Guest Column - November 2010
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Design Right to Ensure Spa Air Quality

By Harry Topikian

Role Model of Spa Design

A good spa role model that accomplishes the spa area design, construction and maintenance considerations is the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. The 56-year-old hotel recently completed a $1.1-billion renovation/expansion, which includes the new 40,000-square-foot Lapis Spa, a wonderland of spas, steam rooms, therapy pools and some other humidity-producing features such as a 35-foot-long rain corridor, colored mists and a curtain of falling water.

Taming the humidity in these areas is the mechanical design of Lawrin Ellis, P.E., LEED-AP, CxA, mechanical project engineer with TLC Engineering for Architecture (TLC), Ft. Myers, Fla., and Matthew Wiechart, P.E., LEED-AP, CxA, senior mechanical engineer with TLC, Orlando, Fla. The design maintains humidity to a comfortable 50 percent and makes this indoor aquatic playground possible.

The Lapis Spa has seven main areas, and one factor in TLC's success is the use of four dehumidifiers, each of which remove a total capacity of 90 pounds per hour of moisture in the four humid environments. Four separate units provide more individual control for areas where temperature, humidity and occupancy vary greatly. The four aquatic areas are:

  • Men's Spa (2,000 square feet with a 162-square-foot whirlpool spa)
  • Women's Spa (2,000 square feet with one large 261-square-foot whirlpool spa and two smaller individual pools and a steam room)
  • Rain Shower/Co-ed Pool (3,200 square feet with a 505-square foot, 82°F lap pool and a 47-square foot, 102°F rain shower water feature)
  • Wet Treatment Area (an area with a 130-square-foot whirlpool spa and a 58-square-foot spa)

Particularly challenging for TLC was the wet treatment area, which has several smaller suites where guests spend entire days receiving massages, spa treatments and other services. To supplement the preferential treatments, each personal room has individual temperature and humidity control with a variable air volume (VAV) box. VAV boxes are individual controls for rooms that are normally supplied by variable speed air handlers, however in this instance, dehumidification was a key issue.

Another design challenge is condensation prevention on a wall of windows that allows patrons to view the Fontainebleau's breathtaking ocean views. On winter days when Miami's temperature can momentarily dip below 40°F, the dehumidifiers are integral in keeping the glass free of condensation, which is a typical problem when windows separate two vastly different temperature environments.