How to Think Green For Your Fitness Facility


Kurt Broadhag, MS, CSCS, is a fitness professional with more than 15 years of experience in personal training and gym design. He is president of both K Allan Consulting, a firm specializing in health club design and management, and 23D Gym Design, which develops both two- and three-dimensional fitness center layouts. Kurt can be contacted at (310) 601-7768 or via e-mail at [email protected].

The movement is upon us. An award-winning documentary on the state of our planet and multi-continent concerts are preaching change. The green movement has arrived and is gaining tremendous momentum. Businesses are realizing this is a topic they must address.

One non-profit organization, the U.S Green Building Council, has been at the forefront in helping businesses adopt these green practices and has created a certification known as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). This in-depth rating system focuses on the design, construction and operation of green facilities in relationship to sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material selection and indoor air quality.

At first glance, this certification might seem a bit overwhelming, but do not fear. As a business owner/operator, you can immediately retrofit your facility by adopting key LEED principles. These principles include some simple yet effective changes in day-to-day operations, such as conserving water and electricity, creating a healthy workout environment, purchasing green products and the adoption of green policies. Making the following small changes is the first step in the journey towards joining the movement and possibly even LEED certification.

Conserve Water. The main source of water use within fitness centers is the restroom/locker room area. New high efficiency fixtures that include low-flow showerheads, sink fixtures and toilets, as well as waterless urinals, are available for the commercial setting. Fixtures with occupant sensors that turn on and off by themselves, thereby eliminating the risk of members leaving the water running, are also on the market. These fixtures, along with client education, should serve as the cornerstone to water conservation. Steps can also be taken in facilities that provide towel services by decreasing the amount of daily wash. Laundry loads can be more efficient by adopting a one-towel-per-client policy, using smaller towels and washing full loads at a time.

Save Electricity. Simple steps can drastically reduce electrical usage from lighting, audio/visual systems, cardiovascular equipment and HVAC systems. Regular light bulbs should be replaced by compact fluorescent bulbs that use up to 75 percent less energy and produce less heat. Natural light should be used as much as possible within the facility, with electrical lighting added only to meet the minimum American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) lighting guidelines. Motion-controlled lighting can be installed within certain areas, such as locker rooms, so it is only on when occupied. Televisions and cardiovascular equipment should remain off until accessed by members. Finally, the air conditioning system should be set only within the ACSM guidelines.

Create a Healthy Environment. Indoor air quality is an important component in green design, especially in a fitness center. There are many indoor air pollutants within fitness centers, such as volatile organic chemicals (VOC) that are found mainly in cleaners, and biological agents, such as bacteria and viruses. These pollutants should be controlled both through the source and also through ventilation. Source control of VOCs involves using green cleaning products. Organizations such as Greenseal and Greenguard have rating systems and provide lists of green cleaning supplies. Using these in combination with a thorough daily maintenance-cleaning schedule will reduce the amount of biological agents in the air. Also, make sure air filters are clean and regularly replaced and that the building is ventilated properly.

Purchase Green Products. Businesses should find green alternatives to the products they purchase. These are products that are generally reusable, recyclable and non-toxic, and come from recycled material. These can include towels, cleaning supplies, office supplies, amenities and equipment. Paper products such as copy paper, toilet paper and paper towels should be made of chlorine-free recycled products. Toner and print cartridges should be re-manufactured. Amenities purchased, much like the cleaning products, should be low in VOCs and picked from green-product lists. Finally, equipment should be energy saving or even self-powered.

Adopt a Green Policy. Companies need to adopt the 3 Rs—reduce, reuse and recycle. This involves using fewer products by conserving; reusing products until they reach the end of their lifespan; and donating unwanted supplies or disposing them so that they can be recycled. Simple steps such as decreasing paper usage by sending digital files instead of faxes, using both sides of paper for copies, using rolled paper towels instead of folded and providing disposal for recycling paper is an example of the 3 Rs at work.

Our commitment to the green movement begins within our fitness facility and reaches beyond. Simple steps can translate into global change. By making facilities eco-friendly, we empower our members to adopt not only a healthy lifestyle but also a healthy environment. The movement starts with us.

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