Pilates and …
Eco-Friendly Facilities: Small (Carbon) Footprint, Big Returns
By Stuart Walker
This story was originally published in Balanced Body’s 2010 catalog
I’ve been in the health club business for 20 years and have managed a 100,000 square foot facility. The utility bill for a larger club is staggering - I was paying 25-30K per month and I could not see how to reduce that given the current infrastructure. I wanted to do something different with my next club. Something that was built to be sustainable from the onset.
I got my opportunity when I leased a former grocery store that was actually pretty close to being condemned (the place barely had a roof on it) close to the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
The facility was around 10K square feet so the question I asked myself was how do I get the most people in here as efficiently and comfortably as possible. I looked at what 90 percent of the people were using and I thought I could get all of that into a smaller club. So that’s what we set out to do.
Space and Flow
Part of a green build-out is space efficiency. And a lot of that space-saving is in the design and the flow of the building. We designed the club so that a member could walk out of one area right into another. For instance you can walk right out of our Pilates studio and into the cardio room. We really tried to establish an intimate spa-like feel with the club and we used the nooks and crannies of the building for more private areas.
A rubber roof, ductless air conditioning and more
For cooling and heating we installed a wide TPO (rubber) roof with four inches of insulation on top of that. That literally reflects everything away and helps keep it cool.
In addition, we used “mini splits” – ductless air conditioning systems - that run on 110 volts (as opposed to 220). They kind of look like the a smaller version of the AC units you might see in a window of a house but with a true condensing unit. We mounted them in various rooms and each one pumps 2-3 They are unbelievably efficient because of the lower voltage and the fact that you aren’t running air all the way through the ducts.
As a result the bill reduction has been astounding. I have 32 tons of AC pumped through here and my bill is only $800 a month. And this place is cold. The great thing is that we didn’t spend that much more money for this system as opposed to a standard system - we just had to find a creative way to implement it.
For our winter months we have south facing windows which lets the sun in and really keeps our building pretty warm - our gas bill is only $300 per month.
Sustainable materials and gray water systems
All of our floors and doors are built of sustainable woods or recycled rubber. Both of our studios- Pilates and Group Exercise have a floating bamboo fitness floor called “Zenterra”, it has a cushioned system and requires no adhesive. Our weight room floors are made of 100% recycled rubber tires. We also used all low or no emitting paints, adhesives, stains, and sealants. We also took the 60-year old timbers from the old ceiling and used it to create 80 percent of our walls.
One of the coolest things did was install a “gray water system” where the shower water goes down the drain and become the toilet water. That reduces the water bill quite a bit.
We are one the very few private small businesses to be LEED certified (Leadership of Energy and Environmental Design). That’s the government’s program of making sure businesses are truly adhering to green standards – it’s rigid and time consuming but we think it’s worth it.
The club opened in September of 2009 and has been doing great. Our members love the what we have done from a “green” perspective and, in fact, it has become our most successful marketing tool.
From a small business standpoint if you really put the work in, pick the right products and design your facility the right way, you can build an extremely efficient facility that’s easy on the environment and, in the long run, will give you a huge return on investment.