Businessman Steve Lumpre of College Station, Texas opted for small, but special, when building his newest fitness facility. “I’ve owned two of the biggest gyms in the area,” says Lumpre, “but I wanted my new facility to be smaller. And if we weren’t going to be the biggest, we at least wanted to be the most unique.”
Aggieland Fitness Dome is unique. The monolithic dome houses 15,500-squarefeet of cardio machines, aerobics rooms, free weight area, childcare, and locker rooms. Lumpre knew the unique design still wouldn’t be able to address a major concern for all fitness facilities: good air circulation. “We knew we had to keep air moving,” says Lumpre. “Our facility is 40 feet tall. On the mezzanine, our second level, we have steppers and treadmills. Since heat rises, we were concerned that it would impact our clients doing their cardio workouts.”
Dr. Rob Danoff – or Dr. Rob as he’s known to millions of exercise enthusiasts – agrees. In a recent article on DiscoveryHealth.com he reviewed the most important qualities people should look for when choosing a fitness center. Among the ten items is air circulation.
No matter how well temperature is regulated in an exercise facility, the quality of air movement is equally important in minimizing heat-stress illnesses and maximizing the client’s workout experience.
The physics of air movement is simple. Fans don’t cool the room temperature, but they do make it feel cooler. The illusion of coolness comes when sweat evaporates off of the skin. Fans help speed up the evaporation process. Good air circulation can make a person feel as though the ambient temperature is as much as eight to 12 degrees cooler. According to Dan Meus of Graham/Meus Architects, designers of fitness facilities nationwide, having ceiling fans makes people feel more comfortable. “Once you start moving air across people, then they will feel cooler. The more sweat and water you have on you, the cooler you are going to feel with air going across you,” says Meus.
Good air circulation also improves humidity. High moisture content in the air keeps sweat from evaporating off the body as quickly. Keeping humidity down is good for clients, but it’s also good for fitness equipment. High humidity and poor air circulation wreak havoc on the sensitive mechanisms of treadmills. Taking care of humidity problems adds to the lifespan of equipment and contributes to the bottom line. Fans keep the air moving and distribute moisture more evenly across the entire facility, reducing the adverse effects of humidity.
Floor fans and traditional ceiling fans have been the tried – but not always true – way in which most fitness centers address their circulation problems. Unfortunately, smaller fans rotate at high speeds, and create only modest amounts of air movement. This air movement deteriorates quickly the further away from the fan it gets. While the effects may be felt closest to these powerhouses, clients working out “downstream” from the fan don’t fare as well. Floor fans also take up valuable floor space and have cords that create floor hazards, not to mention the headache that comes when it’s time to repair and maintain these appliances.
Aggieland found a unique solution to its air circulation problems without all of the issues of standard ceiling and floor fans: a big fan purchased through the Big Ass Fan Company. Big fans are big – really big. The fans can be 24 feet in diameter and are typically mounted to the ceiling. They also move slowly, creating a gentle convection-like air current that moves a column of air as large as the fan’s diameter down to the floor, then out across the floor until it hits the walls or other obstructions, which sends the air back up to the ceiling and through the fan’s slowly moving blades once again.
Big fans are quiet and efficient too. Coupled with air conditioning the fans allow fitness facilities to raise the thermostat four degrees or more and maintain the same temperature as using air conditioning alone. Every degree the thermostat is raised translates into a three to five percent savings on energy bills. Since the big fans use low horsepower motors, they cost a few cents per hour to operate, but can create huge air movement over large areas.
Some big fan manufacturers have taken the technology to new levels by developing advanced air foil designs and modifications like winglets that help maximize the air movement potential of their fans. The fans can even be custom powder-coated to make the them look great in any environment.
Big fans take simple fan technology to the next level by maximizing air circulation, humidity control and energy efficiency. These big, slow moving fans may be the next big thing in the fitness industry.
Heather Henley is a Technical Researcher for the Big Ass Fans Company. She can be contacted at 877.BIGFANS, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.