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Design Considerations for Recreational Facilities

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

Over the last handful of months, a number of athletes at all levels have returned to competition, whether it’s been little leaguers making their return to the sandlot or the professionals running our onto the floors of empty floors.

However, there’s still work to be done to make facilities as safe as possible, minimizing the odds of a shutdown that could further delay or cancel an athlete’s season, one they’ve trained hard to prepare for even at this time of global uncertainty.

Athletes face a number of obstacles ahead of any season, from injuries to conditioning challenges to mental preparation. The challenge of coronavirus is unlike any most have ever experienced in the midst of a training cycle.

“This is a whole different ballgame,” Dr. Armand Dorian, an associate medical professor at USC, said to the Los Angeles Times. “The potential for spread is high.”

With over 200 recreational facilities projects under our belt, the team from Tec Inc. collaborated and provided a few ideas to help these facility operators keep their doors open through the pandemic.

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), an industry leader in the improvement of recreation facilities, recommends three key areas of focus: ventilation, filtration, and purification.

Keeping those focus areas in mind, our team took a look at how different types of recreation facilities can best benefit from an engineer's knowledge on the prevention of disease spread.

Gyms & Fitness Centers

In their nature, gyms and fitness centers are open spaces that have many high-touch areas, which is one of the main causes of the spread of COVID-19.

Guidelines from the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin both recommend the re-evaluation of all mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in these facilities, as the high flow of occupants causes additional levels of concern.

One step operators should consider is the installation of payment terminals and card readers further from employees and closer to the customer. For some, this could mean the installation of new terminals, ones that allow for no-touch or even customer-only touch, adding an extra layer of protection for the employee.

The installation of new handwashing units also provides a solution for operators and customers, an item recommended by the Center for Disease Control upon the reopening of fitness centers.

Consulting with a plumbing designer or engineer before making this kind of change ensures the feasibility and highest quality of sanitation ahead of installation.

Locker Room Environments

These non-controlled environments already require a level of heightened sanitary needs, but in the time of COVID-19, locker rooms are certainly areas that could use a little extra attention as facilities allow customers back into their space.

In these areas, air filtration and purification are areas that simply can't be ignored.

Investing in higher rated air filters (MERV-13 or higher) or air purifying units with HEPA filters for locker rooms could prove a strong move, as the quality of air in clustered and enclosed spaces raises the risk for disease spread. While a number of these units can be purchased at a variety of price points, considering a strong and reliable purifier, which will still hold value in spread prevention after the end of the coronavirus pandemic, as recommended by the CDC.

These are additional measures for decreasing contaminants in the air but do not replace the importance of properly maintaining and operating HVAC system.

Further, the installation of germicidal ultraviolet light (UVGI) into the HVAC equation in locker rooms would be another good consideration for owners.

Applying UGVI to the upper air spaces allows for the sanitization of occupied spaces, which can eliminate small particles and contaminants that could potentially cause harm to occupants of a locker room.

In order to help provide a better understanding of this technology, Tec Inc.'s own Brandon Sargent, PE, LEED AP BD+C, provided insight on UGVI lighting solutions for HVAC units.

Parks, Trails, & Outdoor Recreation Facilities

When it comes to recreation, parks and outdoor facilities have unique advantages when compared to their indoor counterparts, per the Mayo Clinic. The natural, open-air ventilation prevents some of the more extensive sanitation needs required by indoor facilities, though these areas still need careful considerations. Many outdoor recreation facilities still have a number of high-touch areas (such as playgrounds) and offer shelter areas for their visitors.

Additionally, outdoor facilities might want to consider adding additional handwashing units throughout their spaces.

In any restroom space, owners should take added precautions as it comes to their cleaning, but installing new technology might have longterm benefits.

As a number of these spaces have no ventilation system included with the exception of opening windows, adding overhead air purification systems to their restrooms, which helps eliminate particles and pathogens from the space. These types of units are recommended by Hartford Health Care for those returning to a wide variety of spaces.

Our team also recommends the installation of touchless plumbing fixtures, which greatly reduces risk that comes from traditional faucets, toilet handles, soap dispensers, and paper towel dispensers.

Next step? Seek advice from an engineer.

While these ideas from our engineers may be helpful for some, each facility has its own intricacies, which may require unique solutions to help bring an added level of safety to their visitors.

Fortunately, Tec Inc’s expert engineers have the knowledge and experience, allowing our team to provide specialized solutions for a wide range of clients and facility types.

With hundreds of renovation projects under our belt, we have the skills necessary to meet the needs of our clients.

Contributions from the Engineering Team at Tec Inc.

Executive Vice President

Tim Pool is known for his genuine desire to make Tec Inc. a great place to work. He regularly shares his knowledge with younger staff and walks the walk of an engineer who gives back to our industry and community. Now executive vice president and our director of engineering, Tim runs an internal committee at Tec Inc. dedicated to the future of design; one of our differentiators. Tim is not only passionate about engineering, he also understands the importance of developing meaningful relationships — a value we live by at Tec Inc.

Principal | Director of Mechanical Engineering

Recognized as a pragmatic and skilled expert in HVAC engineering and plumbing design, John focuses on making the most of project budgets and schedules for our clients. A skilled troubleshooter and proponent of increasing energy efficiency, John manages and leads our mechanical engineering staff at Tec. In addition, he is always looking to help future AEC professionals along the way.

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