The University of Washington’s Intramural Activities Building (IMA) underwent a comprehensive renovation to modernize its locker rooms and swimming pool, untouched since its 1966 construction. Utilizing a progressive design-build process, the project doubled the swimmable area and created one of the nation’s largest gender-inclusive locker facilities. The collaborative effort prioritized equity, accessibility, and universal design principles, resulting in three fully accessible, gender-inclusive locker rooms.

The new 14-lane Swimming Pool and the Universal Locker Room

Recreation facility’s relationship to your campus master plan and mission, demonstrating the value of campus recreation on your campus

The recreation facility harmoniously aligns with our campus mission by prioritizing safe, accessible, and dynamic experiences for student growth and well-being. The commitment to inclusivity is evident in ADA-accessible universal locker rooms and private spaces. This not only mirrors the campus master plan’s emphasis on accommodating diverse needs but also fosters a sense of community engagement. The facility’s pool, designed with safety features like a chair lift, supports the mission’s goal of providing holistic recreation experiences. The recreation facility emerges as a cornerstone, not just for physical activity but as a pivotal element in realizing our campus-wide objectives and creating a vibrant, connected, and inclusive campus community.

Intended and actual impact of facility on your recreation program including inclusive features, impact on attendance, etc. Please provide statistical data or a detailed explanation to explain the impact

The addition of three Universal Locker Rooms has significantly enhanced our recreation program’s inclusivity and attendance. These ADA-accessible spaces, featuring cabanas with showers, toilets, and changing areas, have fostered a welcoming environment for members with diverse needs. The pool, equipped with 14 lanes, a zero-entry point, and a chair lift, amplifies accessibility. Statistical data reveals a substantial impact, with a noteworthy increase of 108 total memberships from fall 22 to fall 23, and a rise of 72 employee memberships, indicating a positive community response. This upward trend suggests that the inclusive features successfully attracted and retained a more diverse and larger membership base, exceeding expectations and positively influencing inclusivity, attendance, and overall member satisfaction.

Unique aesthetic of architectural features

A standout feature of the new pool addition is the 20 ft high University of Washington purple steel “W” on the exterior, repurposed from seismic bracing. The all-gender locker rooms’ design, a first at UW, evolved from extensive visioning sessions, creating a prototype for a large, fully accessible facility. Using 3-D fly-thru models, the design team engaged stakeholders, providing a realistic sense of the facility. Departing from traditional gender-specific setups, the all-gender locker rooms prioritize safety, comfort, and inclusion, aiming to support everyone in the UW community, especially those whom traditional gendered locker rooms do not serve.

Relationship between facility design and staffing, specifically intentional facility design as it relates to supervision and staff

The intentional design of three gender-inclusive, fully accessible locker rooms and an expanded pool significantly impacts staffing and supervision. The locker rooms enhance operational flexibility, streamline staff oversight, and minimize conflicts. The pool’s expansion necessitates additional lifeguard supervision, with the new deep-end space improving rescue procedures and lifeguard training. A zero-entry ramp and chair lift provide self-sufficient access, enabling lifeguards to focus on supervision and safety. Upgraded mechanical systems and LED lighting not only meet efficiency standards but also have the potential to optimize staffing needs for enhanced supervision. This intentional facility design aligns with safety, accessibility, and operational efficiency, influencing staffing strategies for a well-supervised and user-friendly recreational environment.

Innovative construction materials or methods

Pool design project

The architectural plan of the swimming pool and the locker room project.

The reconstruction of the locker rooms and pool involved taking a ‘surgical’ approach due to tight existing conditions, as the pool was sandwiched between two large existing gyms east & west and a tennis court to the south. The structure, adjacent to Lake Washington, sits on a peat bog and requires special foundation structure with a grid of concrete grade beams and piles, necessitating careful coordination of new locker room under-slab plumbing lines. New sewer mains needed to be fished under the grade beams through a series of square slab openings.

The transformation of the pool, changing it from a six-lane “L” shape to an expanded 14-lane pool, was successfully achieved by removing the end wall and incorporating new micro-pile grade beam supports within a 3,600 sf addition. The project included a complete rebuild of the pool mechanical systems.

This project budget was set prior to the 2020 pandemic. The UW selected Progressive Design-Build contract for the delivery method of this project.  The integrated design-build team was able to creatively problem-solve the challenges of working on an existing building from 1966 with no added cost to the University. When the abatement process required the removal of exterior wall assemblies for new support columns, the team was able to pivot, with support from the structural engineers, to save existing gym wood floors and minimize the construction impact to user programming of those spaces.  Similarly, the creative reuse of existing walls and foundation elements allowed the project to stretch the budget to provide the most pool square footage.

Sustainable features, including but not limited to LEED Rating, green features, etc.

Sustainable design has been a primary focus for this student-funded project, emphasized since its inception through community forum input and University policy. The reconstruction of the pool and the addition to the natatorium represent a fundamental commitment to sustainable development, emphasizing resource conservation rather than constructing a new pool facility.

The project places a strong emphasis on reducing water usage, a highly impactful approach given the facility’s nature. By integrating low-flow sinks, toilets, and showers in the locker room and pool renovation, the project achieves an annual water use reduction of 42% compared to a typical similar facility.

The design significantly enhances daylight by incorporating a clerestory window and an articulated ceiling that evenly distributes light across the pool surface. The mechanical system introduces 30% more outdoor air, which passes through MERV 13 air filters, greatly improving indoor air quality. Achieving these goals promotes the physical health and mental well-being of IMA users.

An outdoor rain garden, landscaped with native plants, treats roof water and establishes a connection to nature through the large windows by the pool. The design team explored biophilic design principles to guide the locker room design, using calming colors from nature in the all-gender locker rooms to depart from traditional gender-coded palettes. The project is registered with the certification goal of achieving LEED Gold®.

Use of technology and how it benefits the customer, staff and/or budget.

Lighting for an indoor pool is one of the most important design features, contributing to both the aesthetics and safety of the space. The design team utilized advanced digital daylighting modeling programs to maximize light while minimizing glare on the water. The new ceiling acts as a giant light reflector for both the natural light and the advanced LED adjustable uplighting fixtures that ring the pool deck. The result is a dramatically transformed environment that imparts a sense of being more “outdoors” than “indoors.”

Despite being twice the size of its predecessor, the new and efficient pool uses the same amount of water due to an innovative pool cleaning system. The new regenerative media filter effectively cleans the pool water while providing significant water and energy. Up to 90% of water is saved as the amount of backwash water that goes down the drain is significantly less than in a conventional sand filter system.


In summary, the University of Washington’s IMA project serves as a beacon of progress, inclusivity, and sustainability in campus recreation. It not only meets immediate needs but anticipates and addresses the evolving expectations of a diverse and dynamic campus community. The IMA has become a symbol of transformative success, leaving an indelible mark on the university’s commitment to providing cutting-edge recreational experiences for generations to come.