Designing is the fun part of building a new facility or renovating an existing one. It is exciting to start sketching and thinking about the wonderful spaces we can create. Although it is important to have enthusiastic initial inspiration, only careful planning and evaluation of the project's needs can ensure success and save you from expensive headaches down the line. That means taking time to understand the project's big picture and breaking down that big picture to minute details.
Building right also means establishing the right environment. The look and feel of the club must accommodate the users. Early in the process, the architect and owner must review the business plan so each understands the demographic and economic goals of the project. Synergy must exist among the architectural programming, aesthetics, spaces, designs and construction cost in order to accommodate the long-term vision in the business plan.
Architectural programming is defined by the American Institute of Architects as a “comprehensive and systematic evaluation of the interrelated values, goals, facts and needs of a client's organization, the facility users and the surrounding community.” At its most basic, programming can start as a list of spaces the club should include. Then, approximate sizes and relative locations are added. A variety and multitude of spaces need to be considered, each with hundreds of necessary and detailed specifics. Power, lighting, air conditioning, flooring, acoustics, storage, accessibility, maintenance and moisture issues are just some of the items that, if overlooked, will become big issues once the space is completed. These specifics need to be documented and the information relayed to various groups who will participate in the construction. Missing a few important items can lead to disastrous results.
During programming, the architects keep a running total of the square footage for all the spaces. This square footage is then tied into a construction cost factor that keeps tabs on the building size and the budget. Again, before any drawings are initiated, we develop a sense of how spaces are affecting the final cost and what our probable costs may be so we can meet the budget.
After conducting interviews and analyses, the architect adds detailed information to the plan, including the storage needs of each room, the power requirements, the sound and entertainment items to be placed, flooring types, water/moisture issues, user data, equipment needs and the environmental conditions needed.
These services are typically included in a full-service commission, but they also can be contracted separately. The review and documentation of the concrete specifics are fairly straightforward and include schedule and budget development, financial feasibility studies, site studies, space-by-space needs and green strategies. Equally important, however, is considering abstract ideas about delivering services, dictating emotional expectations and your club's connection to the community, and determining what the spirit and the soul of the club should be.
Once we discuss the physical spatial data, we go on to the abstracts, such as who will use the room, why and when they use a room, what each room should feel like, and what images and emotions we want people to feel while they're in each room. Items to consider include whether a space purely produces revenue or whether it is a support space. This affects the location and the expense of the space. These details are documented for every space and are reviewed and updated over the course of the project.
Once completed, each space typically has one or two sheets worth of information recorded about it. These space-defining sheets then become a manual and checklist as a design is initiated and continue serving as a reference through the final construction documents.
Having key staff from the club and the architectural firm work together to develop the information ensures nothing is missed. The best ideas typically come from early discussions among all team members about how things are done now and how we could improve on them. Innovation in a static industry gets rewarded with success.
Evaluating and planning are smart and powerful processes that can simplify the complexities of construction and ultimately save club owners money.
Rudy Fabiano, a registered architect and interior designer, is president of Fabiano Designs, an architectural firm for health clubs, wellness centers, sports clubs and spas. The company has produced more than 400 projects in the past 20 years.