What makes for a well spa indoor space?

When we visit our favourite spa our expectation of a joyful and rejuvenating experience does not lie exclusively in the treatments that we have booked. We also look for a spa environment that will contribute to our wellbeing, that offers comfort , stimulates our senses and that is absent from any harmful materials.

The term indoor environment quality mostly comes up when buildings are assessed for green certification, but considering the importance of wellbeing in the spa industry as a whole, the term should become part of everyday spa parlance. A good indoor environment enhances the health and wellbeing of those who work and receive treatments in a spa. Sick building syndrome is a well known phenomenon and it results primarily from poor indoor air quality.

The three principle issues that are considered and which target both our comfort- and health factors in a spa building are the air quality, the comfort of the spa occupants and hazardous materials. Let’s unpack these elements.

It is important that as much fresh air as possible is present in order to counteract the build-up of indoor pollutants by providing, preferably, a naturally ventilated environment. The fresh air should also be available to everyone in the building and not just those persons who are positioned adjacent to windows. This is achieved through a proper ventilation system and good design. In buildings with high occupancy levels, the installation of carbon dioxide monitors in strategic places that set off visual or aural alarms if the carbon dioxide levels rise above a certain acceptable standard, can be useful.

Vygenhoek Organic Spa

Logic dictates that the greater the comfort levels of spa users in a spa, the higher its guest turnover and overall staff retention. There are various factors that come into play in determining our comfort levels, with natural light probably the most important.

“Natural light helps regulate the body’s natural rhythms, keeping the body attuned with the exterior environment and contributing to overall well-being.” Green Spa Guide

In instances where the light in the spa must be provided artificially, a good design-plan will ensure that there is not excessive light.

While the importance of natural light cannot be overstated, the discomfort of glare from sunlight should at the same time be prevented with appropriate diffusers, shading and overall good design practices.

Vygenhoek Organic Spa

A comfort factor that ties in closely with the presence of natural light is the availability of external views. This is very important and irrespective of the attractiveness of the views (within reason), the emphasis must be to establish a visual connection between the external and internal environments. Many current spa designs regrettably do not allow for external views since privacy is the primary requirement. There are, however, many ways in which appropriate external views can be made available without sacrificing guest privacy.

An acceptable thermal comfort level goes without saying and considering that this is already of great importance to the success of a spa, most spas already use heating and cooling products with variable thermal control. It is, however, important for staff to be able to regulate temperature independently in separate areas, in recognition of the differences in individual comfort requirements, as opposed to having a single, central thermal control system. Simply being in a position to open and close windows would in many instances contribute substantially to this end.

A spa building should not incorporate any materials which by their nature could constitute a health hazard or lead to discomfort. Products made from, or containing

lead (quite often in paints) or
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB’s-commonly found in flourescent light fixtures, electric transformers etc)
should be eliminated altogether. Interior finishing should specifically be absent of products with high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are normally found in paints, adhesives, sealants, carpets and synthetic flooring. Symptoms of continued exposure to the emissions of VOCs caused by some of the products indicated above include eye, nose and skin irritation and headaches.

Curiously, it is not common knowledge that photocopying and printing machines can produce substantial VOC emissions, particularly as the machines age. Ozone (O3), which is an unstable form of oxygen and a highly toxic gas, is sometimes also produced by the ultraviolet emissions from the photocopier lamps. These machine types should therefore be placed together in single spaces with sufficient exhaust facilities to allow the pollutants to vent to the outside of the building. This of course brings with it atmospheric pollution associated with these emissions, albeit then in an environment where they can be readily assimilated and broken down.

Appropriate humidity levels should be maintained in every spa, particularly where high humidity levels are caused by the large number of hydro treatment facilities on offer. High humidity levels for extended periods promote the growth of mould and fungi and can cause allergies and other illnesses. Good control of humidity is often easily achieved in naturally ventilated areas.

Emphatically, and lastly, smoking should be prohibited in any spa area, indoor or out!

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our initial perception that the strict lockdown measures in March 2020 allowed nature to sigh with relief was well placed.

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