Feature Article - May 2014
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Water, for Profits

Aquatic Design Meets Community & Budgetary Needs

By Rick Dandes

Energy-Saving Trends

Owners are big on sustainability, and one of the reasons is pools are energy beasts. Finding ways to cut down on the water usage through regenerative programs is a must. "Everybody's pockets are tight," said Nicola Springer, vice president, Kirksey Architecture, Houston, Texas. "As designers, we have the responsibility to not only talk about construction costs, but also the cost of ownership, which is something our firm looks at from the beginning. That and the ease of maintenance, the cost of maintenance. Pools are very expensive to maintain, so a lot of what we can do depends on the budgets. But maintenance is not restricted to just the pool. It is also about preserving the environment that surrounds that body of water. So people are looking for more cost-effective ways to build their facility and also maintain it."

People are sensitive to what kind of chemicals are going into their pool. Cities across the country are holding designers and pool operators to very high standards. Sustainability is no longer a trend, it's the new normal, Springer said. "Especially with municipalities that are fiscally responsible. And the public is more educated, so they are asking the right questions."

California is going to be really, really green very soon, Markel noted. A lot of people have adopted LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) as kind of a baseline criteria, so when you talk about rebuilding things in California it's become the norm, rather than the exception.

If you look at the premier designers across the country, "I think there has always been that going to the next level, when it comes to energy saving and sustainability," Caron said. "The big difference now, is that everyone is mandated to go to the next level. Take the baseline for pool heater efficiency, for example, which is 75 to 79 percent, and that's not very good. Now certain states, including California, are mandating efficiencies of at least 87 percent. There are heaters now that get 99 percent efficiency. These are things being pushed."

Another common energy saver is thermal-solar solutions, which has a very dependable 9- to 10-year payback on those panels, Caron said. "If a solar panel lasts 15 years, that's a pretty good ROI for the owner. Especially when you have your gas electric companies offering rebates so you don't have to pay as much up front. You realize a savings on the back end."

Many states are also mandating pool covers—thermal blankets have always been the easiest way to save on your heating costs and your chemical costs. But they are also the biggest maintenance challenge for a user because typically it takes three lifeguards to put them on and then take them off and that adds extra labor.