According to the National Institutes of Health, health equity is where everyone can attain full health potential regardless of social position or any other socially defined circumstance. Unfortunately, the burdens of disease and the benefits of wellness are inequitably distributed with negative consequences for the nation’s well-being and prosperity.
Community aquatic facilities are vital in filling this gap and creating a more equitable future for people in diverse neighborhoods where significant space, economic or climate challenges limit swimming pool access.
Unfortunately, not enough municipalities are aware of this.
To communicate the value of water and aquatics, HMC Architects recently developed a 24-page impact paper, “Aquatic Centers: Bringing Life to Communities.” It explores the critical role aquatic and recreation centers play in society — and how they can make a lasting, positive impact on the people they serve. The report provides an effective tool for conveying our message and initiating a broader dialogue.
Our ethos is to “Design for good.” We only take projects that we know will make a positive impact in a community. So we like to talk about aquatic and recreation centers, and why they’re so beneficial. Our impact paper is one of the ways that we can do that.
Aquatic spaces are far more than just leisure facilities; they serve as epicenters for social interaction, physical health, and mental rejuvenation. When you look at communities with these centers, you’ll see better case studies for wellness — both physical and mental health. Citizens derive so many great benefits from places where they can exercise and connect with other community members. For instance, they are great to help with loneliness.
Despite this immense potential, many municipalities have yet to fully appreciate the intricacies of aquatic design and its contribution to community wellness. Even in California, where you’d think that it’s sunny all the time so everybody has access to swimming and recreation, a large swath of the population just doesn’t.
Many miss even the safety benefits of providing a place where children learn to swim. So these centers aren’t always prioritized in the limited budgets that many municipalities have. We want to provide them all the information so they can make sound decisions when budgeting and planning.
One of the report’s key takeaways is the multifaceted impact of aquatic centers on mental health. In an era marked by stress and anxiety, these centers emerge as sanctuaries of solace. The interplay of water, light and space creates an atmosphere conducive to relaxation and introspection. Swimming has been scientifically linked to reduced cortisol levels and heightened release of endorphins — the so-called ‘feel-good’ hormones. Aquatic centers empower communities to navigate the challenges of modern existence by offering a respite from the rigors of daily life.
Furthermore, the HMC paper sheds light on the integrative role of these centers in fostering social cohesion. In an increasingly digital world, face-to-face interactions are at a premium. Aquatic and recreation centers provide a physical space where people from diverse backgrounds can converge, interact and form meaningful connections. Whether through water aerobics classes, swim meets, or simply lounging poolside, these spaces cultivate a sense of belonging crucial for holistic well-being.
These centers even create better neighbors. I understand this firsthand: We have a community center with an aquatics facility, and we run into neighbors whom we might not otherwise see. So these centers do such a great job connecting people, and those connections help people live more fulfilling lives.
However, it’s important to note that the impact of aquatic and recreation centers isn’t solely confined within their walls, so our paper emphasizes the ripple effect these spaces can have on their surroundings. From increased property values to enhanced community pride, these facilities catalyze broader urban renewal.
By investing in aquatic design, municipalities stand to gain not just in terms of health dividends but also in the economic vitality of the region.
In the paper, we highlight aquatic and recreation centers’ myriad benefits by delving into the symbiotic relationship between architecture, human behavior, and well-being. It explains the benefits of aquatics, backed by facts and data from agencies such as the CDC, along with quotes from past clients on how their communities benefit from their aquatics facilities. Then we outline case histories of some of our projects.
We recognize that getting our message across necessitates more than just words on paper. We are sparking conversations through its strategic dissemination across social media platforms, our website and our direct engagement with clients, partners and local officials.
The report certainly provides us a business-development tool to be used in client meetings, not only to show our capabilities, but also to tout the many reasons why aquatics centers benefit communities. We also provide it to many of our current and potential clients to help them advocate for these spaces when engaging with community leaders and local officials. We also made it available on our website, where it can be downloaded for free to those interested in this type of design.
As advocates for community wellness, we have found that impact papers like this provide an invaluable resource for municipalities seeking evidence-based solutions to urban challenges. By demonstrating how aquatic and recreation centers can transform communities, we are arming decision-makers with the insights needed to make informed choices that resonate for generations.