Gym acoustic challenges
When it comes to multi use sporting facilities there are quite unique challenges, particularly surrounding gym acoustics.
Consider that this type of building could house meeting rooms, open plan offices, sometimes a lecture theatre or similarly designated learning areas all combined with a gym and/or a swimming pool. Those uses are often combined with activities that are associated with a sporting club affiliation. And with those come a variety of noises and needs.
What that means is — and particularly with the elite level clubs and associations like we found with the home of the South Sydney Rabbitohs at the Heffron Centre, working with Integral Group and Co-Op Studio — they’re bringing in their corporate functions, as well as their sporting, coaching and medical functions altogether in one space. This can create conflicting sets of desires in relation to how the spaces are used and how they might perform in an acoustic sense. Essentially, there are different subsets of users of the space that are not necessarily compatible.
What kind of acoustic considerations need to be in place?
Typically, in a gym or fitness centre, there are people lifting heavy weights and dropping them on the floor and that has constraints in terms of how you build up your floors. You might need some very special considerations and design advice on what that looks like over and above if you had a standalone facility.
It can be quite complex because there are weights dropped on floors which cause vibration, perhaps there is loud music being played and other noise which can be heard further through remote areas of the building and that can be more challenging to control.
Additionally, the building materials used also needs to take into account the use of the area. For example, a swimming pool area is frequently damp and the reverberation reducing materials need to account for that. Typical sound absorbing materials don’t really like moisture much, so that’s a consideration and careful choice of how you build your structure. The materials you use from an acoustic perspective are important so that you get the performance you need and it’s maintained.
Something else to consider that may not be immediately obvious is that most facilities of this size will have quite a significant amount of mechanical plant sitting on rooftop plant areas, which are open to the air. The noise levels from outdoor fans and other equipment need to be factored into the amenity around the facility. Do you really want users to be running around the oval next to the sound of a noisy fan?
All these things can easily be initially overlooked in a project of this size.
Here are three important acoustic solutions for gyms and multi use spaces:
- Placement of areas in the building: make sure a noisy space isn’t directly next door to spaces that require quiet, eg offices or learning rooms.
- Carefully choose materials used indoors: from the flooring to the wall cladding to ceiling materials.
- Introduce high performing partitions to help with sound separation.
One of the biggest things to consider in a multi use space is to consider gym acoustics from as early as possible. Forgetting to factor this in early on in planning can lead to huge expenses and inconvenience down the track. Especially, if you build your building and only then realise that the clashing weights in the workout room make it hard for administrative staff to take phone calls!
It’s important to also be wary that you are including the right sort of building materials. A product might claim to be ‘the best acoustic product ever’ and might make a nice partition but it doesn’t actually stop the noise travelling from one side of the partition to the other side (and into another room). It doesn’t absorb sound or take echoes away.
The advantage of an acoustic consultant
But it’s not just the above considerations. Where the advantage of having an acoustic consultant onboard comes in is that often they employ a multi disciplined approach. From an acoustic perspective, Resonate Consultants look at a variety of disciplines because we just don’t provide our input and that’s it. We review the architectural side of things, the building purposes as well as the mechanical, electrical, hydraulic side of things.
Having a reliable acoustic consulting firm involved from the start means there are genuine value management and cost savings offered. Plus, you can be informed and advised upfront about where the considerations need to be applied.
‘If you understand where those considerations need to be applied, it allows you to at least be pragmatic about putting your money where the really important areas are. These common areas might be entrance lobbies and thoroughfares like corridors and circulation areas. Typically, they are transient places. People come and go and they don’t tend to hang around there. So that might be an area where you compromise and decide not to spend as much on acoustic absorption there,’ says Andy Parker, Technical Director, Resonate Consultants.
‘To get great work done, it often comes down to finding that balance between what the client ultimately wants and how can the acoustics best be mitigated to create a user friendly space for all.
We try and find ways of incorporating, where possible, what’s ultimately an optimal outcome. And the truth is, you know you’ve done a good job if no one says anything about the acoustics!’
Our work with multi use sporting facilities
Recently, some of our work, particularly with interesting projects such as the $58 million Heffron Centre, means we have had to consider and advise on all these key aspects.
Part of the Randwick City Council area, The Heffron Centre is home to the headquarters of the South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL team which means it will be an elite facility with professional athletes working out in the gym combined with commercial functions. Set to be ready by 2022, it will have two indoor sports halls, a larger dedicated gymnastics facility, rugby league training field and facilities to support Souths Cares’ (the Rabbitohs not for profit institution) educational and community programs.
‘The Heffron Centre Community High Performance Centre for the Rabbitohs includes dedicated administration and operational areas, high performance training areas, player amenities, recovery zones including aquatic recovery, physiotherapy and medical, lecture theatre and classroom and a merchandise shop,’ Randwick City Council states.
It was important that we expertly advised the client on selection of separating elements, such as high performance glazing etc, whilst making them aware of what the potential issues might be all whilst providing solutions that minimise the impact of noise and reverberation and make it a functional and cohesive space for a variety of uses.
Connect with our award winning acoustic consultants before you plan your multi use sporting facility build or upgrade.
Images supplied by Co-Op Studio