One of my favorite parts about being an architect and designer is finding new and interesting products and materials to use when we renovate or build a health club. Just as fitness facility operators visit industry trade shows to see the newest fitness trends and equipment, architects and designers go to construction and design trade shows that keep us abreast of new ideas and materials. This year, the use of technology in interior design finishes is the trend, and that technology is spearheading advancements in design and re-thinking of the materials used.
When doing your next design project, consider these five technologically advanced options:
Large tiles. Tile manufacturers now have the ability to produce, ship and install wall tiles that are available in sheets as big as 4 feet by 8 feet. These larger sheets allow for quick installation and minimize grout lines, which eases long-term maintenance. They not only are great for shower and toilet areas, but the tiles look like large stone slabs, which make the space feel more sleek and modern.
LED lighting. Many states have passed stringent energy codes that restrict the amount of energy that can be used to light a space, which makes energy-efficient LED lamps attractive. In many states, you can get rebates when you convert to LED. However, that is not the only reason to use LED light fixtures. LED lights put off less heat, are small, are long-lasting and are readily available in both direct and indirect options. The lights can provide ambient lighting, mood lighting and task lighting where you need it in your facility.
Radiant heating. We like using infloor heating in the locker rooms whenever the budget allows. A warm floor not only feels great on bare feet, but it also helps to evaporate the water people drip on the floor when getting out of the shower. Wet floors can cause safety concerns, such as people slipping and dirty grout and joints that promote bacteria growth and odors.
Gypsum wall panels. Gypsum wall panels are an alternative to traditional sheet rock on feature walls. They are light, easily installed with screws and patched with tape and spackle. You can paint them as you would traditional sheet rock. The similarities to sheet rock ends there, though, as these panels come in a variety of 3D patterns and shapes, such as waves, basket weaves and squares, which can provide visual interest, even if you use a subdued color of paint on them. The look is expensive, but the price is affordable.
Large-scale graphics. Advancements in digital graphics and the ability to practically print on anything is revolutionizing the look and feel of many materials. Many products such as tile, glass, vinyl flooring or even gypsum wall panels are being imprinted with graphics to enhance the surface or to imitate another surface or product. These new hybrids can be much more durable and environmentally sensitive. For example, you can print an image of wood grain on recycled rubber plank flooring to make that floor look like real wood at a fraction of the cost to install real wood flooring.
You also can print images on glass, which allows glass to be used as walls or to add privacy to a room with windows. This imagery on glass creates a durable but dynamic look, especially if backlighting is added.
This digital technology also means you no longer have a limited selection on the type of wallpaper you choose. New printing technologies allow you to add almost any image onto vinyl wall coverings. You can add your club’s logo or have an image or illustration of a park setting with people in motion printed onto the tough and resilient vinyl. The wall coverings are hung like wallpaper. This ability to print large-scale graphics in unlimited sizes allowed one of our newest low-budget clubs to put a striking image of a local park on a 12-foot-high-by-120-foot-long wall. The look is uniquely impressive, and the price was reasonable.
The ability to use graphics creatively on floors, ceilings, walls and windows is only limited by your imagination. And with the technology available today in many areas, your ability to create a beautiful, unique environment is only limited by your imagination, too.
Rudy Fabiano, a registered architect and interior designer, is president of Fabiano Designs, an architectural firm for fitness, wellness, sports and recreation centers and spas that has produced more than 400 projects in 21 years.