Design Parameters For Public Swimming Pools

In previous articles, I have stressed how valuable knowledge is for aquatic managers to effectively operate and maintain their facilities. The whole purpose of education in swimming pool operation is to ensure the health and safety of the public. Why would we want to take our study into the design area? The reason is change.

Over the past several years, the change in technology and building techniques in the public pool environment has been phenomenal. The public is looking for more than just a place to swim and exercise; it is looking for an “entertainment center” for families. The public pool competes with other entertainment venues, and it is the responsibility of the aquatic manager to encourage participation at the local facility. Wave pools, water slides, lazy rivers and interactive water features are all newer, attractive amusements, but require specialized hydraulics and chemical parameters.

When the owners–whether private or public–recognize the need to modernize a pool facility, a number of areas need to be analyzed prior to making a decision. The aquatic operator is a vital part of this decision-making process as he/she has the hands-on experience at the facility, and can offer realistic expectations.

The main consideration for any facility change is “Do we build a new facility, or renovate the existing one to meet the public’s expectations?”

There are four phases in any project development–project feasibility, project design, contract documents and construction. This article will touch on the first two: project feasibility and design.

Feasibility Stage

Project feasibility sets the stage for all of the work to follow. Depending on the desire of the management team, this stage is the most time-consuming and complicated. In addition, it involves a broader range of professionals and disciplines than are associated with other phases of the project. The feasibility study should incorporate an initial program of requirements, development of budgets and preliminary cost estimates, marketing plans, time schedules, state and local health department changes and preliminary design schematics. However, the most critical aspect of project feasibility is determining the need for the project–identifying the potential market, securing financial monies and obtaining approvals.

This is where the aquatic operator’s knowledge and experience come into play. Thus, the operator is vital in helping the plan develop. Since the community of pool users may have changed due to a shift in age or demographics, the feasibility study should address the purpose of the renovation or new construction.

Design Consideration For New Construction Or Renovation

All new aquatic facilities should consult a licensed, professional engineer dedicated to swimming pool operation and construction techniques. These professionals must have the experience and knowledge of the newer technologies, as well as up-to-date information on state and local health code changes. It is imperative that health departments are consulted early in the feasibility phase, as they will be part of the approval process. There is a current wave of changes by health departments due to the incorporation of interactive water features, which bring a new set of hydraulic and chemical issues. The major issue in the design will be the reduction of any risk to injury by the public user.

Design Development

Prior to any new construction or renovation, the pool project must meet certain requirements in the design stage. What materials will be utilized to ensure the pool will be durable and long-lasting? Historically, the pool should be renovated or built to withstand usage for 20 years.

The materials should be non-toxic; the pool surfaces must be watertight, slip-resistant and withstand design stresses. (As a side note, health departments are now looking at tile with a higher slip-resistant coefficient). Although some colorful surfaces are now being introduced in the pool industry, it is mandatory that the new surfaces allow any observer to see objects within the water. New code requirements also address various protrusions or features that may entangle swimmers or cause entrapment, such as the distance of ladders from the pool walls.


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