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CrossFit vs Cross Neighbours: Building a fitness centre? Now’s the time to plan for noise mitigation.

Whether it’s elevating home organization to a zen-like practice or hurling truck tires around an echo chamber, some trends take root virtually over night and blossom at length despite their glaring (or, more fittingly blaring) issues.

Vancouver, recognized as one of the most expensive real estate markets in Canada, is almost as well-known for its fitness enthusiasts. Despite our relatively mild climate, however, we’re also known for copious rain that sends the health-conscious indoors to work out. As continually high property costs give rise to increased mixed-use development, gyms, fitness centres, and (in CrossFit parlance) boxes crop up in structures from empty nester spare rooms to office and apartment buildings.

We get the appeal of owning a fitness space, and if you’re building one, now’s the time to plan and implement effective noise mitigation strategies. And unless you’re designing a yoga studio, note that …

If you build it, they will sweat. Loudly.

Whether they’re commercial or residential, neighbours are a fact of city life, and it’s worth planning for a harmonious coexistence with them. Before introducing a fitness centre—particularly a weight-focused or high intensity one—into your building, consider the building’s foundation and structure. If possible, locate your facility on grade or below, away from residences and offices. Sound and vibration can travel in all directions, so bear that in mind before constructing walls, floors, and ceilings. Investing in suitable materials pre-construction will prove far more cost-effective than making inevitable, expensive, and sometimes inadequate upgrades soon after noise complaints give you no choice.

Clang, clang, clang went the free weights …

Essentially barebones gyms, boxes (as their communities call them) host CrossFit classes. Upwards of 10,000 affiliate boxes around the world attract fitness devotees looking for an intense and varied workout that incorporates all kinds of weights (including kettle bells and tire trucks) and yields fast results. Low start-up costs, meanwhile, appeal to potential business owners. A $1,000 weekend seminar, an essay and a $3,000 annual affiliate fee are all it takes to use the brand name.

Get outside the “box”

Success stories abound, sure, but so do cautionary tales. For her Observer article Persecuted CrossFit Gyms Forced to Flee After Noise Complaints, lifestyle reporter Jordyn Taylor interviewed several CrossFit owners who’d, without even violating noise ordinances, received so many vitriolic—even violent—complaints they were forced to relocate. At press time, Austin, Texas owner Valerie Hunt thought her facility BMV CrossFit would remain beyond reproach in a commercial zone. But she was woefully mistaken:

(R)esidents nearby are complaining they can hear people grunting and dropping weights. They’ve taken the matter to City Council, as well as launched a vicious attack against the gym. “I had to get my phone number changed,” Ms. Hunt told the Observer. “The texting turned really ugly—a lot of cussing [and] ‘We hate you’.” Though Ms. Hunt said Austin’s City Council confirmed BVM hadn’t violated any noise ordinances, the neighbours’ complaints led the city to re-classify CrossFit as an outdoor sports and recreation activity, as opposed to a personal improvement service. That means Ms. Hunt must find a new space and convince her landlord to let her end her lease early.

A good take-away from the story above? Compliance with codes, bylaws, and ordinances doesn’t necessarily equal adequate soundproofing.

Now what fresh bell is this?

Effective pre-construction acoustic strategies

Wall isolation

Locate your hotel gym, for example, as far away from guest rooms as you can. A full-sized commercial facility should be detached, if that’s an option.

Sound-reducing floor underlayment

Install a layer of cushioning and support between a floor and subfloor. Since most floors require underlayment in any case, it pays to plan ahead and invest in a sound-reducing product rather than the standard kind. Installing sound-reducing underlayment beneath existing floors involves considerably more work … and expense. Definitely consider this option if your gym is above an occupied space. Even without weights involved, exercise movement can be noisy.

“Quiet enough for you now? Wish I’d talked to an acoustical engineer before signing that 5-year lease.”

We realize that building from the ground up isn’t always possible, so if you’ve leased an existing space, a few noise control options are available. You can:

  • upgrade the separating wall (and potentially floor/ceiling) assemblies to reduce amplified music and instructor sound impact
  • install a high-quality resilient floor surface specifically chosen for area use (e.g. free weights, weight machines, treadmills, etc.)
  • enhance user experience and marginally benefit adjacent spaces by introducing acoustic treatment (e.g. panels, hanging baffles) in the fitness space itself to reduce reverberation and hence the build up of reverberant sound.

 

Whatever your interest in fitness spaces, we invite you to contact us if you’d like to learn more about making those spaces acoustically friendly. Until then, enjoy your workout and don’t forget to hydrate!

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Denny Ng, M.A.Sc. P.Eng.

Senior Acoustic Consultant

Denny is a locally trained and licensed Professional Engineer specializing in environmental noise modelling, architectural acoustics and mechanical noise control. His career as a consultant began with an internship at BAP Acoustics in 2016 while completing his graduate studies in acoustics at the University of British Columbia. Working closely with Eric and Mark, Denny has had the privilege of working on numerous post-secondary education and infrastructure projects including Emily Carr University of Art and Design, UBC Gateway and Brock Commons Phase 2, Stuart Lake Hospital Replacement Project and Nanaimo Correctional Center. His approach to consulting is communicating acoustical concerns as they arise in order to reach cost effective solutions. 

 

Qualifications

B.A.Sc. Mechanical Engineering – Thermofluids Option (with distinction), University of British Columbia, 2014

M.A.Sc. Mechanical Engineering – Acoustics Group, University of British Columbia, 2019

P.Eng. BC

Leanne Farmer, B.Eng.

Acoustic Consultant

Leanne Farmer began her career in Adelaide, where she gained four years of experience providing acoustic design advice across Australia. She possesses extensive technical knowledge in both building acoustics and complex environmental noise assessments. Demonstrating her capabilities in multi-disciplinary coordination and project management, Leanne effectively managed large-scale measurement campaigns and contributed to major infrastructure projects. After re-locating back to Victoria, BC in 2023, Leanne joined BAP Acoustics. She is excited to be working on local projects, applying the experiences and insights gained from her diverse international work.

 

Qualifications

B.Eng. Mechanical Engineering, University of Victoria, 2018

EIT, BC

Alex Mendes, B.Eng. EIT

Acoustic Engineer

A graduate of the University of Victoria, Alex has contributed to an array of computerized acoustic modelling projects during his tenure with BAP Acoustics. His passion for music lends itself to a particular focus in room acoustics modelling, where he has applied creative approaches to navigate the unique challenges posed by varied architectural designs. His expertise extends to outdoor sound modelling, where he has lent his skillset to initiatives ranging from shooting noise control studies to public alert system performance evaluations. Alex’s ardent curiosity and his analytical, pragmatic approach to consultation have served him well in providing sensible, practical solutions to a host of acoustic challenges.

 

Qualifications

B.Eng. Mechanical Engineering, University of Victoria, 2018

EIT, BC

Kathryn Gulewich, B.Eng. EIT

Acoustic Engineer

Kathryn is a Mechanical Engineer who graduated from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) with a Bachelor of Engineering degree. She pivoted to the field of acoustical consulting upon joining BAP Acoustics in 2022, embracing a transition marked by rapid expertise accrual—particularly in outdoor noise monitoring and HVAC noise control. Kathryn’s solid engineering background supports her technical approach to acoustic challenges, blending mechanical engineering principles with the specialized demands of acoustic consultancy.

 

Qualifications

B.Eng. Mechanical Engineering, BCIT, 2011

Nicole Yeung, M.Eng. EIT.

Acoustic Engineer

An Honours graduate, Nicole earned her M.Eng. degree in Acoustical Engineering at the globally renowned Institute of Sound and Vibration Research founded 60 years ago by the UK-based University of Southampton. Nicole’s project experience encompasses acoustic design, implementation and testing at all stages of work. Her project contributions include examining and optimizing: sound insulation between spaces; room reverberation time; and mechanical noise emissions. She is also experienced in outdoor noise propagation simulation and environmental noise study for: new residential developments; fitness facilities; office buildings; and industrial developments. Nicole has a strong foundation in outdoor noise propagation software Cadna/A. In addition, she is experienced in using programs such as Insul for sound insulation prediction and ODEON for room acoustics. 

 

Qualifications

M.Eng. Acoustical Engineering (Honours), Institute of Sound & Vibration Research, University of Southampton, UK.

EIT, BC