02 Nov Noise Control in Fitness Centres, Gyms, and Workout Studios
In recent years, the number of fitness centres, gyms and workout studios has increased greatly. New apartment buildings, shopping malls, and office blocks now regularly have a facility where the public can engage with an active lifestyle.
However, the increase of fitness centres come with a substantial rise of noise disturbance complaints from the other building occupants. The quaking noise from kettlebells being dropped onto the gym floor, thumping bass-beat from spin classes and aerobic workouts, and the continual clatter caused by treadmills and more are the source of intrusive disturbance for many trying to live or work adjacent to these facilities.
The successful control of noise from fitness centres requires measures that not only deal with airborne sound transmission, but also the low-frequency structure-borne sound caused by dropping free weights that passes through the intervening walls and floors.
At BKL, we have studied a number of cases, inevitably after a new fitness facility has moved into a building and complaints from neighbouring residents have come pouring in. We have found that while improvements can often be made to reduce noise transfer in these situations, it is certainly the most difficult time to make a significant difference in noise transfers.
Often, the obtrusive noise involves high levels of music, or low-intensity impact-related sounds, as often associated with treadmills, dance, or spin classes. Resolution of these problems is usually possible, although it requires some upgrades to the wall or floor/ceiling assemblies to something considerably more robust than standard residential or commercial office constructions.
Other times, periodic high-amplitude disturbances come from dropping free weights or stacks of plates in weightlifting machines, or from the more intense impact associated with CrossFit classes, which encourage dropping or throwing weights or medicine balls. While it is a good idea to not locate such a facility directly above a sound-sensitive neighbour, we have also found that noise problems can extend to spaces adjacent to or above the exercise facility—sometimes several floors above, even if the gym is located on grade.
Heavy impact from dropping weights can shake the building structure, excite natural frequencies, and produce vibration and audible noise in all directions. Some relief can be found by employing resilient materials, such as cushioned matting, to decouple exercise equipment from the building slab. However, even thick resilient underlays, which are specially designed for fitness studio applications, cannot always compensate for the effect of high-intensity impacts on lightweight building structures. Some building types are just not ideal candidates for gyms sharing space with residences or commercial offices; this is due to lightweight steel structure, less massive floor slabs, and inherent flanking conditions. In such cases, we have found that some high-intensity activities defy cost-effective solutions.
For example, we have found that in some building types with at least 150 mm (6”) thick concrete floors, that treadmills or moderate aerobic activities may be successfully undertaken above office space without complaint from adjacent occupants, provided that a suitably resilient flooring system is provided within the gym. However, when a high-intensity workout facility moved into a ground level retail space within a downtown low-rise office building directly below a sensitive commercial tenant, the structure-borne noise impacts were found to be exceedingly disturbing to the office staff regardless of the installed sports flooring system. The owner of the gym had to result to some limiting management controls for certain activities to placate the office tenants.
Don’t Sweat the Noise
Property managers and gym owners must acknowledge the potential constraints afforded by the adjacencies, location and building structure before introducing any fitness centre, particularly for high-intensity or weightlifting facilities, as it is not always possible to fully ameliorate the noise impacts effectively. Ideally, fitness centres, gyms, and workout studios should be located within spaces at grade or below, and well away from all residences or noise-sensitive offices as sound and vibration can travel in all directions, both vertically and horizontally throughout the building. There should be the implementation of a suitable plan to upgrade to wall and ceiling types as a minimum measure, and assume resilient or floating floor details will likely be required that are commensurate to the proposed activities.
Contact BKL for more information on control of noise from fitness centres, gyms and workout studios.
Written by Paul Marks