September 2016 Newsletter: A Second Set of Reps

A year ago, our newsletter discussed fitness centers and their impact (pun intended) on a project’s acoustical design.  Since then, we have seen a staggering growth in the number of fitness center projects requiring acoustical consultation.  We are not the only ones seeing a growth in this category as many manufacturers have developed a new range of flooring products that are intended to help control heavy impact or shock.  In this second set of reps on the issue, we will discuss the core problem, exercise programming, and potential for strengthening fitness center acoustical design.  Read on to learn more about the proper acoustical form when starting any fitness regime.

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Rep 1: Weighing In on the Problem
Airborne sound is a concern given that most fitness centers have background music along with shouts of trainers running through their facility’s sound system.  Airborne sound can be controlled through means covered in a previous newsletter.  The more complicated concern is structure-borne noise from vibration and impact.  Vibration from impacts has the uncanny ability to propagate long distances throughout the structure of a building, traveling across floors and down through walls.  Many architects and contractors are familiar with IIC ratings – a single number intended to quantify how well a floor/ceiling assembly controls impact sound from footfall.  Unfortunately, IIC ratings have little bearing on how well an assembly will control impact typical of a fitness center; furthermore, there is no current impact rating system to help guide design decisions and as such, the role of the acoustical consultant becomes critical.  Before touching on the newest products and their role in the shock and vibration control solution, we will define categories of exercise for our second rep.
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Rep 2: Exercise Categories
Yoga, Spin, and Pilates movements do not typically create heavy impact; these types of fitness centers fall in the low impact category.  These facilities generally require minimal shock and impact control and concerns are typically limited to airborne sound isolation into and from adjacencies.  High impact fitness centers utilize free weights, treadmills, strength training equipment or allow routines that involve jumping.  The upper echelon of high impact activities includes extreme impact training such as the CrossFit brand, routines that actually throw weights and slam down sledgehammers.  High impact fitness center require significant consideration regarding shock and impact control, which is covered in our next rep.
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Rep 3: Strengthening Vibration Control
Manufacturers such as ECore International, Regupol America, and Pliteq have recently developed products that market to the growing fitness center vibration control epidemic.  Products are usually in the form of rubber tiles on a rubber pedestal system that is between 2″-3″ high.  While these products offer improvement over roll-out rubber underlayment systems, they are not a comprehensive solution.  Location and structure play a major role in the vibration control solution as well.  For example, locating a high impact facility above a residential unit in a wood-framed building is generally a non-starter; the fitness center should be located on the ground level.  However, locating a high impact fitness center on a thick concrete floor above a residence or office can be done; although, the design will likely begin with “floating” a second slab in combination with one of the products mentioned above.
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In short, every addition, relocation, or design of a fitness center is unique in terms of vibration and shock impact control.  There is no one-size-fits-all comprehensive product or design.  The involvement of an expert in vibration control is imperative if the goal is to keep each occupant in the building ripped and rested at the same time.
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