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Entries in standards (4)


Lighting Standards

Hervey Lavoie and Dag Lee discuss standards for lighting and ceiling tiles:

Q: “Are there any industry standards for fitness center lighting? Type of lights and brightness? Also are there any recommendations for types of ceiling tiles?”

A: Industry standards for lighting are widely published. ACSM (The American College of Sports Medicine), for example, publishes a book of design and operational standards that includes recommended illumination levels for a variety of uses.

While lighting standards are useful as a reference for a desired quantity of light (as measured by foot-candles) it should not become the sole determinant of a lighting design solution. It is not advisable to become overly focused on light quantities as measured by scientific instruments. The Human eye is not a scientific instrument and is more amenable to quality of light than quantity of light. Indirect lighting, for example, will often be perceived by the eye as brighter than direct lighting, even though an equivalent amount of direct lighting will always measure out at a higher level of foot candles. When the eye can see the full brightness of a light source, it is like an automatic camera, closing down the lens aperture to keep excess light from “blinding” the film…..thus everything else, except the light source, appears darkened. The benefits of energy efficient, purpose driven lighting design are considerable and easily warrant the involvement of licensed design professionals. 

Ceiling tiles should be selected to optimize their functionality as a reflector of light and an absorber of sound….. in some applications there is a case to be made for eliminating the ceiling tiles altogether and leaving an exposed structure visible through an open grid.

Hervey Lavoie, Architect and President
Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative

A: Different operators from single to multi-units will have their own set standards as part of their design and build-out or construction specifications, often detailed in a manual. One should also consider cultural differences as what is “comfortable” or appropriate may vary from one part of the world to another.

What lighting to decide on should also reflect the objective for the environment or rooms in question. Some zones require brighter lighting and in some, such as the locker or mind/body rooms, a more soft touch on the lighting may give the desired effect. Other industries such as hotels and retailers use lighting actively to make their goods and services appear more attractive, and or put a prospective buyer in “purchasing mode”. Why not do the same in a fitness center? Also ask yourself, what ambiance do I wish to create? Luxury, Energy, Relax? Lighting together with layout, wall, floor and ceiling materials and colors, as well as sensations such as smell and sound will create the “feel” of the club.

Lighting can be a very costly exercise, so the desired look and feel need to be balanced with the cost of the investment, both up front as well as over the expected life of the light fixture, as well as how it matches up against your “green” profile. Some local authorities and utility companies have rebates and cash back programs for “green” investments – check it out before making your decision. A higher up front investment can make sense given lower running costs and a longer life.

When it comes to ceiling tiles, as with lighting, it depends on what you want to achieve. The most important task fulfilled by ceiling tiles is to reduce/manage sound and create the right image for the different zones. Many clubs get a very cool and modern look by dropping ceiling tiles altogether. Alternatively, ceiling tiles come in many different designs, which can add to the look and feel of the facility.

Dag W. Lee, Taipan Invest, chairman
ACTIC Fitness, board member


Air Quality Standards

Fred Hoffman and Hervey Lavoie discuss air quality standards in health clubs:

Q: “Are there any Industry standards on facility air quality?”

A: Health clubs and fitness centers present a challenging task. Maintaining air temperatures, relative humidity and adequate ventilation in a variety of spaces which accommodate differing numbers of people at different times of the day, and for with a wide range of activities. And although there are recommended guidelines from reputable sources in the health club industry, standards on air quality, often based on building codes, may differ from state to state or country to country. Illustrating this, ACSM’s Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines (3rd edition) provides health club design and construction guidelines for maintaining air quality in all areas of a facility, while ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning engineers), has recently made available The Indoor Air Quality Guide (for large buildings).

Club operators agree that to ensure a comfortable, healthy and safe environment, it is essential that the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems be sufficient and well designed. So, whether building a new facility or renovating an existing one, plan to hire a qualified mechanical engineer who can provide the expertise necessary for proper design of the HVAC in your facility.

Here are some of the issues that should always be considered:

  • Room size (square feet or meters), and ceiling height
  • The activities taking place in the room or space, and occupancy
  • Number of air exchanges per hour
  • Fresh air and recycled air, Ideal temperatures, and condensation
  • A monitoring system for CO2 levels
  • Pollutants
  • Green considerations
  • Preventive maintenance program
Fred Hoffman, M.Ed., Director of International Services
The Club Synergy Group

A: There are no published standards for air quality in Athletic Clubs and fitness centers. The matter of air quality in buildings is, however, a general subject addressed in various building codes and ASHRAE standards. These standards are very prescriptive in nature and will govern any indoor air “conditioning” that is designed by a professional engineer, These standards would apply to all but the smallest of facilities. There is an emerging standard that is increasingly being applied to the built environment. Those are LEED standards, which are related to sustainable or “green” design. The measures outlined in these standards are widely published, just Google LEED Indoor Air Quality or check out the scorecard at

These standards can be easily applied to an athletic club or fitness center. The benefit of complying with these standards, even if you do not intend to seek an official LEED certification, is that you will have a well documented defense against any claim for damages by litigious individuals who may claim that your building is making them sick.

Hervey Lavoie, Architect and President
Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative


Is There A Standard Temperature In A Club?

This week, experts Rob Bishop and Bonnie Patrick Mattalian reveal the most comfortable interior temperature for different areas of a health club:

Q: "Is there a health club standard as to the temperature of the general area of a health club? Is there a standard for the temperature in an enclosed aerobic room?"

A: According to the American College of Sports Medicine's Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines, the "ideal" air temperature range for a health/fitness facility is 68-72 degrees. Locker rooms, hallways and lobby areas will feel comfortable at 72 degrees. These areas can be maintained at an even slightly higher temperature, without complaints, to save on cooling costs in the summer. Members will prefer exercise areas to be closer to the 68 degree range. I have been in facilities that set their AC temperature at 60 degrees in the summer so their members wouldn't sweat! It can never be too cool for some members. However, below 68 degrees would not only be extreme but an unnecessary waste of energy. An air temperature above 72 degrees can be very uncomfortable in an exercise area. Members will complain profusely.

...the "ideal" air temperature range for a health/fitness facility is 68-72 degrees. Humidity and air movement can also play an important role in how members "perceive" the temperature. High humidity will cause the room to feel stuffy and members will report that the room is "hot" even though the air temperature is in a comfortable range. Fans will make members feel more comfortable as the moving air will speed evaporation of sweat from the skin.

Rob Bishop, Owner
Elevations Health Club

A: We utilize the ACSM Facility Standards when setting guidelines for temperatures in a Fitness Center. Based on facility design, usage, programs and demographics, these ranges may vary significantly.

Most active fitness areas would have a temperature range of 68-72 degrees, based on the heat generated by amount of cardio equipment and usage patterns. Humidity levels, air flow, and outside air exchanges are also important factors to consider, depending upon the climate of your location and the physical plant of the structure. Include strategically placed fans on ceilings or around the room for optimal air circulation, lessening the load for cooling or heating.

Setting a standard for a group exercise room is more of a challenge, given the fact that different programs may present different temperature needs. Yoga, stretch, and some mat-based classes require warmer temperatures of 70-74 degrees (or higher in the instance of Hot Yoga), while high intensity classes at high room occupancy levels may require settings of 66-68 degrees. Temperature settings should be adjustable for this purpose in class settings.

Individual participants have different comfort levels and needs. According to Hervey Lavoie of Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative, the best approach is to employ a professional mechanical engineer who is experienced in the design of health clubs and the specifics of the facility programming needs.

Bonnie Patrick Mattalian, President
The Club Synergy Group Consultants


Ideal Temperature for Water Aerobics

Q: "What is ideal temperature for water aerobics?"

A: That’s a tough one. Water temperature is a lot like music, everyone has their personal preferences.

It is hard to please both the hardcore lap swimmer who would prefer the water temp was 78-79 degrees and the senior member with arthritis who would like to get into 86-88 degree water.

Unless you have the luxury of a dedicated warm water therapy pool, you would normally split the difference and keep the temp as close to 81 degrees as possible. Water aerobics participants can generally begin moving quickly enough to overcome the initial jolt to their system and get their heart rate pumping sufficiently to adjust to 81 degree water.

Bob Shoulders, Owner
Fayetteville Athletic Club

A: According to the American College of Sports Medicine - “Health / Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines” (second edition), the appropriate temperature for fitness facility pools is between 78 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Experience suggest that most “lap swimmers” prefer 78 – 80 degrees, most “aqua aerobics participants” prefer 81 – 83 degrees, and most “aqua therapy / rehabilitation clients” prefer 84 – 86 degrees. These ranges work great of course if you have specific pools for each purpose. If not, as is the case with most health clubs, a compromise of 80 – 82 seems to work best.

Brent Darden, Owner
TELOS Fitness Center