Award Winner - May/June 2006
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Bye, Bye Bubble

Milford/Orange YMCA
Milford, Conn.

S U B M I T T E D    B Y:

OpenAire Inc. in Mississauga, Ontario

Size: 13, 780 square feet (enclosure)

Project cost: $1.2 million

Quick tour:

  • 25-yard Z-shaped pool
  • Zero-depth-entry splash pool
  • Mechanical room and pool filter room
  • Locker rooms

It had become an annual ritual at the Milford/Orange YMCA in Milford, Conn. Each year as the weather grew colder, a group of volunteers would inflate a bubble over the pool so it could stay open during the winter.

The dome, however, seemed archaic, and the air-handling system had grown outdated. YMCA officials knew there had to be a better way and began searching for one. In the end, they found a solution that provided year-round recreation without losing the sense of being outdoors.

The new enclosure—a state-of-the-art glass and aluminum structure—accomplished this feat with not only the glass material but also a retractable roof and sides. The addition of the enclosure has had a dramatic effect on the appearance of the facility as a whole.

"The OpenAire structure gave us what we were looking for," says Judy Jameson, executive director of the Milford/Orange YMCA. "We just got through the winter, and it was so neat to be inside the structure when it was snowing."

Though the bubble allowed the YMCA to use the pool when the temperatures dropped, it remained uncovered and susceptible to inclement weather during the summer months. The permanent enclosure—while being far more attractive than a vinyl dome—allowed for everyday use, during rain, snow or cold spells. A dehumidification system also helps maintain a comfortable environment for year-round use.

"Unlike the bubble, they don't have to worry about a big generator keeping everything inflated and running," says Dave Bolwerk of OpenAire Inc. in Mississauga, Ontario.

The challenge, however, was designing an enclosure for the Z-shaped pool. A standard rectangle would have left a lot of unused space. Instead of one large building, OpenAire combined two structures that were roughly 100 feet wide and 60 feet long.

"This way," Bolwerk says, "we didn't end up with a lot of wasted space."

The design also includes a thermally broken aluminum framing system, a maintenance-free feature that helps to reduce costs. The fully glazed building also cuts lighting bills and provides advantages with solar gain. The retractable roof system allows the mechanical system (HVAC) to be shut down in the summer months, also helping to contain operating costs.

At the same time, the design still fits into the scheme of the neighborhood where the YMCA is located. Members appreciate the expansive, open feel the enclosure gives to the pool area while extensive media coverage and site visits all speak to the excitement this project has generated.

"Our membership has tripled," Jameson says. "The community loves the whole thing. They can't believe we have this here in Milford."


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

The ability for users to remain 'connected' to the outdoors while swimming is a real positive of this solution. The ability to open the roof and side panels when weather permits gives this project a flexibility that almost any other solution could not have provided.

Greg Garlock

Great pool environment—incredible amount of usable space in a limited budget. The intricacy of the structure and continuous glass gives it a 'pavilion-like' quality—very exciting.

Chris Kastelic

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S


Becker and Becker Architects

General contractor:

ENCON Construction

Swimming pool contractor:

Drakeley Pools

MEP engineers:

Kohler Ronan, LLC

Structural and civil engineers:

Wescott and Mapes Inc.

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