New Health Clubs Designed in Old Buildings

At one time, many health club owners poured millions of dollars into constructing their fitness facilities from the ground up. Often, they demolished existing buildings or searched far and wide for undeveloped land. Times have changed, and business owners are now looking for ways to cut costs and conserve resources. By following an up-and-coming trend called adaptive reuse, owners can breathe new life into an existing building and circumvent much of the expense and the challenges of new construction.

Joel Cantor, a San Francisco architect, says he's currently working on more adaptive reuse health club projects than new construction for fitness facilities. Over the years, these types of projects have made up more than half of his health club client case load. Hervey Lavoie, president of Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative, Denver, says his firm has also done its share of adaptive reuse projects by converting big-box retail stores into state-of-the-art health clubs.

Transforming an aging building into a modern health club, however, is not without its obstacles. While health club owners can often preserve the shell of the building, they often need to gut the building and upgrade the plumbing and electrical systems. Many times, they'll also have to make compromises when it comes to design because the building wasn't designed to be a fitness center.

"In new construction, you can always optimize the space, but with adaptive reuse, you have to figure out what you can live with and what you can't," says Lavoie, who once had to work a pole into the design of a swimming pool during an adaptive reuse project. "Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and spend money to make it right."

To have more options when it comes to design, many health club owners have snapped up vacant big-box stores. With their high ceilings and wide open spaces, these buildings can be easily transformed into a fitness center. Some fitness facility owners, however, have taken a more adventurous approach by converting buildings, such as an airplane hangar, a train depot, an eight-plex cinema and a Wall Street bank, into modern health clubs.

Read the stories below for detailed examples of adaptive reuse:

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