As more gymnasiums are being turned into multi-use and multi-sport facilities, the more important it becomes to use ceiling-suspended equipment that folds up and out of the way. And that, in turn, places more importance of the role of the control system.

The pre-planning required to develop a suitable gymnasium control system, and comparing the various systems that are available, is the subject of two new continuing education courses by Draper in partnership with BNP Media and Architectural Record.

In years past if you noticed a gym control at all, it was a key switch. Only one device can be operated from each key switch. Typically, key switches are momentary, which means the electrical circuit is cut when the key is not held in the “on” position. This forces the operator to remain at the switch until the operation is complete. And while operating one item at a time is a good safety practice, it also means changing setups between sports and events can take a long time.

This increased complexity has led to the development of more flexible systems beyond simple key switches and handheld remotes. The modern facility is more likely to use a group control system.

Group control systems typically fall into one of two categories: canned field programmed systems with limited programming options, and custom programed systems that are more flexible and can be tailored to a facility’s specific requirements.

Canned systems are more economical, as the cost can be offset by savings on electrical costs through the sharing of circuits if the system is large enough.

Historically, a basic control system would run one device at a time. Around 10 years ago, the basic system became more sophisticated, allowing users to create groups, so circuit sizes were changed from 20 amps to 30 amps. Today, users can include two devices on one 30-amp circuit and an additional two on a second 30-amp circuit. If more than one relay box is utilized, another four devices (two per 30-amp circuit) can be added, and it now becomes possible to simultaneously operate eight devices at a time. However, the canned systems typically cap group sizes here.

With a typical price tag of under $5,000, for projects where budget is an issue, but the owner wants the control system to have the capability of sharing circuits and operating equipment in groups, a canned system could be a good solution. However, there is limited programmability and less sophistication. The user interface usually looks like a telephone touchpad with numerical controls.

With a larger front-end investment, custom programmed systems are a more feature-rich option than the so-called “canned” systems. Consequently, they can be programmed to match a facility’s exact requirements.

This is particularly beneficial for pay-to-play or other large multiuse facilities that frequently change their setup for the next group coming in. The ability to operate multiple pieces of equipment at one time significantly reduces down-time between facility bookings and labor costs to operate equipment for switchovers. Whereas with key switches, the switch must be held down to move one piece of equipment at a time, these advanced systems can move the equipment in a fraction of the time.

Custom-programmed systems incorporate a touchscreen interface that supports graphics to match the exact building layout, essentially presenting a map on the screen.

Operators can also utilize a dedicated wireless network and operate the system using a tablet, allowing them freedom of movement to better supervise multiple pieces of equipment in motion.

To learn all about specifying the correct gymnasium control system and the importance of pre-planning for the system, and to read real world case studies about successfully deployed systems, click here to take “Taking Control: Planning for Optimum Gym Systems.” Draper also offers an in-person or virtual presentation version of the course. Click here to contact your Draper representative to schedule the class.

These courses each earn 1 LU/HSW credit from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).