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Funding Changing Room Refurbishment

Jon Pearson looks at the funding options available for facility refurbishment and the issues that need to be taken into account when specifying changing room provision

Published in Sports Management 2012 issue 2
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Suitable mounting systems 
in on lockers ensure that locks can’t easily be removed
Suitable mounting systems in on lockers ensure that locks can’t easily be removed

Although there may be funding problems currently being faced by local authorities, trusts and operators of public leisure facilities, building development and refurbishment certainly hasn’t ground to a halt.

In fact, in some circumstances, the current situation is much better than anticipated a couple of years’ ago. This is due to the fact that there are a number of funding options open to facilitate new and refurbishment schemes – some of which are a direct result of legacy promises linked to the nation’s successful bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Facility funding
Government help is available, either directly or via National Lottery funding and there are various ways of obtaining this, such as through Sport England’s £130m Places People Play funding initiatives.

Then there’s the continued demand for planning gain from companies, such as supermarkets, that are prepared to work with councils under the new planning guidelines to free up important central sites – in exchange for funding the development of new and more efficient leisure facilities on ‘brown field’ sites. Other opportunities exist through private sector partnerships with leisure providers that have access to matched funding, in return for long-term management contracts.

Self-financed refurbishment schemes are also available. For example, a busy facility with around 220,000 annual users could generate enough funds via profit shares rental agreements to pay for £100,000-worth of refurbished changing and washroom facilities. This route can also be used to provide equipment, such as lockers, in new facility schemes, without capital requirement.

However, the funds are limited, so it’s essential that the new or refurbished facility offers value for money. A good life expectancy of all fixtures and fittings should be paramount. Ideally the latest materials and designs should be considered to bring a facility into the 21st century, while taking account of the latest regulations regarding safety and accessibility.

Designing for future use
In my opinion, it’s essential to employ the services of an experienced architectural practice that understands the community needs – today and into the future – within a multi-leisure centre facility.

Of course, facility design is important, but the quality of the fixtures and fittings, how they operate and the materials used need to be proven.

Design and build contracts are a current trend in leisure facility procurement however, these have drawbacks. The initial client’s brief and specification needs to be sufficiently detailed to ensure that the client/operator has a facility that is fit for purpose.

In this competitive age, there are many examples of original specifications being ignored or downgraded, to the determent of the final product. To avoid additional cost or inferior finishes, the initial brief must be strong and detailed. This is important for clients using portals, which are open for tender to any company that has ability to pass through to the tender stage. There have been a number of examples where intended specifications have not been met because the tender specification was weak.

High-use public changing and washroom facilities need an early decision on the type of changing facility required.

Currently, village/unisex changing areas are preferable for cost and ease of supervision, however, there is also the need to take account the needs of those using the facility – particularly ethnic minority groups, who prefer added privacy and may be deterred from using the facility if this was not available.

It’s easy to calculate the size and provision of both cubicles and lockers. Experienced architects in leisure provision have access to recommendations from Sport England and can also draw from their past experience.

Once the layout and size of the facility has been decided there are important issues to consider regarding conforming with building and health and safety regulations as well as understanding the type of customer behaviour expected in a busy leisure facility.

Cubicles: (Reference to Part M, Section five of Building Regulations)

- WC compartment doors and doors to wheelchair accessible unisex toilets, changing rooms or shower rooms should have an emergency release mechanism so they can be opened outwards from the outside in case of an emergency.

- Turning space should be a minimum of 450mm in WC cubicles and 550mm in changing and showers, from the edge of an open door to the pan, shower head or bench seat.

- The fronts of cubicles should have a 30-point light reflection variance between the door and frame or side panel

- Division panels in laminate cubicles between cubicles or spine walls should be in a material that prevents the drilling of spy holes.

- The hinge edge of the door needs to avoid finger traps and nipping on the inside and outside of the door.

- Provision to stop people standing on bench seats and looking into cubicles

- Provision for anti-camera skirts to prevent the use of mobile phone cameras underneath the cubicles.

- Cubicle-framing head rails and anti-peep rails strong enough to enable users to carry out chin ups.

- Consider cubicle systems, which have fewer floor fixings for ease of cleaning and supervision or incorporate attachments bonded without screws penetrating through the floor finishes.

- Provision of showers, pre-cleanse etc. within changing areas that cater for male and female, will now need to be enclosed and opaque.

- Relevant Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) provisions to be adhered to.

Life Expectancy
The materials should be designed for a minimum of 15 years life expectancy and remain rigid throughout their working life with normal levels of maintenance.
The strength relies on the construction of the cubicle not on bolted fittings through the panel media. Spring hinges will out-perform lower-cost rise and fall types. The type of cubicle latch should be designed to cope with heavy use – including slamming doors with the latch in the closed position.

Lockers
There are many types of locks on the market, mechanical and electronic, with systems that prevent or reduce the likelihood of leisure facility users personalising their lockers.

Suitable mounting systems are required to ensure locks cannot be easily removed or knocked from the back of the door. A good range of differs and availability of master series are essential. There are low cost lock and keys, which have the same master series, so anyone obtaining a master key from one leisure centre can open lockers in another.

The same applies for the choice of key. It’s easy to find methods of using a ‘bump’ key to open locks on the internet. However, there are locks with a large number of differs and master series, utilising ‘drilled’ keys, which are safe to use and can’t be bumped.

These are just some of the considerations in preparing changing room specifications to ensure best practice and value – once the funding is in place.

Jon Pearson is director of Prospec

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