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Lock it Up

Whether you are considering a major renovation or brand new facility for your camp business, you will thank yourself later if you research how your locker and restrooms can best meet your campers' and staff members' needs.

When you think about it, the importance of instilling confidence that your camp business is professionally run is communicated through what people see.

Just about everyone who visits or stays at your camp will use one of your restrooms. Whether it is a parent, a vendor, a health inspector, a prospective camper, or a camper on day one, the cleanliness and the overall aesthetic of these spaces can make a lasting impression.

Make a List

So before you start the planning phase for a new facility or a renovation of an existing one, be sure that you have the locker and restrooms on your list to carefully consider.

It is all too easy to get seduced into thinking about just the activity areas, i.e., debating how many lanes can you afford to build in a new swimming pool or perhaps how can you squeeze air conditioning for the gymnasium into the budget.

It is all too common for the locker and restrooms to be put on the back burner and minimized because the budget is tight. However, a locker room or restroom that is dark and dingy or hard to find can negatively impact your customers' impressions of your camp business.

If you do it right, the design development phase should include interviewing campers, staff members, and several key visitors from your camp business.

Another important exercise would be to visit other camps that have just completed new construction and renovations to ask the owners what has worked for them and what hasn't. Asking them what they wished they had done differently and if they had any surprises about the final cost of construction are also great ways to learn what to do differently.

Once you have that kind of grassroots input, you can use it to springboard into the design considerations with an architect or someone who specializes in these facilities. Listed below are some ideas that you might find helpful in both saving money and getting a great space that will serve you well for many years.

1. Before you make any design decision, which could include the type of flooring, countertops, circulation patterns, or even the type of locker, be sure to calculate the life cycle costs.

If you have to replace a cheaper item more often than an expensive one or if the labor costs of maintenance exceed the savings at construction, you will pay for that mistake for as long as you have the facility.

For instance, installing a carpet might be cheaper, but unless you religiously vacuum to keep the foot traffic from grinding in dirt, that 10-year, heavy duty wear carpet might have to be replaced in three years.

2. Take advantage of every incentive and grant program that will help to fund "green" initiatives. Your architect can help you research who offers financial assistance for incorporating state-of-the-art strategies to lower your energy, water and material costs over both the short and long term.

Taking the time to pursue these programs can be a small investment that can pay off immediately and keep on paying for the life of your facility.

Locker and restrooms are very high-consumption areas of your facility. Using energy-efficient fluorescent lights, occupancy sensors, translucent windows or skylights to gain natural light, as well as water saving showerheads, faucets and ultra-low flush toilets are all going to reduce your operating costs.

There are also building materials that can be used attract "green" funding. Recycled floor tiles, wall tiling made from recycled glass, and surfaces designed to reflect light to reduce artificial lighting needs can also reduce operating costs.

Another added value of using sustainable design strategies is the good public relations that it can build. Getting the word out that your facility is environmentally friendly and that you were savvy enough to find supplemental funding and reduce operating costs says a lot about your camp business.

To get you started there are two excellent sources for information on design strategies for sustainability: The United States Green Building Council (USGBC -- www.usgbc.org) and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental design (LEED -- www.usgbc.org/LEED). LEED has a wealth of information on sustainable site development, water conservation, energy efficiency and sustainable materials that can be used in construction.

3. Location, location, location. Where do you want to locate a locker or restroom? What kind of traffic pattern (pedestrian circulation) will it create? How easily can it be supervised? Can your customers find it without an extensive tour of the building?

While it might be smart to cluster these spaces together to piggyback plumbing and save on construction costs, what will be the cost of unhappy customers when something is stolen because of poor supervision or someone is frustrated because of the maze that was needed to be negotiated to get to a restroom?

4. Have a plan for how the locker and rest rooms will be cleaned and the secure storage of products that will be needed to service them.

Maintenance of the facility can be a huge labor cost if poor choices are made in materials and equipment. The life cycle costs need to be weighted against the construction costs.

For example, there are over a dozen types of materials that can be used for restroom flooring -- from quarry tile, to carpet, to patterned concrete. What is required to clean the material, how skid-proof it is, and how easily can it be repaired are all variables that should be factored into the decision.

If lockers are placed flush to a wall, this will discourage people from climbing on top of them and hiding items that have been stolen. Solid-surface materials for countertops might cost more initially but they will be easier to clean, more resistant to damage, and give a cleaner look.

5. Privacy. Gang showers may be cost efficient and make cleaning a lot faster because of wide clearance spans but will people want to use them? The cost of a small, enclosed step out area to shower is a lot more attractive because of the privacy it offers.

6. How inviting is the space? Designing adequate clearance, lighting, ventilation and surfaces that have lighter colors to reflect light need to be incorporated.

Create adequate elbow room. Try not to piggy back a huge bank of lockers into corners of a locker room and be sure that benches have enough clearance for people to use their lockers. Towel dispensers, hand dryers and trash receptacles should adjoin sinks so that people don't have to travel and drip water across the floor.

7. Security. There are several factors to consider -- acoustical ceiling tiles can be used to hide stolen items, contraband, etc., and these should be avoided in areas where people are leaving personal belongings.

Customers should use locks on lockers for all items that they cannot take with them. Ask vendors to discuss how theft-proof the construction is of the locker and locks that you can purchase.

8. Consider the hands-off approach. Many more people now are concerned with contracting diseases from places that are used by people with an unknown variety of hygiene habits. In other words, "hands free" is in.

Angled entrances with privacy panels can eliminate the need for doors and the doorknobs that people put their hands on that can spread germs. There are no-touch toilets, sinks and showers that that use infrared sensors to turn on and off.

Many experts believe that the public not only appreciates this investment to prevent the spread of disease but they also believe that people are less likely to abuse the facilities that use the touchless technology.

9. Consider reducing waste and saving money by installing warm-air hand dryers. A typical camp restroom could average 300 hand washings per day over a 90-day camp season. Say two paper towels are used by each person; that math can add up to a substantial expense, not to mention the landfill where the paper will end up. Return on investment of hand dryers can be as fast as one year.

10. Create an ownership for cleanliness. If supervision is apparent by staff presence in both cleaning and inspecting and if there are prompt responses to broken hardware, accidents, spills and replenishment of toilet paper, customers are much more respectful and content with the facility.

These attitudes can contribute to their owning theses spaces so that they will actually report broken fixtures, empty dispensers, and they will be less likely to leave trash behind. Creating shared ownership with customers by carefully designing and caring for the facility can make all the difference in both your costs and your customers' satisfaction.

Dr. Susan Langlois has more than 25 years of experience as a college professor, athletic administrator, camp director and sport facilities consultant. She is currently the Dean of Sports Science at Endicott College.

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