Feature Article - March 2007
Find a printable version here

A Plan Four All Seasons

Four-season design for recreational enclosures

By Kelli Anderson

Let there be light

"Cheerful," "bright" and "open" are all terms people typically associate with a naturally lit environment. Studies repeatedly have shown that natural light makes us feel better and perform better in almost every venue. Add to that the fact that light-transmitting structures can, depending on their makeup, block harmful UV rays, use the greenhouse effect to reduce heating costs and greatly reduce the need for lighting utility costs, and it's easy to see why they're such a smart option.

When Jim DiBellonia, managing partner of the Waves Indoor Water Park in Niagara Falls, Ontario, was doing his research on enclosed waterparks in the United States, he was surprised to find that none he investigated took advantage of the light-transmitting structural options. "For an indoor waterpark it was the best decision for lighting. It was nice, bright, good—none of that gloomy, woodsy feeling," DiBellonia said. "People just weren't thinking outside the box."

DiBellonia raved about the passive solar gain that has had a tremendous impact on reducing heating costs in colder months. And the facility's 64 1,000-watt fixtures are not used at all in summer, and are used minimally even during the shorter days of winter, which makes a big difference on the waterpark's electric bill.

"We needed a building to offer guests the environment they were looking for," DiBellonia explained, "and for one that meets or exceeds our energy codes." The building they got was a mix of materials to achieve all of these needs: insulated aluminum panels, glass and polycarbonate.

And natural light isn't an advantage only for panel-and-frame structures, but for air- and frame-supported fabric structures, as well.

Generations Sports Complex's Second to None (STN) Sports Dome in Williamsport, Pa., now boasts the largest air-supported structure in the United States. The dome, which is approximately two football fields in length and one in width, hosts a wide variety of activities. "We don't have to turn the lights on until it's pitch-dark outside," said Rob Eaton, director and owner of Second to None Soccer.

"It's helped with utilities, and the atmosphere is tremendous."