April 29, 2011 by: Heimsath Architects Staff

This is Part 2 of a three part article.  If you would like to down load the entire article, see the link below!

4.  Flooring

There are a number of different flooring types we have used in our multi-user spaces.  Each type has its advantages and disadvantages depending on what they uses are.


These tend to be the least expensive and most flexible, although some of the more select vinyl floors (like the plank wood styles) can start to get as expensive as cheap tile.  The advantages of these floors is that they are pretty good at all things.  Sports lines can be easily cut in, they clean up easily and are stain resistant, and there are lots of color options.  VCT (Vinyl Composition Tile—a vinyl/limestone mix) is an old standby for these spaces, but it involves a lot of long-term maintenance, as it has to be stripped and waxed often.  We have been trying to move away from VCT to floors that don’t have to be continually waxed—like solid vinyl and linoleum.  These floors do require maintenance, but it is far less involved.  Linoleum is making a comeback, especially because it is a lot greener than the other products given that it is made from renewable sources.  Many of these products are available in sheet or tile formats.



Tile is a very durable hard surface that is stain resistant and very low maintenance.  Tiles last practically forever and do not get scratched easily.  If you choose to use tile, I recommend that you use a porcelain tile, which while more expensive are harder and better at stain resistance.  Tile floors are not good for sports, however, and the slight unevenness of the tile/grout joints can be hard on chairs.  The weakness in the floor is the grout, which unless you seal (and then periodically reseal) or use epoxy grout (more expensive) can get stained.  Another recent development in the tile world is rectified tiles which have much truer edges and can be laid with almost no grout joint.  This gives a much more updated look, and reduces the stain risk and irregular surface aspects of tile.  In situations where sports are not an issue (and the money is available), we usually recommend tile.

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Holy Trinity, Fayettville, NC

In this case we were working with group worship and private devotion in the same space.  All of the chairs and liturgical elements (except for the Baptismal Font) are moveable, which allows the floor to be cleared on weekdays and the beautiful tile labyrinth to be explored.



You can carpet a multi-user space, but is not one of our traditionally recommended surfaces, especially if dining is involved.  Carpet in the past has had a lot of stain troubles and a tendency to experience visible wear in the most commonly used areas.  However, the industry has made a lot of progress in the ‘greening’ of carpet, the maintenance/durability of carpet and in the use of carpet squares (so that damaged areas can be replaced easily), so I can foresee using carpet in the right circumstances.  Carpet does have advantages, though; in addition to being softer underfoot, it is acoustically absorbent, so it can help quiet the space down.


Wood/Sports Flooring

Wood floors and sports flooring are great for sports—if you can afford them.  They do have the ability to work for many other uses, but you do have to be cautious with them.  Spills need to be cleaned up quickly, and dirt is the main enemy of the protective coating on wood floors.  High traffic areas can present a problem, though, as can chairs and tables.

5.  Sports Equipment

More often than not, one of the uses of the multi-user space involves some sort of sports.  It is critically important to understand what level of sports is intended as this can have important implications.  For example, if you are planning on having high school level basketball, you need a specific size court, a wood floor, and some areas to watch from.  But if you are just having a play area for youth activities and youth leagues, you can change the size of the court and have different flooring options.   Changing the size of the court is one of the strategies we use, because most of our clients don’t need a 60’ wide by 100’ long multi-user space (which is what is needed to fit a 50’x84’ basketball court with some run off room).  We like to keep the width consistent (so the three point line and boundaries are the same—I don’t want to mess with someone’s shot) but shorten the length to get the size room we need.  This has the second benefit of reducing the amount of running for littler kids and adults in less good shape than they used to be.

We find that it is important in most spaces to try to have the sports equipment disappear when the space is serving other uses.  Retractable goals at least move the goal closer to the walls, and some can even be designed to retract out of sight.  Moveable basketball goals are a possibility, but they can be expensive and they are very bulky in terms of trying to store them.  Volleyball stanchions are easily portable and can slide slots in the floor.

Multipurpose Space, First United Methodist, Austin, TX

First United Methodist Church, Austin, TX

The space is designed to be both a formal meeting room (it is sited across from the Texas State Capitol) and an active men’s basketball league.  This second floor space has a special floor system to mute sound and keep vibrations from disturbing the chapel below.

 Another thing to consider with a sports use is protecting the windows and walls from abuse and not placing windows or doors right under the baskets. Depending on the level of play expected, we will occasionally use retractable nets to create protection over large areas of glass or use stronger wall material behind basketball goals.  Padding, especially for projecting elements, is also something to consider.  With padding, we try to make it removable so other functions can happen without gym pads (and their limited color palette) hanging on the walls.

6.  Lighting

I have previously blogged about natural light in worship environments, so you may want to read that article, as much of its content can be applied to multi-user spaces.  Natural light from windows and skylights makes the space much more bright and cheerful and gives users a relationship to what is happening outdoors.  However, natural light --especially in the wrong place (say behind the basketball goal) -- can make many uses difficult, especially if they involve audio-visual needs.  Therefore, be sure to consider where and how you can take advantage of natural light -- and how you can control it.

The various uses of your space will most likely have different lighting needs, in terms of both location and intensity.  Fortunately, technology is continuing to evolve to make solving these issues easier.  Sports require high, even light levels and light sources that are ready to deal with balls.  The old high-intensity lights used in gyms tended to be functional-looking, often had a sickly greenish color, and weren’t dimmable (and Lord help you if you accidentally turned them off; the restart time took forever).  Now, compact fluorescent lights and LED lights can give the light levels you want and better control over the light.  Banquets often need lower softer light levels and the possibility of controlling lights to highlight areas.

Pendant fixtures can either be functional looking or classy depending on the fixture and how they are placed.  Recessed cans can provide a nice even light if you have a hung ceiling; these also can provide dimming options if desired.  You will most likely want some up-lighting in the space so that the high ceiling doesn’t seem dark and cavernous


Well, that is it for PART 2 of 3.  If you want to download the rest of the article (Feel Free to share it with others!)  CLICK HERE!

Multipurpose Room


Church Design & Construction/ Fellowship Hall