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

By Harry Topikian

Indoor air comfort is as important as the spa services. All the diffusers, ductwork and other air distribution components were specified and positioned to deliver a gentle 40-feet/minute air velocity at six feet above the floor to eliminate uncomfortable chilling effects on the spa occupants, according to Ellis.

Even well-designed spas with the all-important negative building pressure still typically produce many types of odors from massage oils, sanitizing chemicals, perspiration, etc. Therefore, TLC also specified a scent dispersion system.

The new Fontainebleau Miami Beach still retains its 1950s charm that made it a world-famous destination of yesteryear, but it's the state-of-the-art equipment and design innovation of today's engineers and architects that pamper today's guests with five-star luxury and style.

Gas-Phase Filtration

One common IAQ indoor air quality culprit in spa areas is chloramines, which are free chlorine molecules that attach to human waste molecules of sweat and urine. HVAC systems generally recirculate these toxins because conventional media filters designed for airborne particulates are incapable of trapping gaseous contaminants such as chloramines and pool chemicals, which just flow through and recirculate.

People with prolonged exposure to these gaseous contaminants may feel symptoms such as headaches, increased shortness of breath, eye irritation and chest tightness. Scientists have tagged this fairly new phenomenon with several names ranging from Lifeguard Lung (LGL), or endemic granulomatous pneumonitis, or the more generic sounding, Sick Building Syndrome.

Luckily the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) industry and its engineers and contractors could very well have the answer to this problem. Gas-phase air purification is not a new technology, but it is for indoor pools and spas. For decades, industries such as paper/pulp mills, wastewater treatment and petrochemical plants have used it to filter out toxic airborne gaseous contaminants that are inherent in their processes. In a spa environment, re-circulated air from the spa passes through a bank of carbon-based media inside the HVAC equipment, which adsorbs gaseous contaminants such as chloramines. The media is tested periodically for efficacy and changed.


Harry Topikian is vice president - business development, Dectron Internationale in Montreal. He has 25 years of experience in energy recycling and engineered air treatment solutions. For more information, visit