Award Winner - May 2008
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Head of the Class

Zeeland Natatorium
Zeeland, Michigan

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

GMB Architects-Engineers in Holland, Mich.

Size: 47,800 square feet

Project Cost: $11.1 million

Quick Tour:

36-meter by 25-yard, 659,000-gallon pool
10 lanes for competition swimming at 25 yard, 25 meters or 33.3 meters
16 lanes for practice swimming at 25 yards
Movable bulkheads
Two 1-meter diving boards and two 3-meter diving boards
One Olympic competition water polo court, two high school competition courts
Seating for 552 with concessions
Men's, Women's & Family locker rooms
Time System and LED video display scoreboard
Automatic water leveling system
Computer-controlled chemical feed

shallow pool located in a Zeeland, Mich., middle school site wasn't making the grade for a town that takes pride in its state champion aquatics programs. Today, the town's competitive and casual swimmers dive into a facility that is at the top of its class.

Originally, the new natatorium was to be built as a stand-alone facility in Zeeland. After deliberating over dollars, the town realized that it would be most economical to build the new facility as part of the existing Zeeland West High School. The middle school that is home to the old pool was the town's original high school 20 years ago before Zeeland East and Zeeland West were constructed. The outdated pool was shallow and could not meet the needs of the community.

"The community was very supportive of building a top-quality facility," said David Van Ginhoven, assistant superintendent for business services for Zeeland Public Schools. "Our swimming programs have been successful for such a long time so we wanted to build a natatorium that was first-class."

The natatorium features a 10-lane competition pool as well as 16 practice lanes, two 1-meter and two 3-meter springboards and competition and practice water polo. The pool has a movable bulkhead that allows for 33 1/3-meter, 25-meter or 25-yard competition length, and allowing concurrent programs to take place. The pool also houses a wave-reducing gutter, an 8-foot depth and under-floor water inlets. Topping the natatorium off is a 21-by-11-foot full-color LED video/electronic timing system, underwater camera, e-dive scoring system, computer-controlled electronic feeders and a spectator area with 552 seats. All aspects of the natatorium help achieve Zeeland Public Schools' goal of building a facility that rivals a college's natatorium.

In addition to being a facility for Zeeland's many high school state finalists in swimming, diving and water polo, the town will use the natatorium for its community aquatic activities as well. Swimming lessons that were taught at the old site will also take place at Zeeland West along with possible deep aerobics activities, scuba diving and kayaking. The Zeeland Recreation Department is also considering the startup of daily lunch-hour swim time for business people, nightly open swims and masters adult competitive swim leagues.

"We want this to be a pool for community and recreation programs also," Von Ginhoven said. "The public schools are taking on more recreation and youth swimming programs, so the need for the new pool is greater."

Outside of the pool area, the natatorium boasts a panoramic view from its lobby and stairway and a glass wall dividing the entryway and pool for those passing by to watch swimming activities. A classroom and community education space is set between the pool and lobby, and the carpeted upper concourse of the building includes a café and concession area.

Besides the visually stimulating aspects of the facility, it also boasts some sustainability and energy-reducing features. One of the challenges that GMB Architects of Holland, Mich., faced when designing the natatorium was how to allow light into the facility without affecting the swimmers negatively. In order to saturate building with natural light, a clerestory was set up on each side of the pool. Using sunshades inside and outside the building, louvers and translucent canopies, glare on the pool is eliminated. The translucent canopy on the inside is made of a material used for glazing and acts as a diffusing filter and reflector of sunlight from the clerestory windows. The canopy also acts as a scale for spectators and screens the building's mechanical systems. According to Tom VanDeGriend, project architect at GMB, the task of meeting the needs of all facility users was not an easy one.

"The recreation department and the competition level had different standards," VanDeGriend said. "We wanted to use as much natural lighting with the demand for spaciousness to satisfy both parties; it is difficult to have light come in and not hit the pool surface given the design."

In an effort to save energy costs, the natatorium uses the high school's existing geo-thermal system to heat and cool its space. Twenty-five miles of underground piping are used for water to air, earth heat exchanging and control the temperature of the building outside of the pool area. Central dehumidification units capture energy, purge the pool area with 100 percent outside air and remove waste heat to increase pool water temperature and ventilation air. These units also return air to the geothermal loop where it can heat the rest of the facility.

"It costs a lot of money to heat water on top of heating the rest of the building," VanDeGriend said. "This project runs at half the cost as the nearby high school does."

Topping off the "green" advantages of the facility is the pool's filtration system, which includes a regenerative diatomaceous earth (D.E.) filter that regenerates the filter without using backwash. The filter system saves water, energy and chemical costs over a typical sand filter system. The pool also uses pump motor variable frequency drive to change pump speed based on system pressure drop. Overall pump energy savings are achieved by slowing pumps down while there is a clean filter and a lower pressure drop.


W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

Fantastic addition to existing project. Does not look like the new building component—the natatorium—was 'tacked on' to the existing building.

Randy Mendioroz

Nice use of the entrance and refreshment concourse.

Douglas Whiteaker

The balance of artificial and natural light in the natatorium is striking. The gentle curve of the main natatorium roof is evocative of a backstroke swimmer's body language.

Steve Blackburn

Good use of natural light and good views into the pool without glare.

Janet Jordan

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Acoustical Consultants:

Acoustics by Design

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