Feature Article - November 2005
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Handy Solutions to Common Problems

By Stacy St. Clair, Jenny E. Beeh and Kelli Anderson

How To Expand to a Year-Round Aquatics Program

In most cold-weather states, tradition dictates that the aquatic season lasts three short months, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But it really doesn't have to be that way.

In many warm-weather states, chilly evening temperatures discourage usage from dusk until several hours after dawn. But it really doesn't have to be that way, either.

Pool enclosures can turn a part-time facility into a full-time recreation option with multiple benefits. Enclosures help reduce maintenance because there's no debris to clean up, and decks need less washing. They also keep chlorine and other chemicals from dissipating. But, most importantly, they offer a way to boost both patronage and profits—once vital issues such as air quality, water quality and costs are addressed.


First you must decide what type of structure you want. If you're looking for something to get you over the winter hump, an inflatable dome will suffice. If you're looking for something more permanent—not to mention aesthetically pleasing—greenhouse-type enclosures are an attractive option. Unlike most brick-and-mortar buildings, these permanent structures offer retractable roofs and sliding glass doors to provide an indoor/outdoor feel. Though the glass enclosures cost more than domes and some stick-built structures, they often are hailed for providing an inviting aquatic experience. Even when closed, the bronze-tinted or translucent roofs offer natural sunlight without exposure to dangerous ultraviolet rays.

Traditional stick-built enclosures remain a viable option, but they come with their own set of issues, specifically corrosion and humidity. To combat the problem, be sure to select a heating, ventilation and cooling system that balances chemistry and comfort. Effective duct systems will circulate the air to reduce the heavy chlorine smell that plagues many indoor aquatic centers. The ventilation and duct system must be planned hand-in-hand with the enclosure.


When considering an enclosure, you should insist on several features. First, aquatic managers should lean toward powder-coated aluminum or similar building materials that do not break down when exposed to moisture and chlorine. You also should look for a thermally broken design, which means rubber gaskets separate the inside and outside parts. This reduces conductivity and limits condensation caused by the sharp difference in indoor and outdoor temperatures.


Retractable, bronze-tinted or translucent roofs also must be considered for the obvious and not-so-obvious benefits they provide. The roofs have the ability to fill 40 percent of the facility with natural light, providing an important psychological boost during dreary winter months. Because they can be opened and closed, retractable roofs also provide an easy way to help regulate air quality. Selecting roof panels made of polycarbonate—a tough, translucent, resin-based plastic—protects against ultraviolet rays while allowing in natural light.


When choosing the best method for enclosing your pool, consider the long-term benefits. Domes, for example, provide an inexpensive short-term option, but they might not be the best choice for facilities looking to make a commitment to a long-standing indoor aquatic programming. Bubbles are labor-intensive and have a life span of about 10 years. They cost about $15,000 to inflate each year and are not as airtight as permanent structures, meaning higher heating costs. Glass enclosures, in contrast, are usually specifically designed to help maintain the indoor climate.


In the end, the type of enclosure you chose may depend on how quickly you want it built. Domes, obviously, require the least amount of time but must be set up and taken down each year. Glass enclosures generally are constructed quicker than brick-and-mortar buildings because they feature framing systems manufactured in a factory to an aquatic center's precise measurements. They are then shipped to the site and assembled like a giant erector set. Once built, they tend to require very little maintenance.

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CCSI International, Inc. 800-537-8231

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