A fitness center located near a noise-sensitive receptor can be an extremely challenging acoustical situation. In addition to the airborne sound transmission of typical sound sources such as amplified music, structure-borne sounds can bypass typical sound-isolating constructions and cause complaints. Typical structure-borne sounds include weights impacting the floor or racks, jumping, and running on treadmills.

The most challenging adjacencies for fitness centers are residential spaces and noise-sensitive commercial spaces such as offices, medical suites, and spas. It is important to note that noise complaints can occur in any direction from a fitness center: above, below, or next to. In many cases, locating a fitness center adjacent to noise-sensitive receptors is not a challenge that can be sufficiently addressed with sound-isolating constructions alone. Often the best recommendation Ostergaard Acoustical Associates can make in this situation is to avoid this location entirely. For a fitness center that is already under construction, costly “room within a room” construction is often necessary to provide needed sound isolation, although sufficient isolation may not be feasible for the project. For the most feasible sound isolation, a fitness center should be located on a concrete slab on grade (not on an upper story, and not with a basement or cellar below). Buffer spaces such as corridors or lobbies can be helpful.

Honors College Fitness Center, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, New Jersey

A relocation of the Honors College Fitness Center to the 1st floor of a dormitory building at NJIT resulted in students’ complaints of fitness center noise. Of greatest concern was the noise of deadlift weights in excess of 400 pounds being dropped from waist height. Other concerns included leg lift weights returning to the bottom of their sliders as well as free weights being placed or dropped on the floor. Acoustical measurements revealed that these activities raised the sound levels in dormitory spaces by as much as 30 dB in octave frequency bands, which was an immense distraction. Fitness center noise was present 4 stories above the fitness center, indicating that noise was reaching the 5th (and highest) floor via structure-borne transmission. Further analysis also revealed that the existing level of airborne sound isolation through the fitness center ceiling and floor slab above was insufficient. Recommendations were developed to significantly improve fitness center ceiling and floor construction, minimizing the potential for further complaints.

Xtend Barre, Livingston, New Jersey

Ostergaard Acoustical Associates was asked to carry out a site visit and acoustical evaluation of a planned Xtend Barre space. At the time of consultation, the space was a shell space in a mixed commercial/residential building, awaiting fit-out. A dentist’s office was horizontally adjacent, with residential units above. The Xtend Barre’s lease agreement established a quantitative sound level limit for outgoing sound emissions. Acoustical analyses revealed that anticipated sound levels in the dentist’s office would comply with lease limits, but sound levels in residential units were expected to exceed these limits. Rather than design costly ceiling construction that would have pushed the boundaries of project feasibility, we developed recommendations for a modest 5 dB reduction in planned sound system levels, to about 85 dB(A) maximum and 75 dB(A) average. Post-construction measurements revealed that Xtend Barre music comfortably complies with the lease agreement limit, by a margin of 3-to-6 dB.