Physical Fitness (Exercise Room)  



The Physical Fitness (Exercise Room) space type is a space specifically designated for exercise, fitness training, and physical wellness activities. Also included are toilets, office, and general storage normally found in a Physical Fitness (Exercise Room) space to meet codes, standards, and regulations.

Fitness space types do not include: high bay court games (basketball, racquetball), saunas, hot tubs, steam rooms, swimming pools, food preparation, and service or sporting goods retail.

Interior of physical fitness center featuring nation light and light sources above the equipment

With a variety of equipment and workout stations, as well as ample natural light coupled with light sources at the equipment, this physical fitness space offers a comprehensive set of activities in an open and flexible environment.

Space Attributes

The Physical Fitness (Exercise Room) space types provide a comprehensive, varied program of physical activities to meet the individual training regimens of its occupants. Indoor fitness programs can typically be divided into four categories of exercise: warm-up/cool down, free weight, circuit training, and cardiovascular. Each area that houses a particular exercise category should be designed around the requirements of the necessary equipment, including spatial, utility, and HVAC requirements, as well as circulation and control. Also important to the design of this space type is the durability of finishes, flexibility of space, and acoustical control. Typical features of physical fitness space types include the list of applicable design objectives elements as outlined below. For a complete list and definitions of the design objectives within the context of whole building design, click on the titles below.


  • ADA Compliance: The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects against discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, government, public accommodations, and commercial facilities, among others. Title III of the ADA covers businesses and nonprofit service providers that are public accommodations, which include fitness facilities. Public accommodations must comply with specific requirements pertaining to the architecture, policies, practices, and other accessibility requirements. Access into the initial built environment of the physical fitness space is one area of consideration, but the ability to use the fitness facility exercise equipment, programs, and policies that contribute to an environment that promotes equal access and use by all members must also be considered.
  • Structural and non-structural elements: The ability to access the physical fitness space will require a number of elements to be accessible, including parking, ramps, exterior and interior entrances/doors, elevators, locker rooms, public bathrooms, drinking fountains, accessibility around exercise equipment, exercise equipment, path of travel, aquatic/pool options, customer service desk/materials, and building accessories.
  • Flooring: Accessibility standards require ground and floor surfaces to be slip resistant, but they do not specify a minimum level of slip resistance or coefficient of friction. Several floors considered compliant for fitness facilities include rubber tiles and plank, cork engineered floating planks and glue down tile, carpet tiles, Wood Plastic Composites, Stone Plastic Composites, Rigid Vinyl Flooring, tile, wood, and laminate. The finished slip resistance level is critical depending on the application for use.
  • Signage: Incorporate appropriate and required signage to alert users to the accessible routes, equipment, and classes.
two side by side images, on left, person in wheelchair using a paramill at the gym, and on right, gym featuring ADA compliant rubber tile flooring

Left to Right: A paramill, which is a treadmill for wheelchair users, and ADA compliant rubber tile flooring, ensures that a disabled person can use the fitness center.


Physical fitness space design must take into consideration the aesthetics of the intended groups it will serve. The quality of the spaces, including the finishes, furnishings, lighting, and signage all contribute to the look and feel that is desired for the type of clientele the physical fitness space supports. The aesthetics should convey a sense of welcome, safety, and health.

  • Views: Provide a range of views, especially to the outdoors and nature, whenever possible.
  • Graphics and Signage: Employ floor graphics and wall murals to create a visually energetic space and educate users on the various types of exercises and equipment.
  • Lighting: The lighting quality and levels should support the functionality and sustainability of the space, but can also be expanded to include unique and visually interesting lighting displays such as neon.
aesthetically pleasing fitness space

This fitness space incorporates durable materials, bold colors, and ample space around equipment for ease of use and access.


  • Coordinate: Plan and coordinate the details of the physical fitness space holistically in order to maximize the investment and reduce first costs as well as long-term costs.
  • Durable materials and equipment: Include materials and equipment that are durable in order to reduce maintenance and replacement costs.
  • Operations and maintenance: Plan for the daily and long-term maintenance of the space including equipment, to prevent equipment break-down, material replacement costs, and costly repairs.

Functional / Operational

  • Spatial Requirements of Equipment and Exercise Activities: A minimum 12' ceiling height is generally required in this space type to accommodate the clearances needed for daily equipment usage. Special surfaces are also required for many athletic activities such as cushioned training surfaces, mirror walls, or impact-resistant walls. Anticipate circulation, in particular controlled circulation, using a flow diagram at the beginning of the design process.
  • Flexibility: Design spaces to accommodate a wide range of activities and allow for flexibility should the use, activity, or exercise requirements change.
  • Durability of Structure and Finishes: Increased structural steel is typically provided to reduce vibration transmission. Exercise and weight rooms, including equipment storage rooms, should be designed for a 150 LB/SF live load. Finishes should be durable and easy to maintain in anticipation of maximum use. See also WBDG—Wall Systems.
  • Acoustical Control: Reduce noise impact generated by physical activity, by including sound baffles at all acoustically rated partitions, in particular exercise and weight rooms and tenant demising partitions.
  • Occupancy: Occupancy Group Classification is Business Occupancy B, with sprinklered protected construction and GSA Acoustical Class X space where noisy operations are located.


  • Hazards: Plan for fire protection, occupant safety and health, and natural hazards mitigation, as well as security for building occupants and assets. Design the space to minimize tripping, slipping, electrical, and other hazards, especially in wet areas such as showers, restrooms, saunas, pools, stairs, and entrances.
  • Technology: Employ technology to reduce theft, unauthorized access, and other unwanted behaviors. Check-in technology can include membership cards, cardless check-ins, check-in cards with proximity readers embedded with a code that, when read, signals certain doors to open or turnstiles to function to let the user access the facility. Security software can help prevent viruses or hacking and should be part of the overall strategy to improve security.


  • Special HVAC: Employ measures to reduce moisture and odor migration to other spaces—assume this space type requires a 20% increase in cooling capacity above the overall building shell and core. Provide a separate AHU for exercise areas. Fitness centers will typically have negative air pressure relative to other areas of the building. Plan for regular HVAC maintenance to keep equipment in order and maintain healthy air quality levels.
  • Natural Daylighting: Take advantage of natural daylighting, through the appropriate placement of windows and skylights, and natural ventilation to lower utility costs. Utilize features such as shading devices to decrease direct solar gain. (For more information, see Energy-Efficient Lighting, Daylighting, and Windows and Glazing.)
  • Energy-Efficient Fixtures and Equipment: To reduce energy loads, install energy efficient materials, lighting, fixtures, equipment, and programmable thermostats. Additionally, install motion sensors in changing rooms, bathrooms, and hallways to reduce energy use.
  • Water Use Reduction: Incorporate water-efficient toilets, showers, drinking fountains, and fixtures and incorporate water recycling where possible.
  • Alternative Energy Sources: Consider powering the space with alternative energy sources such as solar or wind power. Additionally, the energy created by the exercise equipment can be captured and used to power the facility.
  • Materials: Incorporate sustainable, eco-friendly materials into the spaces including recycled materials, sustainably-harvested wood, natural stone, and ceramic tiles that meet green building standards. This must be coupled with sustainable cleaning and maintenance practices to ensure the materials remain sustainable and are optimized over their life cycle.

Example Program

The following building program is representative of the Physical Fitness space type.


Tenant Occupiable Areas
Qty. SF Each Total SF Sum Actual SF Tenant Usable Factor Tenant USF
Front Lobby       80    
    Entry Lobby 1 80 80      
Lockers       1,400    
    Male Lockers (70 lockers) 1 490 490      
    Male Toilets (3 stalls) 1 180 180      
    Male Showers (4 showers) 1 100 100      
    Female Lockers (50 lockers) 1 350 350      
    Female Toilets (3 stalls) 1 180 180      
    Female Showers (4 showers) 1 100 100      
Exercise Facilities       4,320    
    Free Weight Room 1 960 960      
    Exercise Station Room 1 960 960      
    Aerobics Machine Room 1 1,200 1,200      
    Fitness Instruction 1 1,200 1,200      
Support Spaces       320    
    Equipment Repair/Storage 1 200 200      
    Housekeeping 1 120 120      
    Tenant Suite     6,120 6,120 1.16 7,076
Tenant Usable Areas           7,076

Example Plans

The following diagram is representative of typical tenant plans.

Fitness center space type

Example Construction Criteria

For GSA, the unit costs for physical fitness space types are based on the construction quality and design features in the following table . This information is based on GSA's benchmark interpretation and could be different for other owners.

Relevant Codes and Standards

The following agencies and organizations have developed codes and standards affecting the design of physical fitness spaces types. Note that the codes and standards are minimum requirements. Architects, engineers, and consultants should consider exceeding the applicable requirements whenever possible:

Additional Resources



Building Types: