Rethinking Locker Room Design Amid a Pandemic
By Paul Steinbach
Locker room design has changed over the years to reflect the evolving preferences of end users. What impact, if any, will unprecedented public awareness of infectious disease precipitated by a pandemic have on future design? Athletic Business asked architects to weigh in on how spaces already dedicated to personal hygiene might change in the future to further promote patron health. Here are several ideas.
Once-in-a-lifetime (fingers crossed) events have a way of altering perceptions. Will the pandemic change the way prospective users view locker rooms in any lasting — if not permanent — way?
"The pandemic has naturally brought about a renewed concern for cleanliness and hygiene to the point that patrons may avoid using locker rooms at all, except for the toilets and sinks," McKenna says. "It took years for locker rooms to earn the attention and care on par with other well-designed spaces in a facility, and now it may be years again before locker rooms can return to their pre-pandemic stature."
Ostertag likewise sees potential for locker room use becoming more limited. "I think the general interest and desire for a rented locker will decrease after COVID," she says. "In return, this will decrease the number of rentable lockers needed and overall locker sale revenue. The challenge moving forward will be how to appropriately space lockers but not waste valuable square footage.
"I also believe clients and users will request lock types that don't require contact, such as RFID carded locks similar to hotel doors."
Kocher, meanwhile, allows himself to look beyond the immediate challenges presented by the novel coronavirus pandemic to a locker room almost unrecognizable by today's standards. "Imagining locker room innovation way into the future, I can think only of the original James Bond movie reimagined in the Austin Powers series when Austin rides across the moving shower device," he says. "Or perhaps, even further ahead, we will no longer need locker rooms because we will be using clothing that self-cleans as we wear it. After working out, you will activate via voice command a self-cleaning sequence that will clean and dry both you and your bodysuit so you will be immediately ready to head back to work. No changing or showering required!"
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Rethinking Locker Room Design Amid a Pandemic" Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry.
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