Feature Article - March 2007
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A Plan Four All Seasons

Four-season design for recreational enclosures

By Kelli Anderson

Energy efficiency

One of the biggest building design trends around the world is "green"—which coincidentally, is both good for the environment with its emphasis on energy efficiency and good for the pocketbook. Four-season designs are perfect for both.

"One big change is that energy codes are much more conservative than five years ago," said Mike Crowder, a national sales manager with a panel-and-frame company. "The latest round of oil-price increases coupled with the green movement has designers looking to more energy-efficient solutions."

In most panel-and-frame or fabric structures, energy efficiency starts with an ability to take advantage of solar heat, while some materials boast additional insulation properties. Some fabric designs, for example, can be double-layered to allow trapped air to act as an insulator, while some companies combine different panel materials to achieve the desired effect between light and insulation. Some proprietary panel

materials possess both translucence and an impressive R-factor.

Conversely, cooling costs are also reduced by many of the designs found in four-season construction. In aquatic facilities, panel-opening features, both automated and manual, allow fresh outdoor air to do the job of air-handling systems by naturally cooling and dehumidifying the indoor space while releasing corrosive chloramines.

Open-panel systems also give patrons the two-for-the-price-of-one experience of feeling more connected to the great outdoors while actually gaining the benefits of an enclosed space. In many cases, large side doors as well as ceilings open for maximum effect. Depending on the manufacturer, panels can be opened either as a group or individually.

In the design of the Waves Water Park, the benefit of patrons being able to experience fresh air while the facility simultaneously reduces its energy costs was a no-brainer decision for the owners. "The operable roof is fantastic for spring, summer and fall for the HVAC," explained DiBellonia, whose emphasis on 100-percent makeup error for the waterpark's air quality is non-negotiable. "We don't recycle any air. Four times an hour air is pumped out and fresh air dumped in."

But fresh air isn't only for the panel-and-frame designs. Fabric designs, too, can provide fresh-air comfort while cooling down energy costs. "Our frame-supported-fabric building is translucent with solar heat and light coming through," said Steve Dansky, co-owner of Winning Touch Tennis of Lehigh Valley in Allentown, Pa. "During nice weather we open the ends of the building. People can play in the shade where 96 percent of harmful UV rays are blocked by the fabric, preventing sunburn and cancer."

But not all systems are created equal. In the case of the Woodruff Family YMCA, rising oil costs translated into higher wintertime costs of heating the old bubble structure, which literally blew money out along with its heated air. "We spent $50,000 on utilities initially for the bubble, and then it went up to $120,000," Dwyer said.

"We were heating the air and then pushing it right out."

Although the bubble had served its purpose well, the pressure of higher utility costs factored into the decision to change to a new type of structure.