Swimming In Sustainability

“There are two ways to save water in a natatorium,” says Tim Harris, Vice President, who oversees the plumbing aspects of designs for The Ballard Group Inc., a mechanical engineering firm which consults on recreation centers and LEED projects. “We use water-saving fixtures, such as toilets that flush with 1.28 gallons or a dual flush at 1.1 and 1.6 gallons, as well as urinals that only use 0.125 gallon of water per flush.”

Electronic faucets timed at 12 seconds, coupled with half-gallon-per-minute flow, help reduce the amount of water used. “We’ve dropped showers from 2.5 gallons per minute to 1.5 gallons per minute,” says Ballard. “All the little savings add up and help achieve the 35-percent mark for the LEED points.”

Instead of using paper towels, many facilities are opting for hand dryers that concentrate a forced stream of heated air over hands, resulting in shorter drying times. “It is a higher energy output, but it is used over a shorter period of time, therefore saving energy,” says Edwards. “Plus, there is no waste and, as a result, no cleanup.”

Snug As A Bug

Before evaluating all of the contents of the interior, look at the building as a whole to reduce the amount of energy needed. Keeping the natatorium’s humidity contained while preventing the heat and cold outside from entering the building with proper insulation and barriers increases the energy efficiency of a structure.

“You can have a strong thermal envelope around the building from the outside walls and roof to the windows and natural ventilation. If those are designed well, then your energy needs are less,” says Edwards. “The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t need.”

Also look at renewable energy sources–solar and wind turbines–to reduce the number of units needed to sustain the facility. Since renewable-energy credits are based on a percentage of the energy consumed–more renewable sources, such as solar or a wind turbine–the higher the points earned.

The Price For Sustainable

“Our design space was built for under $27 per square foot, where most design-firm spaces cost $45 to $85 per square foot,” says Edwards. “Sustainable improvements can save you money during the building process and after in energy savings. Sustainable designs can be works of art, too. We’ve received five peer-reviewed design awards.”

Sustainable natatoriums aren’t a fairy tale. With a good planning team–including a LEED-accredited professional–and plenty of pre-planning, a sustainable structure with reduced energy and maintenance costs is obtainable. You just have to decide on the goals.

Tammy York is the owner of LandShark Communications LLC, which specializes in media and public relations for outdoor recreation businesses. Her book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati is available online and in bookstores. You can reach her at tammy@landsharkcommunications.com.

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