Supplement Feature - May 2020
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Aquatic Pros Talk Design

Plan Ahead for Operational Success

By Deborah Vence


Gable said that "Less really is more when it comes to aquatic facility design aesthetics. Water is the main appeal at an aquatic center. As a result, other features of an aquatic center can be fairly basic, but absolutely must be highly functional. Functionality is of great appeal to a typical community aquatic center audience, even when [the] focus is on water."

Dedicated storage spaces is a design trend that Gable often sees take high priority for both aesthetics and functionality.

"Dedicated storage spaces allow pool decks to be clear of equipment, providing a clean look for a facility, keeping patrons and staff safe, and protecting the initial investment made in the equipment," she said.

"If you know your audience wants competitive water, permanent spectator seating that flows with overall facility design becomes a high priority. However, care should be taken to balance spectator space with day-to-day use. Providing a proper balance between daily use and peak event use can increase the functionality and aesthetic appeal of the overall facility as well as increase programmatic capabilities and versatility."

What's more, themed spraygrounds and recreational pools have become increasingly popular.

"Specific themes incorporating vibrant colors are not only aesthetically pleasing, they can relate directly to the community culture—for example, an ocean theme designed for a sprayground in a city known for its sea life and beaches," she said.

Understand the Budget

Now, how do you take all of this into account—your design elements and audience—and create aquatic facilities that won't break the bank?

"We often say that design begins on a spreadsheet. By understanding the budget before the project even begins, we as designers can focus our energy on providing solutions for aquatic spaces that will be affordable and balance the needs of the users," Gerber said.

"If we know that the budget will be prohibit[ing] larger amenities, then we can work to find smaller solutions that will still bring great play value for the guests," she noted. "This will save time later in the design process as well. With a design that reflects the budget, the design team won't have to circle back later to value engineer amenities out of the facility that break the budget."

To factor in the design and the audience and stay on budget, Gable noted that "It all starts with an iterative, informed and deliberate programming session or sessions with the owner/operator. Aligning the programmatic goals and fiscal parameters with [a] program is one of the most crucial steps in any project."

More facilities are looking for multi-use spaces to accommodate the needs and wants for programs while being budget-conscious.

"These rooms in aquatic facility buildings serve as gathering spaces for staff, teams and events, maximizing spatial effectiveness," she said. "This style of design will continue to be more and more popular as the price of buildings continues to increase and the need to accommodate disparate programs within the confines of a set budget continues."

Gable added that the "The financial and programming benefit of multi-use space exists outside the aquatic facility building. Multi-use pools accomplish what multipurpose rooms do, but even more effectively.

"Differing depths of water, open areas vs. laned sections, and equipment for games such as water basketball, slackline, splash ball and volleyball in combination with strategic program scheduling, allows up to six different activities to occur simultaneously in the average multi-use pool design," she said. RM