Budget Gyms – Style on a Shoestring

The new breed of budget gym may be low-cost, but that doesn’t mean they’re low-spec

With its sleek lighting, theatrical central television gantry and nightclub feel, you wouldn’t think members at Kiss Gyms Acton only pay £14.99 a month. It’s one of a new breed of budget gyms that looks every bit as high end as one of its more expensive competitors, but costs a fraction to build – and, crucially, a fraction to maintain.

Like many other industries – including supermarkets, airlines and retail – consumers want to pay no-frills prices but aren’t willing to settle for an inferior product. A few years ago most budget gyms were very much a spit and sawdust affair; not anymore, the roll out for Kiss gyms has included three gyms at Swindon, Milton Keynes and Acton in London. The Kiss Gyms provide a high end feel, so that users feel like they are getting a high quality product at a bargain price.

Design is a key factor when it comes to costs – it has to be clever. The three Kiss Gyms incorporate the very latest technology to deliver key savings. We installed air-conditioning systems that recycle the heat generated by members to heat the hot water systems, so you have free hot showers. Intelligent lighting dims as daylight increases to make use of natural light, while motion sensors mean you’re only lighting the areas being used, which is important when you’ve got 9,000 square feet that’s open 24 hours a day. Aesthetics are fundamental in creating a look, but they don’t have to come at a price. Slick lighting is inexpensive but creates an upmarket feel in the Kiss Gyms, but even this can be pared back. Whilst the Kiss Gyms are fully air-conditioned, a project we did for another client demanded an even tighter budget. They had ventilation only and no air-conditioning, and we simply painted concrete floors. Although the look had a less high-spec feel, it was still stylish.

Often the site of budget gyms brings additional challenges. They tend to be located in heavily populated areas so acoustics can be an issue, we have completed projects which included an old library, warehouses, first floor retail space and a Budgens store. The Kiss Swindon project was directly beneath residential flats, so an acoustic ceiling was installed and all equipment had to be mounted on acoustic isolation hangers.

With as many as 5,000 members, volume is a key issue, so needs to be carefully considered in the design. The massive throughput of users means all fittings and equipment need to be robust. We concentrated spend on the high-volume areas, so showers are fully tiled, vinyl flooring is durable and changing rooms equipped with strong lockers and benches, we also factored in fail-safes as 24-hour budget gyms cannot afford to have the maintenance downtime. We built back-up capacity into all the services, so the hot water system is big enough to cope with the number of people and more, but there’s also a second water pump that will kick in if something happens to the first. At the Kiss Gyms, the client required that Matrix equipment was installed, which isn’t cheap, but it needs less maintenance, and has the added advantage of making users feel like they’re getting good quality on the gym floor.

This extra capacity also allows for future expansion – a key consideration in one of the biggest growth areas in the sector. These gyms tend to be redevelopments of existing buildings, which means there’s very little, if any, scope for extending out. But they do tend to be big spaces, so in most cases the gym floors are not initially equipped to maximum capacity, and in warehouse spaces we’ve even utilised the height by installing mezzanine floor structures to increase the usable floor area without building out. Installing plant rooms that are bigger than required at first, also means expansion costs are minimal. And in my experience, these gyms will continue to grow and grow.

Ian Cotgrave
Managing Director