How to light a gym

Design criteria

This Design Clinic is about the gyms found in most leisure centres. Lighting is an important element in their design since they have to attract and retain paying members. One of the main criteria is that the gym should appear light, airy and clean. However, in terms of optical performance, maybe the hardest visual task in a gym is trying to avoid comparing yourself with people who are stronger, faster and fitter than you.

You need to speak to the architect and interior designer to ensure that the room surfaces are fairly pale in colour. A dark ceiling in a large gym can look oppressive. A light coloured ceiling also reduces the contrast between the luminaire and its immediate surroundings acting to reducing glare.

A particular aspect of gyms that differentiates them from other interiors is that people often spend a considerable time on their backs looking at the ceiling. This means that your luminaires should have a low surface luminance. Remember that low brightness luminaires such as the, now obsolete, Category I, II and III types were pretty glaring if you looked directly into them from underneath.  Uplights or micro-prismatic diffusers are a better option.

Another aspect to the design is that many items of equipment such as cross-trainers and treadmills have a sloping control panel. If possible, you should try to minimise bright reflections from the luminaires. In a similar vein, gyms often have video screens mounted high up on the walls, so you should try to minimise reflections on the screen.

In terms of the illumination level, the SLL sports lighting guide LG04 recommends 200 lx to 500 lx for gymnastics, depending on the standard of performance. British Gymnastics recommends 200 lx for non-competitive play and 500 lx for competitions. We have designed to at least 300 lx at floor level.

Our gym measures 12m x 15m. The low area on the left is about 2.7m and the higher area is 4m.  All three options have a floor reflectance of 17 percent, which seems fairly dark for a gym, but remember that some have large areas of black foam matting.  

There are still a large number of gyms lit by recessed 4 x 18w T8 fluorescent units. Nowadays, you can getter better performance for less energy. The result is that you get a higher light output with low glare.    

Since the main open area is almost 4m high, we have used a nine-cell LED unit, the Rubix Recessed. This has specular tetrahedral reflectors surrounded by an opal halo diffuser.

The weights and mat area has a much lower ceiling. In these areas, people often lie on their back and it is quite possible for them to get a head-on view of the luminaires. In these circumstances, you must use a luminaire which has a low luminance even when you look straight at it. The Modled Curve has a contoured diffuser and we have used it with the 3500lm version. With more height, you could use the 6,800lm version.

Tech Spec 

Luminaires

Six Modled Curve plus 14 Rubix

Optical control

Contoured opal diffuser plus specular reflectors

Average horizontal illuminance

325 lx and 300 lx

Electrical load

600W

Pros

Attractive ceiling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As before, we have used the Modled Curve in the weights area, again with the lower lumen output for comfortable viewing.

We have used just four luminaires in the higher area to the right. The Prosport LED is designed mainly for use in large sports halls to replace four x 80W T5 luminaires. It is available in 17,000 lm, 24,000 lm, and a massive 34,500 lm package. There is an LED shield for optical control and we have used the lowest lumen package. 

There is an IK 10 polycarbonate diffuser although, hopefully, it won’t be needed in a gym.

Tech Spec 

Luminaires

Six Modled Curve plus 4 Prosport LED

Optical control

Specular louvres

Average horizontal illuminance

300 lx and 395 lx

Electrical load

616W

Pros

Fewest number of luminaires but you need a fairly high ceiling.

This is a fun scheme and makes the gym look bright and airy. We have used lots of low wattage, discus shaped luminaires and the AMED. Originally designed as a 2D replacement, when used in large numbers, it can completely transform the appearance of the space. You can see that the walls are well illuminated all the way up and that there are no cut-off areas.

The opal polycarbonate diffuser directs the light at high angles and is never glaring. We have used 1,500 lm units in the weights area and the 3,000 lm one elsewhere. 

Tech Spec 

Luminaires

AMED LED

Optical control

Opal polycarbonate diffuser

Average horizontal illuminance

410 lx and 350 lx

Electrical load  

800W

Pros 

Light and airy

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