Maintenance is Key
Proper instruction in how to maintain the facility’s system is the first step. For the Burgess Community Center, the pool consulting firm that designed the pool mechanical system, Aquatic Design Group, provided a dedicated trainer who gave the operations staff a free one-week class in maintaining the system.
Even with the best of training, however, frequent staff turnover may lead to faulty transmittal of information. Architects and mechanical engineers need to be proactive in making post-occupancy visits to make sure that systems are running at full efficiency. Many municipalities are centralizing controls for all their civic buildings, so that they can be monitored remotely. If energy use rises, the problem can be identified in time to take prompt action.
Newer technologies hold promise for further energy savings. In Calistoga, Calif., the Calistoga Community Pool, completed in 2010, was designed to incorporate solar and geothermal systems in the future; a capital campaign is under way. The designer, Paulett Taggart Architects, worked with a mechanical engineer with experience in designing geothermal systems.
The use of chlorine and other chemicals to kill bacteria in swimming pools contributes to poor air quality. In Europe, ozone systems are used to sanitize the water instead; the ozone is removed from the water before it enters the pool, so no harmful chemicals remain to come in contact with swimmers. Ultraviolet sanitation systems require no chemicals at all. While relatively new to the United States, these systems hold promise for keeping swimming water healthy without adding toxins.
As energy costs rise, and as more municipalities adopt mandates requiring civic buildings to achieve LEED certification or some other standard, sustainably designed pools will proliferate and more creative strategies will become common. Greener pools are inevitable, because they are better for the environment, healthier for swimmers, and easier on the operating budget.
Clarence Mamuyac, FAIA, is principal and director at ELS Architecture and Urban Design in San Francisco. elsarch.com.