When it comes to developing new clubs, it looks like owners will need to continue to budget shop for the next few years. Designers love nothing more than finding and using dazzling new products to make fitness facilities look great. Architects need to balance good looks and performance so today’s beautiful lobby does not look worn and dirty in two years. And owners do not want to waste money. The three must work together to stay within budget.
While the credit crunch has affected all sectors of the economy, capital-intensive construction and improvement projects have been hit the hardest. Many people may be wondering how to get great looks on a budget. Tighter restrictions require greater creativity, but there are some smart steps you can implement to be frugal and to have an amazing club.
- Create a great plan. From the views and flow to the efficiency of programming, a well-designed layout is key to providing a superior member experience. This is not the place to cut corners: It will cost more to dress up a poor plan later on.
- Use the natural resources of the space creatively. Look for aesthetic opportunities in the raw space and features you have, such as natural light, great views, concrete flooring or natural brick. For example, we often use colored or buffed concrete floors.
- Simplify design and construction details. The design should not be boring, but a more extravagant design requires more labor, which is a greater cost than materials in most projects. Using nice tile on a straight wall will be cheaper than tiling lots of corners where precision cutting will add unproportional cost.
- Minimize materials. The greater variety of materials used, the more trade workers you will need to hire. Tile and wood, wall coverings, etc., all require different personnel for installation and adds to the cost. Pick one product as your theme throughout the project. If you can get a great discontinued tile, then use that as your primary rich material and accessorize with paint colors and lighting.
- Purchase pre-designed furnishings. Just as purchasing your own lockers rather than having them custom-built is a smart move, so, too, is buying predesigned or customizable stock cabinetry for reception desks, juice bars and vanities, and sourcing benches, mirrors, etc., at places such as IKEA.
- Group buildable spaces together. It is common to spread rooms and spaces around the perimeter, leaving the center for workout space. This open space is the least expensive to build, so use it to your advantage. By grouping offices together, you can share walls, reduce wiring and use less material. For greater savings, run the ceilings over the entire space and simply run walls up to them, cutting down on wall heights. By consolidating hard core construction, you are actually building a smaller space and saving big.
- Use creative materials. With digital technology, you can affordably create attractive visuals, whether it is peel-and-stick logos on large windows or graphic wall coverings. Using features like this tastefully, by adding a pop of color and information throughout the club, can get you the biggest bang for your buck. Being creative with flooring also can help save you money and still make a statement. On a recent project, we started with a raw space, and the landlord was responsible for pouring the slab. We paid a small amount to add more stone in the concrete, then ground and buffed it to get a terrazzo look. The final product looked more sophisticated than the usual concrete satin and has greater durability.
- Shop around. There are some great deals out there. Look for similar materials and discontinued batches at wholesalers as you can get aggressive pricing on tile, lighting and flooring when a company is phasing them out.
- Be consistent. In a budget project, it is important to keep the look consistent throughout the club. If you spend all of your funds in the lobby and neglect the locker rooms, it will look as if you ran out of money. Pick three materials that will give you that visual punch, and spread them throughout the club. Carefully study the look in all renderings and elevations to ensure the design is just right. You want the look and feel to convey the message that this is a well-designed, carefully crafted club, even though it has been built on a budget.
Rudy Fabiano, a registered architect and interior designer, is president of Fabiano Designs, which works with fitness, wellness, sports and recreational centers. It has produced more than 400 projects in the last 21 years.