Proper Facility Flow

Proper Facility Flow Chart

Proper Facility Flow

A Series of Life Changing Design pt. 2

Most Park and Recreation Professionals have a deep understanding of the transformative power recreation has in the communities it serves. The benefits of family cohesion, better health, socialization, community pride, sports enhancement and good sportsmanship all reach deep into the core of better quality life for all. To assure the best customer service possible occurs amidst rising expectation, and dwindling resources, professionals must use every means at their disposal to implement increasingly better programs at the right price, location, and times with the best instructors, staff, and equipment available. The same holds true of facilities that are expected to be clean, well maintained, and spectacular in the amenities they offer. Providing the very best, well designed facilities is at the core of creating a great guest experience.

Beyond the brick and mortar of a Community Center, and often times hidden from the naked eye lay elements the building when designed properly; make the difference between having an experience of confusion and monotony, to one of pure joy and invigoration. This blog uncovers the fundamentals of several make or break principals of facility design that when implemented by an expert will provide your users with an incredible experience for decades to come.

The last time, we talked about the separation of diverse user groups. This discussion will take a look at the role that proper facility flow has in creating happy customers and staff, and how it can help to raise the bottom line. The recently opened Estes Valley Community Center in Estes Park Colorado will serve as a case study.

Proper Facility Flow

Do you remember your ‘Grandpa’s Rec Center’? The one that was built in the 1960s or 70s? These facilities were a labyrinth of corridors connecting individual amenities in enclosed rooms. Oftentimes these spaces were locked, and staff had to open them for use when a customer arrived. Then in the late 80’ and 90’s, a new design direction burst on the scene with a fresh approach to the planning puzzle Corridors became non-existent, fitness areas became big open spaces with enclosed group exercise studios being fed from the perimeter. Some designers were even bold enough to open gymnasium spaces to the rest of the facility. But this new open planning concept brought with it challenges. For example; how best to access a mind/ body studio without sending participants through a free-weight area teaming with teenagers ‘buffing up’? Or how to access an activity pool from the locker rooms without sending the toddlers across a competitive pool deck? Even now there are facilities that do not fully respond to the very basic principles of good user flow throughout the building. These facilities do not deliver the best customer experience possible.

There is a general pattern of user movement through a facility that begins upon entry. Kids are dropped off at a child watch area prior to approaching the front desk. Commonly, the community rooms, art functions, and teen areas also exist in the area prior to the control desk in the entry sequence. Once a customer checks in, they either head directly to their destination, or to their destination via the locker rooms. It seems pretty simple. However, when diverse user groups come into play, such as children and birthday parties, or spectators for a competitive event, the flow can become compromised. The Estes Valley Community Center has a mix of Seniors, Competitive Athletes, Spectators, Recreation Users, Community Room Users, and Birthday Party users all using the facility simultaneously. Great care was given to the following aspects of flow in the initial planning exercises:

  1. Create separate entries for senior and community room users.
  2. Re-introduce Seniors to fitness elements through a back door entrance to the Fitness Floor.
  3. Individual Team Locker Rooms for competitive swimmers with direct access to the competitive pool.
  4. Separate entry for swim spectators so they are not introduced to the overall facility.
  5. Direct access to the Party Rooms from the Lobby.
  6. Direct access to the Activity Pool from the Party Room.
  7. Access to the Mind Body Studio through the stretching area of the Fitness Floor.
  8. Quick access to the Locker Rooms from the front desk.
  9. Quick access to main recreation amenities directly from the Front Desk.
  10. Quick access from the administration office to both the control desk and recreation amenities.
  11. Ease of access to both activity pools and competitive pools from the main Locker Rooms without cross traffic at pool decks.
  12. Centralized building support space with direct exterior access.
  13. Catering Kitchen with direct exterior access, access to lobby, and pass through to meeting rooms.
  14. Walk-Jog track that circulates through multiple areas, and offers exciting interior and exterior views.

All these key aspects, and many more subtle considerations were all accounted for, and implemented in the planning of this grand new center that is a delight to use and a dream to operate.

Great things happen when a facility is planned for smooth flow for all users.

  • Inefficient circulation space is transferred to program areas for maximum programmability.
  • Customers move quickly and intuitively to their destinations.
  • Staff has easy access to customers which can reduce staffing, enhance customer service, raise the bottom line, and increase security and control.

For buffering, the Functional Training and Free-Weights area is located in an open area somewhat removed from the balance of the Fitness Floor .

Easy access to both the Locker Rooms and recreational destinations from the Control Desk

Activity Pool access through family changing for atmospheric separation. Keeps water out of the party rooms too!!!

To recieve more context, refer to series 1 of 3 where we discuss adjacency of spaces and interior view corridors.