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Supplement Feature - February 2013

Buoyed by Innovation

New Aquatic Design Trends Offer a Sea of Options

By Chris Gelbach


Technology for Savings and Appeal

Technological advancements are also allowing facilities to generate more interest in existing facilities without a need for additional real estate or significant expense. For instance, virtual trainers can be installed that use LED lighting in a long strip at the bottom of a pool lane to allow swimmers to program the lights to race against their best time—or Michael Phelps's—by following the moving light.

And LED lights are being added more often to slides, as well as to demark the underwater boundaries on water polo courts, which are being built in more West Coast facilities as the sport grows in popularity. "That system isn't outside the price range of a community center, and I would imagine it is going to become more and more standard," Roderick said.

Existing technologies to enhance energy efficiency and clean air and water are also gaining momentum, from variable frequency drives to regenerative DE filters, more efficient pool heaters, ultraviolet pool systems and automated water chemistry controllers.

And in the nation's warmest regions, thermal solar has become increasingly cost-effective. "Now, with natural gas hovering around a dollar a therm and higher, it's about a 4-to-6-year payback for solar," said Mendioroz, who noted that the biggest challenge is often finding enough surface area to place the panels, because you need about 80 percent of the surface area of the pool.

"In a lot of these aquatic facilities, the support buildings are not that big," he said. "We're doing a project for the City of Las Vegas where we're putting shade structures in the parking lot. It makes a lot of sense there, because it's really, really hot—and we can rack the solar panels to those shade structures."

Software analysis can also show pool operators how much they'd save through the use of thermal blankets. "They will save you almost 40 percent of your heating costs for an outdoor pool, because most of your heat evaporates in the evening when it's colder," Mendioroz said. "For an indoor pool, you can save about 15 to 20 percent of your heating costs and you're preserving your building because you don't have that water evaporation getting into the structures."

Technologies can also give operators more flexibility in how they use their facilities to provide more programming opportunities. In Canada, Roderick is seeing 50-meter pools with moveable floors and bulkheads. The bulkhead enables the pool to be divided into two different spaces with different water temperatures, so one part can become a warm-water recreation pool and another a cold-water fitness pool. The perforated moveable floor can be adjusted to between zero to 2 meters deep. "They can lower it to 2 feet for swim lessons, or to 5 feet and do aerobics—whatever they want," he said.

Whatever they want, and whatever the budget, the latest aquatic design trends are giving facility managers an array of new ways to stay afloat—and to make a splash with patrons through enhanced amenities and programming.