Spa Design is one of those things that any of us who have been around for a while tend to take for granted. Sure, in the early days of hotel spas, back in the mid-1990s, there was lots to consider. But these days, especially with so many spas around to use as a reference, the basics should be pretty well covered, right? Not always.
Over the past few months I’ve visited a number of hotel spa projects, in various stages of completion, in a number of different countries. Each time I’ve come across what to me are obvious design faults. None of them critical, but all of them ultimately set to impact negatively on the overall spa experience. Most, if not all, could have been avoided. Ignorance was the only reason for these little mistakes.
So I’ve decided to do a little series of articles on some of the things I’ve seen. And we’ll call that series Spa Design for Dummies.
In this week’s installment, let’s look at Climate Control
The most obvious consideration with air conditioning in a spa would be individual temperature controls in each treatment room. It seems like a no brainer, right? But just a few weeks ago I was in a newly built spa in a high-end resort that didn’t have it. The entire spa was on a central system and the only thermostat was in the reception area.
Positioning of the air vent is also something that I’ve often seen overlooked. Of course, there are practical restrictions in every room layout. Still, wherever possible, just make sure the vent isn’t placed so that the cold air is blowing directly on to the treatment bed.
A Ceiling Fan – Air Conditioner combination is sometimes a great option for guest comfort. Have the air conditioner on before the treatment to ensure the room is at a comfortable temperature. Then, once the treatment starts, turn the AC off and turn on the ceiling fan. The simple circulation of the right temperature air is often enough to provide comfort throughout the treatment. Remember, some massage techniques may increase body heat production but they also increase heat dissipation too. The net result is guests can often start feeling cold midway through their treatment.
And when the engineers are designing your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) system, make sure they think about your neighbours. If the spa’s ventilation system is being shared with the pool, gym or the restaurant, you’ll be in for trouble. Or if you have air vents for your spa that are too close to the dumping point for the kitchen or swimming pool extraction fans. Before you know it, your lemongrass aroma will be overpowered by chlorine and cooking smells. Sounds will also travel through these air ducts.
Which brings us to another consideration. Noise. Not just from other sources, but from your own AC or ceiling fans themselves. For sure you’ll always have some noise from both of these, but just be mindful of how much is too much. Ceiling fans especially have of habit of becoming noisy and clunky as the fittings loosen over time.
A final note on air conditioning in your spas. Using split unit ACs – you know, those with one part on your wall and another part that sits outside – can certainly give you greater temperature control. But just be careful where you place the outdoor unit. These things can generate a fair amount of heat and noise. In city spas, the building usually has discreet places planned for these units. But in resort spas, you’re often talking about separate treatment villas and areas and so such dedicated spaces aren’t allocated. Often, I’ve seen these outdoor units at the entrance to the spa room, albeit hidden behind a panel or some vegetation. So, guests need to walk past this hot, noisy box to start their treatment. I’ve also seen them placed close to the outdoor bath, again somewhat hidden from sight. So much for the relaxation of an outdoor floral bath!
Temperature control is a big part of the guest experience when it comes to spas. Our jobs, as the providers of that experience, is to just make it happen. Your guests should never have a conscious thought about it. To do that, the most important thing is to imagine ourselves as a guest in our own spa. Think of some room temperature failings that you have experienced yourself, as a guest. How can you avoid them in your spa? You don’t need to be an engineer to get this right. Engineers are smart. They’re in the business of providing solutions to problems. Just tell them what you want to achieve – and most importantly what you want to avoid. Then they can figure out how to make it happen.
Yours is the what. Let them figure out the how.
PS: I get a feeling this could end up being a loooong series of articles.