Engineering. The sooner you can involve an engineer in the planning of your climbing wall, the better. If you are designing a new building, we recommend that before you finish your drawings, you contact an engineer who is familiar with climbing wall loads. Have that engineer provide the design loads along with where they will be applied. Factor these loads into the building in order to provide a structure capable of supporting the climbing wall.
If you are planning to install a wall in an existing space, it is still a good idea to involve an engineer early in order to determine the feasibility of the installation. Nicros engineers and builds all of its own walls. However, it is under the assumption that the building can support the loads of the climbing wall. A couple of structural conditions that will affect price are: will the wall need to withstand seismic forces, can the building support the wall or does it need to be free standing? While working with the building engineer is up to the individual client, Nicros will be happy to consult with the engineer to assist the process.
All Nicros climbing wall projects include shop drawings completed and stamped by a licensed structural engineer.
Download typical engineering specifications commonly seen on Nicros climbing wall projects below.
Nicros Typical Wall Detail S1
Nicros Typical Wall Detail S2
Budget Considerations. Many people ask for a “price per square foot” for climbing walls. Since many of Nicros’ climbing walls are not pre-manufactured products, but fully-installed projects, it is extremely difficult to provide pricing in this way. There are many factors that affect the price of a climbing wall, including size of the wall, geographical location, site and access issues as well as union/prevailing wage rate issues.
The best way to get an accurate price estimate is to call a Nicros wall sales representative. Once you have discussed the above issues, they will be able to give you a fairly accurate estimate.
With that being said, the following price ranges may be used for ballpark estimates only. For WestCoast™ walls, the average range is $45 – $75 per square foot, although it could be as low as $35 and as high at $80.
For A.R.T.Wall™, the average range is $80 – $100 per square foot although it could be as low as $70 or over $100. This is a fairly large range, so please contact a Nicros representative to get a more accurate estimate based on the specifics of your facility’s project.
Finally, when making price comparisons, realize that Nicros’ price estimates include all materials for the wall and necessary steel framework, engineering, installation, equipment rental, handholds and top anchors…basically the wall complete and ready for handhold installation. The price does not include climbing equipment (ropes, harnesses, belay devices, etc.), auto-belays, landing surface or training. For budgeting purposes, you can assume approximately $1 per square foot of climbing wall for the climbing equipment (check out our online catalog for actual prices), $2,000-$5,000 with installation per auto-belay and $3,000-$4,500 for training (depending on length of time and location).
The price for landing surfaces varies greatly depending on the type desired, but loose products (chunk rubber or a rubber mulch product) will range from $2-$10 per square foot, carpeted products will range from $10-$20 per square foot and poured-in-place products will be $20 and up. For a more in-depth discussion of these items, see the appropriate sections below.
Size of Project. A common question is “How big should I make my wall?” and our standard answer is, “That depends.” Three factors that impact how big a wall should be are the budget available, the size of the space available and how many climbers you want to accommodate. Determining an accurate and realistic budget is an important first step for any climbing wall project.
The size of the wall goes hand in hand with budget since a smaller wall will generally cost less than a larger one. This, however, is the opposite for a price per square foot, which is why we recommend against using that method of determining a budget. (A larger wall will cost less per square foot than a smaller wall.)
The following example will illustrate how to determine general size and price estimates. For estimating purposes, assume 6 linear feet of climbing wall per climber. This will actually range from 5-8+ feet depending on the design, but 6 feet is a good average. Therefore, if you want to accommodate 5 climbers, you will need approximately 30 lineal feet of wall. For this example, assume your space is 28 feet tall. To estimate climbing surface area, multiply length times height times a factor of 1.2. This factor takes into account the fact that climbing walls are generally not perfectly flat, but have corners, roofs and other features that increase surface area. Climbing surface area is approximately 1008 square feet (30′ long x 28′ tall x 1.2 = 1008). From this estimate, you can use the price ranges above to get a rough idea of the cost of your project.
Space. It is a common misconception to assume that the amount of space needed to build a climbing wall is simply the amount of space needed to house the wall. This doesn’t take into consideration the space for the framing of the wall (walls are normally about two and a half feet thick in order to allow for framing and the ability to get behind the wall for access) or the space needed in the foreground for someone to “fall”.
Because most walls have overhangs, one must calculate the Swing Radius from each anchor point to have a complete understanding of how much space is needed. Although there is no industry standard, at Nicros we recommend a minimum of 8-10 feet of clearance on a perfectly vertical wall. Why? If a six foot tall person falls off the wall and takes a step backwards and then falls straight back landing on their back, there is the potential for them to hit a wall or an obstacle if placed any closer than 8 to 10 feet. The space in front and to the sides needs to be free of any obstructions to reduce the possibility for a climber to hit something.
Swing Radius. “Swing Radius” simply defines the distance a person will swing out from the wall when they fall while being tied into a toprope. In addition to the space previously talked about, additional space is needed to accommodate the swing radius of a climber’s fall. To calculate the swing radius (and thus determine the distance needed in front of the wall), one must first determine the amount of overhang for each top rope anchor (the distance the top anchor sits in front of the base of that wall).
Next, multiply each distance by 2.5. For example, a five foot overhang needs a twelve and a half foot clear space in front of the wall (5×2.5). This calculation of space should be used not only for a landing surface, but also should remain free of obstructions. If you completed the above math problem for a perfectly vertical wall (zero foot overhang), it would tell you that you needed no clearance in terms of a swing radius. However, remembering in the “Space” section, we recommend a minimum of 8-10 feet of clearance even on a perfectly vertical wall.
Access Issues. Access should be considered before deciding on the location of the climbing wall. In order to erect a wall, there are certain pieces of equipment (such as cranes or scissor lifts) and certain materials (some as long as the height of the wall) that will need to be moved into the work site. Passage through doors, hallways, etc. must be large enough so that equipment and materials can make it through the path of travel to the work site. If a wall is being installed into a finished building and extra care will need to be taken in order to protect floors and other surfaces from damage caused by the transportation of equipment and materials, this will more than likely increase the cost because the crew will need to spend more time and care moving in materials and equipment. During the latter construction phases, an outdoor area for mixing concrete will need to be set up. This area should have easy access both to a water source and to the work site itself. This area should be located in such a place that the clean-out byproduct from the mixer can be dumped on the ground without ruining any finishes.
Landing Surfaces. The landing surface should be large enough to accommodate the swing radius of each top anchor. You will want to factor your landing surface into your budget for the wall. There are a variety of landing surfaces to choose from. Nicros offers four choices: loose chunk rubber, Nicro-Mat™, Nicro-Mulch™, and Nicros-DropZone™. Nicro-Mat™ and Nicro-Mulch™ are both poured-in-place surfaces. Nicro-Mat™ ranges in price from $23 to $35 per square foot while Nicro-Mulch™ ranges from $18 to $30 per square foot. The reason for this large of a range is the same reason why there are such ranges to the price of the wall itself. There are the same factors that go into the price of the wall and additional factors that will cause the pricing on a landing surface to fluctuate. Nicros’ newest landing surface product, Nicros-DropZone™, is easier to install. The pricing for this product is usually between $9 to $12 per square foot. Nicros also offers loose chunk rubber which is $12.50 per fifty pound bag and normally covers approximately 2.2 cubic feet.
Union/Prevailing Wage. This topic is a budgetary issue that typically affects publicly funded projects, but should always be addressed early in any project. Whether your project will require the climbing wall contractor to be union or to pay its workers prevailing wages could greatly affect cost depending upon location (i.e. Philadelphia wage rates are much higher than in Albuquerque). For further information in this area, please contact one of our Wall Sales Representatives for further information and a discussion.
Geographical Location. Location also has an impact on the cost of a climbing wall. In certain rural areas, the lack of materials, rentals, and housing, etc. can result in higher costs. Also, projects in downtown areas tend to be higher as well due to the difficulties associated with deliveries, parking, storage, etc. For further information in this area, please contact one of our Wall Sales Representatives (call 1-800-699-1975) for further information and a discussion.