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By Erich Reichle, Jose Murguido, AIA, and Todd Dunavant, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Increasing Asset Value Through Creative Solutions

The new Naval Station Mayport Fitness Center was designed to keep sailors in shape and budgets in check.
By Erich Reichle, Jose Murguido, AIA, and Todd Dunavant, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Photos courtesy Sauer Inc.

As the largest meeting space at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., the recently constructed Fitness Center will also serve as a venue for change-of-command ceremonies, visits from distinguished guests, all-hands meetings and other large gatherings, including trade shows, guest lectures and presentations. The U.S. Navy's emphasis on enhancing quality of life for sailors and their families is well represented in the new fitness center, which more than triples the space of the former facility.

By focusing the design of the new fitness center to serve multiple purposes and to include systems that extend the building’s service life beyond traditional projections, Naval Station Mayport has gained an asset that will benefit fleet and shore personnel, along with their dependents, for years to come. Long-term management of the facility was considered throughout design and construction. Lifecycle cost considerations were evaluated for systems and materials, resulting in a facility that is efficient to operate and maintain. The effort began with leadership from Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) partnering to create an initial vision for the facility as a valuable resource to the entire installation community. The facility supports active duty, reserve military personnel, retired military personnel and dependent families—and it was all delivered within the original budget.


The design/build team, led by Sauer Inc., simplified the project schedule and logistics with the addition of a seven-trailer temporary facility adjacent to the site, and changing the project to a single-phase instead of multi-phase delivery. This created the opportunity for the design team led by TranSystems and Zyscovich Architects to completely replace areas originally planned for major renovation, including the facility offices, cardio area, family training and child care areas. The existing gymnasium and racquetball courts, constructed of insulated precast concrete panels, were repurposed into the new design. A similar exterior wall system was selected for the new portions of the facility, largely due to the low maintenance aspects and high durability to the harsh salt-air environment.

A new parent/child area is an enhancement designed to appeal particularly to single parents; it allows them to exercise, while keeping an eye on their children who are safely entertained behind a low safety wall. The parent/child area is located near the facility offices to minimize walk-by traffic and puts the facility staff in close proximity for additional monitoring as needed. Spaces throughout the new facility were designed to be multi-functional.

  • Gymnasium with two championship-sized basketball courts and four cross courts, complete with a retractable divider to separate or combine the spaces.
  • Built-in audio/visual system that launches quickly, minimizing the amount of time necessary to prepare for events and maximizing the time the courts are available for fitness activities.
  • Physical training rooms with an operable wall that adjusts the room size to accommodate various activities, as well as storage, multi-media lighting systems and a separate controlled entry for direct unit access.
  • Open fitness areas with a universal fitness flooring surface and dedicated circuit electrical/data floor boxes to "future proof" the facility against changes in equipment and floor layout.
  • A state-of-the-art training, fitness and recreational natatorium.

The natatorium solves the challenges of trying to schedule training and recreational activities around Florida's near daily summer thunderstorms and winter winds. The 10-lane 50-m pool has an additional 26-ft long shallow area with an accessible entry ramp. A pair of movable bulkheads creates appropriate spaces for a range of simultaneous training for shallow and deep water training. The extended pool depth, up to 12-ft, minimizes the need to travel to other bases for training requiring deep water. Appropriate clearances and a removable storefront entrance panel was designed to accommodate the future installation of a Search and Rescue Training tower to expand training options for personnel attached to homeport ships and LAMPS MKIII helicopter squadrons. To maximize the service life of the facility, while providing users with a quality indoor air environment, the natatorium uses relatively new technology to minimize the effects of chloramine, a health and maintenance issue in many such facilities.  

Project Team
Sauer Inc., Jacksonville, Fla. — Contractor
Zyscovich Architects, Miami, Fla. — Co-Architect, Interior Design and Athletic Design Consultant
TranSystems, Jacksonville, Fla. — Co-Architect, Structural Engineer
TLC Engineering for Architecture Inc., Fort Myers, Fla. — MEP Engineer/Energy Modeling
Jim Madry — Fire Protection Engineer, Martinez, Ga.
DB Civil Works, Jacksonville, Fla. — Civil Engineer and Landscape Architecture
Sinclair and Associates, Greer, S.C. — Aquatic Design
Siebein Associates, Gainesville, Fla. — Acoustic Consultant

During site visits to military and civilian fitness facilities by NAVFAC and MWR during the fitness center program planning effort, that familiar "pool smell" was evident. Chloramine, the chemical byproduct of chlorine disinfecting pool water, pervades typical natatoriums, irritating swimmers eyes and lungs and shortening the service life of pool equipment and building systems. Among the first Navy fitness centers to use a pool evacuator, the Mayport Fitness Center will quickly reap the benefits. The evacuator system draws in air near the water surface, where the chloramine settles, then evacuates it through a system separate from the main HVAC system. Removing the chloramines significantly improves the indoor air quality, while reducing maintenance and corrosion on the deck equipment and building systems. The pool filtration includes UV units to neutralize waterborne pathogens and a water chemistry controller to balance the proper oxidation potential and pH dosing through constant chemical level monitoring. An additional benefit provided by the evacuator is a reduction in the natatorium’s humidification levels, which decreases the load on the HVAC system.  

The natatorium systems were engineered to maintain the appropriate air temperature and humidity in relation to the pool water temperature through the use of a specialty pool dehumidification unit. The pool is heated by waste heat captured from the pool dehumidification unit compressors, with back-up available through gas-fired water heaters. A detailed energy model of the design suggests the gas-fired heaters may only be necessary when the 1,000,000-gal pool is initially filled and during winter cold spells in typically moderate Jacksonville, Fla. The IES VE Pro energy model indicates facility energy cost savings of 42.25 percent compared to a baseline building under ASHRAE 90.1-2007, earning 16 Energy & Atmosphere points, along with exceeding the Regional Priority threshold for an additional point and moving the project towards potential LEED Gold certification, surpassing the project goal of LEED Silver. According to Lawrin Ellis, TLC Engineering for Architecture’s Mechanical Engineer, the real benefit of energy modeling was the ability to model custom systems that would interact like the real design. This detailed HVAC modeling approach provided data to troubleshoot and test the design before construction began. 

The facility, for all of its engineering sophistication, provides an immersive environment for training and recreation, including multimedia and A/V systems for something like family movie nights to improve quality of life and morale. Multi-level lighting also supports various training uses, as well as competition swim meets and filming. Because simultaneous usage of the natatorium potentially could be complicated by sound transmission from one group to another, sound absorptive acoustic wave baffles are suspended between the long span concrete double tee structure to correct sound treatment. This design with a purpose also enhances the architectural character of the space.  


The entire facility is naturally daylit, with extended clerestories and roof monitors in all fitness areas. Group fitness rooms are located at the building perimeter to provide occupants exterior views, while the gym, cardio and waiting areas have translucent roof panels to introduce natural light. Daylight modeling during the design phase allowed the team to balance glazing sizes and options to maximize views, yet still limit glare. Project lighting power density of .719-W/ft² was achieved. Naval Station Mayport’s proximity to the ocean led the team to use LED exterior lights with dark sky cut-offs. A roof-mounted solar thermal domestic water heating system and 752-gal storage tank will supply at least 30 percent of the hot water demand and low-flow plumbing fixtures reduce water consumption by 30 percent.  

Fitness at Naval Station Mayport is now front and center, in a multi-use facility designed to accommodate the needs for today—while staying focused on the demands of tomorrow.  

Erich Reichle is Senior Project Manager, Sauer Inc.; 904-264-6444.

Jose Murguido, AIA, is Principal and Co-Architect, Zyscovich Architects; 305-372-5222, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Todd Dunavant, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, is Co-Architect, TranSystems; 904-245-6500, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..