October 2015: It’s All About The Base

Many residential and commercial buildings include fitness centers as an amenity offered to tenants.  While beneficial to one’s health, acoustical issues can arise if the fitness center is improperly located or isolated without thought to the adjacent building tenants. Read on to learn more about acoustical issues that should be considered during the design of fitness centers in mixed-use buildings.  

At a minimum, fitness centers offer aerobic-type machines such as treadmills or ellipticals, plus weight machines and free-weights.  Larger fitness centers have spaces for group classes such as spinning or aerobics/cross-fit, which often use equipment like weights, kettle bells and slam balls, plus a loud sound system with pulsing music to keep the participants energized.  Sound and vibration from these activities can travel through a building and may disturb neighboring occupants.


A major source of annoyance from a fitness center to an adjacent space is impact sound from participants or equipment on the fitness center floor.  These include both small –  running on a treadmill, or large – dropping free weights on the floor.  Once the impact sound occurs, it can travel above, below, and side-to-side causing audible thuds, thumps, and booms.  Along with these sounds, vibration from the impact may be felt in the floors, walls, and ceilings of neighboring spaces which could cause wall-mounted objects and light fixtures to rattle.  These shaky sounds are best saved for haunted houses!


Airborne sound propagating through a demising assembly can also be a concern.  Fitness centers often have music in the group classes as well as an amplified instructor directing the class.  If the room is not properly isolated, the music and instructor’s voice may be audible in adjacent spaces.


So, what can be done to reduce the noise and vibration? Location! Location! Location!  It is best to locate a fitness center on slab-on-grade construction or over non-critical spaces like a storage room or parking garage.  In commercial buildings, installation of a thick rubber isolation floor pad system with pedestals may be enough to reduce fitness center sounds to the building occupants.  If the fitness center is located on an upper floor of a residential building, a concrete floating floor system may be required.  To reduce airborne sound transmission from music to adjacent spaces, isolated gypsum board barrier ceilings and enhanced wall construction may be necessary.  And don’t forget about the speakers.  They may need isolation from the walls as well.

Fitness Centers are more the norm now in many commercial and residential buildings.  Let’s keep everyone healthy and happy and make sure the adjacent neighbors can function in peace while not feeling guilty that they are not exercising too!  And it really is all about the base!


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