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Wet Spa Areas: Design and Operational Guidelines for a Return on Financial Investment

Frequently known as ‘Hydrotherapy Areas’ in the Spanish speaking world, we should more accurately refer to these spa features as Hydrothermal Areas as they invariably combine water and thermal treatments and experiences.

Accepting that these areas have the highest cost per square metre of all spa areas, it is quite astonishing how many mistakes are made when designing these highly specialised spaces.

There are many areas demanding serious

design consideration

when developing a successful Hydrothermal Spa:

• The guest experience • Hygiene in construction and operation • Building Services Planning

In this article I will focus on the guest experience before considering how to get a return on investment from your wet area.

The Guest Experience Surely the basis for every spa design should be the creation of a place of peace, tranquillity and relaxation. Here the guest should feel comfortable and secure when experiencing an environment in which

they are quite probably

unfamiliar and when wearing little or no clothing in a confined space and often with complete strangers and , in some instances, a mixed gender clientele.

This is quite a conundrum. Space is expensive but, with minimal clothing

and in an unfamiliar

environment, guests will only feel truly comfortable when having more personal space than in restaurants, bars and retail areas with which they


wet spa areas should offer a similar discovery experience.

Taking this basic criteria and far more familiar and

fully clothed. Spas offer a ‘journey of discovery’. This can be through treatments, therapies, lifestyle adjustment - or a physical journey through building

a or

beautifully landscaped

deigned exterior

space. It should be no surprise that

combining it will create interesting spaces, broken up with hydrothermal experiences which in themselves can be used as ‘space dividers’. Consideration should be given to the need for guests to have space to cool down and relax after using thermal cabins such as saunas and steam rooms or high temperature hydropools. On average, a 10 minute period in a warm cabin or pool will result in a 20 minute period while the core body temperature returns to normal. Use this equation when planning how much space is given over to actual features and plenty of space for this cooling and relaxing

time. Thermal bathing

promotes sleep and is particularly beneficial for guests suffering from sleep apnoea, so provide quiet spaces for this purpose and label them as silent zones. The ‘journey’ concept can enable these spaces to be created quite easily. Large, open spaces with row upon row of loungers is space efficient, but does not say ‘luxury’ or ‘comfort’ to the guests.

Noise is another factor. Pools with hydrotherapy features, particularly those out of the water like neck and back massage jets and waterfalls are very

noisy splash in radius operation, and so

don’t place them near relaxation spaces, they also splash a great deal so, when inside a spa, consider the


accordingly, maybe reducing the effect by placing them in niches or omitting them altogether from smaller pools in tight spaces. Cold plunge pools and showers are also noisy. Not in operation, but guests will be noisy when using them!

At the opposite end of the scale, Watsu Pools are used for a relaxing therapy, so think twice before grouping them together with other ‘wet’ features that could be noisy.

So, when selecting the features to be provided at the very outset of the design process, think about all the above, but most of all think of the guest experience they will collectively produce.


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