Feature Article - May 2018
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Swimming Ahead

New Currents in Natatorium Design

By Dave Ramont

Design Concerns

Facilities are also increasingly conscious of energy-saving and more sustainable practices. "We look carefully for economies in the air handling, including heat recovery, condensate reclamation and others to minimize energy expended and water losses," Clawson said.

He also mentioned LED lighting, regenerative filters and the greater reliability and availability of variable frequency drives (VFDs) as being relevant today. "We're designing facilities today using about 30 percent less power and wasting 60 percent less water than was possible just five years ago."

Bringing more fresh air in can be beneficial and economical when weather conditions are right, and Schwartz said they try to exceed minimum exchange rate standards put forth by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air conditioning Engineers). He added that it's important for architects to design wall and roof systems to prevent water vapor from penetrating and freezing within the systems. In fact, when discussing the critical aspects of window design and pros and cons of using natural light, Schwartz said that it's more important than ever for design team members—architects, HVAC engineers, structural and pool people—to be more communicative.

Whiteaker agreed, explaining that there's an interdependency that's required, and selecting a design team with experience in aquatic facilities is critical. "That covers solar heat gain, solar orientation for glare, building materials, the different types of HVAC systems for heating and cooling. Making sure you don't get condensation on the glass in a cold weather environment, and laying things out to maximize usage and safety."

Inclusiveness is a big consideration these days. Depending on pool size, you need to have a primary and secondary method of entry/exit, per ADA guidelines. "Primary ADA is a ramp, zero-depth entry or a lift, but you can also do steps with handrails that are a certain configuration. That allows most folks to get in and out pretty easily," said Schwartz, adding that they design gutters to be deck level, making it easier to hoist yourself out of the water.

When designing zero-depth entries, water depths from zero to two feet are considered engaging water depths, according to Whiteaker. In depths of around two to three-and-a-half feet, not many social or programmatic activities take place. "So we try to make that transition from shallow water to deeper water in as little footprint as possible." He said accessibility issues are important discussions for indoor pools, since you want to be universally appealing while still utilizing precious space.

Indoor pools are more in demand than ever as people of all ages want to utilize the health and fitness benefits of water.

Deck drainage and surfacing are important to plan for, and Clawson said the industry has long struggled with surface issues. "Concrete is the material of choice, and a light broom finish accomplishes the slip-resistance. Yet, slip accidents on a broom-finished concrete surface are where we see the majority of injuries."

He said he's encouraged to see companies making big improvements in impervious, durable, cleanable, slip-resistant and resilient surfaces that significantly reduce injuries.

"And then having the right deck drains," Whiteaker added, "so you can cost-effectively put those in the right places and not have tripping hazards."

Clawson pointed out that while people come for water, the condition of the facility in general—especially locker rooms and restrooms—can easily prevent them from returning. So-called universal locker rooms are becoming more common, to accommodate families, assisted aging adults and transgender populations. "New flooring and fixture materials that better resist corrosion and can be easily cleaned are becoming more available. We also advocate the use of sanitation carts, utilizing an ozonated water spray instead of chemical sprays which are often harmful to materials," Clawson said.

Schwartz said that indoor pools are more in demand than ever as people of all ages want to utilize the health and fitness benefits of water. But, he added, high operating costs often scare those who are considering opening a pool. He thinks a coming trend will involve multiple partners coming together to share those costs, describing a project they're planning in Iowa where the city, county, schools, hospital, senior center, Boys and Girls Club, local university and community college are all joining forces. It's called a Healthy Life Center, and besides a therapy pool, lap pool and recreation pool, there will be other amenities specific to helping people live healthier lives, like basketball courts and exercise equipment. "I think it bears watching," Schwartz said. "Momentum is building. We didn't hear any negatives when this was being presented."