Feature Article - November 2009
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Audio & Illumination

Space-Specific, Sport-Specific

By Dawn Klingensmith

Pools of Light

Different water sports require different lighting conditions. For example, ambient brightness is more important for water polo than for competitive swimming, because swimmers' attention is focused on their lanes. To prevent light from reflecting off the water, fixtures must be strategically mounted.

Often, indoor pools used for competitive swimming also are open to recreational users. Along with water toys and oversized towels, recreational users bring greater expectations for a cheery atmosphere, including bright ambient lighting and a welcoming, underwater luminance, which needs to be taken into account during the lighting design phase.

Of course, making a "splashy" design statement is secondary to meeting the technical requirements of an indoor pool environment. Because of the humidity and chlorine, lighting systems, including their fastening components, need to offer a high degree of protection against corrosion.

Sound It Out From the Start

The biggest mistake people make is not considering sound as a design element and incorporating it into the project from the outset. "You can't just scoot in a speaker as an afterthought," said Peter Hamilton, president of a Stratford, Conn.-based loudspeaker manufacturer.

Sophisticated software programs can give people an idea how audio systems will sound based on inputting various specifications into computer-assisted drawings, but the actual results usually differ from the simulation. Audio system design is complex and takes into account all sorts of variables.

"It's not as simple as, 'How many speakers do you use in a room with X amount of square footage?' It depends on what kind of activity goes on in there—that makes a big difference," Hamilton said. "Also, what do you require the system to do? Most often, it's for speaking and music.

"Then, you have to make allowances for how reverberant the space is and use sound absorbing materials" where necessary, Hamilton added.

Similarly, with lighting, there are numerous factors that can negatively affect results despite careful planning. For that reason, Verrone recommends auditioning lighting equipment before making a purchase. "There are so many options out there, and the customer will hear various sales pitches, lies, truths and so on while doing their research that it can become confusing and downright overwhelming," he said. "Nothing is more important than hanging test fixtures in their facility, measuring the light output, energy consumption and visually seeing the light. This way, they will clearly see that all light fixtures do not perform the same way, even with the exact same lamps and ballasts, so it is important that they see and feel the light with their own senses."