10-15% rule, including member demographics and membership cost. 

“To better determine the actual locker room square footage and number of lockers, the specific needs and logistics of each facility must be analyzed and addressed,” says Fred Hoffman, M.Ed., owner of Paris-based Fitness Resources Consulting Services. “If there is a much larger percentage of either of the sexes, the size of the changing areas should reflect that difference.” 

Hoffman also recommends that clubs consider the type of facility and member services; an upscale facility might choose to allot a larger amount of changing space per person to enhance the member experience. 

Consider “factors such as the demographics the club will serve, the number of member visits anticipated, and the cost of a typical memberships will affect size,” Fabiano says. “As an example, typically, the higher the membership cost, the more square feet per member should be allocated. Since personal space is a premium, higher end clubs typically provide more features, more space, bigger lockers, etc., versus a budget club, with minimum features and amenities.” 

When determining locker room size and number of lockers, club owners and operators should also consider the demographics of the surrounding community. 

“Is the club serving a residential market or a business work day market? Locker demand will be greater in a facility that is serving a work-day population,” Lavoie says. “A larger percentage of a residential-based membership will arrive dressed for working out and not need access to lockering facilities. Business-based membership traffic, for obvious reasons, has a greater need for changing facilities as they fit their workouts into their work day.” 

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Personal Trainer Packs Big Fitness Design Into Tiny House

The health club world is filled with dedicated professionals who eat, breathe, and live fitness, but Mike De Vivo has taken it to the next level; the Corporate Fitness Works personal trainer and his wife recently built a fitness-themed house, decked out with a climbing wall, kettle bell storage, a climbing rope, a gymnastics ladder, and TRX equipment. 

Oh, and the house is 330 square feet. Total.

“The tiny house lifestyle really is something that we think is a healthy lifestyle for us,” De Vivo says. “I don’t think it’s for everyone, but for us it’s going to allow us to have the lifestyle that we think will be the most healthy, especially with a kid on the way.” 

That’s right—when the De Vivos' baby is born this fall, three people will be living in a space smaller than the average studio apartment. 

Tiny House, Big Exposure 

It may sound extreme, but the tiny house movement is growing, as evidenced by the proliferation of TV shows featuring house hunters looking to downsize, decrease their living costs, and become more mobile. 

De Vivo’s tiny house construction project was featured on a recent episode of one such show—HGTV’s “Tiny House Big Living.” 

Allowing camera crews to document the five-month construction process was an easy choice for De Vivo, who already followed several tiny house blogs that posted ads about reality TV opportunities. He knew that building a fitness-themed house was a unique angle that would appeal to producers, and figured national coverage would provide positive exposure for the builders, while also ensuring quality of craftsmanship. 

“We also knew HGTV would be able to help us get sponsorship for a good amount of materials,” De Vivo says. “The fitness materials were sponsored—we were able to get a couple hundred dollars worth.” 

The sponsorships helped the build to stay on-budget; all-in, the house cost $72,000. 

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Best Practices: Club Design Improvements and 24-hour Gym Competitors

The following post was written by Hervey Lavoie and Brad Wilkins for our Best Practices series.

Question: How often should we revisit our club’s design and layout, and how will our members react?

Hervey Lavoie: Change has become a constant in our lives. This requires that every health club have a forward-looking, five-year master plan that’s revisited at six-month intervals. Conducting this exercise will provide you with a conceptual framework to regularly consider new opportunities to improve the member experience, freshen your club’s look, and sharpen your competitive edge.

Your master plan should be able to accommodate a sequence of high-priority upgrades. You should think ahead, and embark on each group of enhancements with the next wave of improvements in mind. This approach minimizes the chance that this year’s carpet replacement project will be undone by next year’s expansion of the childcare area. Looking beyond your current needs will also allow you to allocate your capital improvements budget more effectively.

We often see member attrition fall off during the construction improvements. Members tend to want to stick around to see, and enjoy, the new features. Their response to the changes will be informed by how well the alterations are conceived, presented, promoted, and executed. Changes need to be positioned as “improvements.” Advisory boards and member surveys are two effective ways to obtain member participation in, and support for, such changes.

Hervey Lavoie
Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative
Denver, Colorado



Question: We’re reevaluating our business to deal with an influx of 24-hour gyms. What’s the best way to do so?

Brad Wilkins: No matter the size of our club, or the market segment we serve, we’ve all encountered situations when we’ve felt pressured to change the way we do things—be it our amenities, program offerings, or hours of operation—as a result of either the direct or indirect influence of our competitors.

Every time I find myself in this position, I find that it’s extremely helpful to take a step back and carefully revisit our business’ strategic positioning. I spend time reviewing the club’s vision, mission, directional goals, and value proposition. I do this to avoid any impulsive decision-making.

If you find that you’re comfortable with your club’s strategic positioning in the marketplace, your next step should be to conduct a proper analysis—a mini business plan—to assess the direct impact of the changes you’re considering making. This would include, but not be limited to, consumer/member research; a “true” competitor evaluation; and a detailed financial cost-benefit analysis. A close study of this type of analytical information, considered within the context of your strategic positioning, should provide the answers you’re looking for.

All in all, the best way to mitigate risk and to make good, sound business decisions is to gather the facts, create an intelligent plan, and then execute it well.

Brad Wilkins
Vice President and General Manager
Cooper Fitness Center
Dallas, Texas



Editor’s Note: One of the most frequently visited sections of IHRSA’s Website,, is “Best Practices,” which features answers from industry experts to some thought-provoking questions. In this column, we highlight two of them. Visit to find answers to more than 100 questions like these, or to submit a question. 


4 Expert Tips for Successful Fitness Studio Design

Boutique studios—offering everything from cycling, yoga, Pilates, and personal training, to boxing, CrossFit, and functional training—now constitute 42% of the U.S. club market, according to a CBS News report. That’s double what it was in 2014. 

You might well be thinking about studios for a number of reasons. Whatever the circumstances, creating a studio will present a number of design challenges. 

Club Business International interviewed several architects and studio operators to identify the design fundamentals that can help you create a studio space that will be attractive and efficient, enhance your brand, and boost your revenues. We compiled their advice into four tips for successful studio design.

1. Programming Should Dictate Design 

A studio can be anywhere from 1,200 to 5,000 square feet in size, but, whether it’s large or small, the type of programming offered should drive its design. 

“In a typical gym, you’ll have several platforms, and an array of equipment, such as cardio, selectorized, and free weights; and different areas for yoga, cycling, group fitness, functional and personal training, and, perhaps, a juice bar,” said Rudy Fabiano, the owner of Fabiano Designs, in Montclair, NJ. “In a studio, you’re often dealing with a single program element, so your design has to be geared to it.” 

2. Maximize Space to Drive Revenue 

Every square foot has to be maximized for revenue generation, Bryan Dunkelberger, a principal at S3 Design, in Braintree, MA, told CBI

“It all starts with how you’re generating income,” he said. “If it’s price per class, then capacity becomes the most important variable. If, for example, you have a cycling studio with 25 bikes at $25 per class, the studio makes $625 per class. Multiply that by five classes a day, and you get $3,125 per day, or $18,750 for six days a week. That’s a potential $956,250 in revenues per year. If you can only get 20 bikes in your studio, however, that figure drops to $780,000.” 

3. Use Spatial Creativity to Enhance Member Experience 

Creative use of glass, choice of colors, lighting, shapes, positioning of architectural elements, and the arrangement of key areas can make a small exercise space feel much larger than it is.

“We try to use glass to open things up more, although that introduces some challenges, in that glass isn’t a great insulator for sound,” Dunkelberger said. “When we’re trying to create ‘size,’ we keep everything simple and clean. If you can make the perimeter of the studio seem like a big box, or a ‘wrapper,’ and have the divider walls between the support spaces sort of ‘float’ in the space, delineating the studio, it can create the impression of a much larger area.” 

4. Keep Support and Operational Needs in Mind 

A studio, of course, is not just the studio. Support and operational needs also have to be met, and, as with the exercise area, space remains a critical concern. 

To devote as much space as possible to programming, Tiffany Liashek, owner of Studio South Fitness, a 12,000-square-foot, multi-studio facility in Sarasota, FL, has positioned support offices and storage spaces in the back of the facility, where the ceiling’s slope is greatest. 

“One thing we’ve noticed is an increase in unisex bathrooms, which are more flexible and take up less space,” said Bruce Carter, the president of Optimal Design, in Weston, FL. “In the common locker areas, we may add a couple of small, individual changing rooms—only about 4' x 4'. In a typical studio, separate locker rooms often aren’t feasible.”

Read the full "Successful Studio Design" article in the February issue of CBI


Are you planning on attending these convention sessions?

I am writing a few stories on IHRSA 2013 sessions. I am talking to the presenter and then hope to talk to a few IHRSA members who plan on attending that discussion.  

If anyone would like to talk for the following, please e-mail  

  • Scott Gillespie's "Discovering What Makes You Special, Finding Your Secret Sauce," March 20, 1:30 p.m.(Marketing and Operations track). I would need to talk to you by Feb. 20, noon EST.
  • Bruce Carter's "Wave of the Future - Trends in Club Design," March 21, 1:30 p.m. (Marketing and Operations). I would need to talk by Feb. 27, noon.
  • Scott Lewandowski's "Maximizing the Effectiveness and Profitability of Your Personal Training Team," March 19, 3:45 p.m. (Fitness and Pers Training). I would need to talk by Feb. 27, noon.



Progress Never Ending

By Craig R. Waters

Occasionally, I make the mistake of thinking that I’ve seen the best our industry has to offer. And, inevitably, just as I’m beginning to feel a bit jaded, I find myself pleasantly surprised and unexpectedly reinvigorated.

Recently, quite by accident, I happened upon a photo of the therapeutic wet circuit at the Assawan Spa and Health Club, at the Barj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai. To say that this club and the hotel that serves as its setting are stunning doesn’t begin to do them justice. The owner, Jumeirah, a subsidiary of Dubai Holding, describes Barj Al Arab as “the world’s most luxurious hotel,” and I’m not inclined to disagree.

The wet circuit—just one small component of the spa and club—offers guests a wealth of amenities, including sauna, steam, cold plunge, rain shower, infinity pool, and breathtaking views of the Arabian Gulf 18 stories below. This photo is featured on pg. 17 of the November issue of CBI, while a different view appears above.

Other areas of this breathtaking facility are pictured below.

The spa and club, like the hotel, achieve a level of design excellence that’s nearly dreamlike, seamlessly integrating classic Arabian motifs, modern technology, and the finest quality materials. Their program offerings are equally eclectic and seductive.

Assawan’s packages include Ultimate Wellbeing for Life, Ultimate Fitness, Ultimate Rejuvenation, Ultimate Relaxation, and Ultimate Nutrition for Life. Its menu of spa services boasts such indulgences as Pure Gold and Platinum Rare facials and an Around the World Signature Massage: “Carefully selected techniques from traditional Shiatsu, Thai, Swedish, and Balinese massages are combined to form 85 minutes of sheer bliss.”

Clearly, in the case of our industry, progress is a process that never ends.








Locker Room Design at 30,000 Feet

By Jon Feld

I recently completed an article on locker room design in the July issue, “Locker Room Largesse,” in which we focused on specific areas where design could assist in creating the feel of a larger space. As is typically the case, the architects and designers I spoke with were very forthcoming, offering up a plethora of guiding principles covering everything from lighting and color to furnishings and overall flow. As a result, I had enough material for several articles on the subject.

One question I asked every contributor was: If you had to offer one key piece of advice regarding creating spaciousness in a locker room environment, what would it be? We wound up with a good “30,000-foot view” of what they viewed as core principles in using design to create space. I was able to incorporate some of their responses, but not all. So, we’d like to use this space to pass along those learnings. Here’s what the experts had to say:

An Ohlson Lavoie DesignThe number-one contributor to creating spaciousness is eliminating as many full-height vertical walls as possible. A certain amount can’t be avoided, just due to the need to control moisture, smells, privacy, and the like. But by concentrating on creating a space with continuous planes of flooring and ceilings, it will have a dramatic effect on the spaciousness.

 —Bob McDonald, senior principal at Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative, Denver 

Anticipate human nature, and the willingness or unwillingness of friends or strangers to make use of adjoining facilities, and design accordingly. While a design may technically "fit" all the program components in the allocated space, actual use patterns may demonstrate inefficiencies. Properly anticipating use is just as important as meeting outlined programmatic goals.

Michael Prifti, FAIA, principal at BLT Architects, in Philadelphia

Keep ceilings high--at least nine or more feet if possible. Use up-lighting, leave enough room for comfortable flow, and make sure to allow as much privacy for people as possible.

Bruce Carter, president of Optimal Design, Weston, Florida

BLT's use of light, color, and textureThe most important piece of advice would be proper flow in planning where each functional part of a locker room (i.e., the locker bays, the toilet area, the showers, the steam rooms, sinks, and grooming areas) has adequate and separate space, but flow into one another because of a simple layout and clearly defined circulation to each one of the areas. Good flow coupled with a uniform, indirect lighting pattern and proper color selection will provide a spacious feel in almost any sized locker room.

J. Thomas Seymour, AIA, of PSA-Dewberry, Inc., Peoria, Illinois