Feature Article - May/June 2006
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Undercover Operations

With proper planning, adding a pool enclosure can boost patronage and profits

By Dawn Klingensmith


Breathe easy

Air quality was also a concern for the parks and recreation department of Lompoc, Calif., when it set out to put three pools under one humongous roof. Currently under construction with completion expected in time for summer use, the aquatic center replaces the old Lompoc Municipal Pool, an indoor facility that was condemned in 2000 for its failure to meet earthquake safety standards. The old pool had been open for business 14 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, yet for all its bustle of activity, it was far from perfect.

"It was like having a toolbox with only one tool in it, so you try figure out how to use that tool for a variety of tasks, without much success," says Dan McCaffrey, Lompoc's director of parks, recreation and urban forestry.

In other words, the city's pool was not meeting the needs of all its constituents. Hence Lompoc officials had the community's support to build a $13.2 million, 41,000-square-foot aquatic center with three separate pools—a 10-lane competition pool for swim meets and water polo matches; a therapy pool with 90-degree water and a wheelchair ramp; and a recreation pool with toddler-friendly zero-depth entry and splash play features on one bean-shaped end as well as four lanes for lap swimming, water fitness classes or recreational use in the rectangular middle and a two-flume water slide complex on the other end. The cost of the sprawling facility would have been much steeper were it not for the prefabricated enclosure covering the 31,000-square-foot pool area, says project architect Jim Moore of Phillips Metsch Sweeney Moore Architects in Santa Barbara, Calif. A 10,000-square-foot brick building houses the lobby, locker rooms, offices and mechanical room. Relative to the entire cost of the project, the enclosure was a bargain at $1.8 million.

Moore believes the enclosure will be perhaps the largest of its type ever erected. And while the sheer size is a point of pride, it also presents a challenge in terms of venting.

In California, pools with retractable-roof enclosures don't necessarily need HVAC systems. If it gets too hot or humid inside, you can open the roof. Because the roof is composed of panels, the system allows for flexibility.

"You can open all of them or just one of them," Mendioroz points out. "You can open some of the panels all the way, or all of the panels part of the way, or you can crack a panel like you would a car window."

Opening a combination of wall and roof panels creates a "natural flue effect, so ventilation doesn't cost a lot of money," he adds.

Given the enormousness of the Lompoc pool enclosure, the manufacturer developed a control plan whereby employees will vent particular panels in specified ways if rain threatens to cause indoor fogging, for example, or if it gets too hot and a cross breeze is needed. In the event that this control plan proves to be insufficient, in his design Moore included infrastructure for a dehumidification system so one can be retrofitted. By not including a dehumidification system to begin with, the city saved $750,000. However, not every climate is so lucky.

"In someplace like Denver or Reno where you get snow, you probably couldn't get away with not having a dehumidification system," Moore says.