In this article, architect Sylvia Deye, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP explores the complexities of designing resort environments that are both safe and functional for the wide range of activities that they accommodate. Designing a single facility that serves a broad variety of uses requires careful planning and quality architecture that is mindful of the materials and systems necessary to handle a multi-use environment.
Resort Premises Safety - Expert Article
A resort is a destination environment of experiences, where patrons go to relax and play. One may participate in sports, relax by the pool, go to the spa and participate in the evening entertainment. The all-inclusive resort mixes many environments and activities into one. However, the combination of activities (hazards) and how they overlap (risk) can create dangerous conditions. The various uses of the property require special consideration from a design, construction, and maintenance standpoint. Architects drive numerous decisions relevant to premises safety and must take effective measures to ensure that the built environment accommodates the diverse population and uses for which it is intended.
It is not unusual to step into an elevator with a skier fresh from the slopes, a dripping patron in flip flops from the pool, and the staff running errands. What do all of these individuals have in common? An expectation that walkway surfaces they encounter from the exterior to the interior, from point A to point B, will be safe. Quality architecture is the knowledge and expertise to implement materials and systems, which take into consideration the transitional use of one built environment to the next, for a safe resort experience.
Using the environment of a ski resort as an example: the resort consists of two components: First there is the Village, which houses the customer services, retail shops, condominiums, hotels, restaurants, pools and spas. The other component is the mountain side; with slopes where seasonal sporting events take place, from winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, to mountain biking and race challenges.
Resorts are often a combination of land ownership, which affect how they are used and maintained. These different land ownership structures can include:
- Mountain is federal land (USFS), and base area/village is private.
- Mountain and base are 100% USFS
- Mountain and base are 100% privately owned
- Some ski areas are a combination of both public and private lands across the resort boundaries
- Some ski areas are on State-owned lands
The architectural components that form the ski resorts create these environments purposefully to engage the patrons with the snow, ice and water. Architects should implement design features to successfully mitigate these aggressive contaminants, which can cause slips, trips and falls. To safeguard patrons, staff and visitors, resorts must prevent snow and ice buildup at doorways and exterior walking surfaces. The most common way is installing deicing systems below the walking surface to melt the snow and allow the water to be collected below the walking surface and drain to a controlled area. Door entrances are used heavily, with the potential to track undesired snow buildup into the building. Snow catch systems are an integral part of all door entrances and lobbies where the snow can be captured, collected and melted before it enters the building.
Exterior grades and slopes shall be level and steps avoided. It is unreasonable to expect a skier to use a handrail while carrying skis and poles. The finish surfaces used in the exterior plazas and the interior spaces must also meet minimum requirements for ADA compliance, NFPA Life Safety Code, and ASTM’s Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces (F1637) and required means of egress. A resort that incorporates universal design into aspects of the built environment creates a place where all ages, sizes, and abilities can safely participate, move about, and experience all that there is to be offered.
Premises Safety Investigations at Resorts
The Premises Safety team at Robson Forensic consists of architects and safety professionals who are trained to investigate cases involving the design, construction, and maintenance of winter and summer season resorts, including their facilities, grounds, and recreational areas. In addition to their diverse experience in the design and construction of the built environment, our experts are actively involved in the professional organizations that develop standards for premises safety and materials testing.
Robson Forensic also employs Sports & Recreation experts who can address the specifics of winter sports activity, mountain operations, as well as aquatic facility operations, fitness centers, and ice rinks. Click here to learn more about our Sports & Recreation experts.
Contact the author of this article or submit an inquiry to determine which of our experts is most appropriate to assist on your case.
Architecture, Construction & Premises Safety Expert
Sylvia Deye is a Registered Architect with over twenty years of experience in architectural design, construction, and project management. Her experience includes a wide range of building and facility types, from single and multi-family residential, to commercial, retail, hospitality, industrial, and institutional facilities. Sylvia’s architectural experience also includes a concentration in large retail complexes and resorts. Sylvia applies her expertise to forensic casework involving premises liability disputes and construction claims.