Nancy Patterson, the director of design and business development at OpenAire, gives tips on building an aquatics center that saves money.
The answer is yes. When you open the roof and walls of your natatorium, you are turning a normal building into an indoor and outdoor space. Plus, when you build an aquatics area with structural aluminum, you eliminate any risk of corrosion and mold. You no longer have extended closures for maintenance as you normally would.
The cost to build the space is the same as a regular pool facility, except when the roof is open you can turn off your mechanical systems. This means you are using fresh air to ventilate the space and sunshine to illuminate it, excluding emergency lighting. This can save you up to 30% on your energy bills every year. This is true even in colder climates. The savings can still offset winter heating costs.
This works particularly well for the aquatics environment in your recreation center where there is more equipment to turn off when the roof is open — think HVAC, dehumidification, etc. This can also work for the gym or other areas of your facility. An open roof allows your space to be vented at about 1,000 air turnovers per hour, not the six to eight turnovers the building code — ASHRAE — requires for a pool.
A painted aluminum facility that won’t corrode, costs less to operate and lets you be open to the public year-round sounds too good to be true. Yet there are examples of how successful this is across the nation with municipalities of all sizes and organizations like the YMCA.
It’s critical to do your research when building a space for the long term. You don’t need to accept the status quo. There are alternative construction methods with proven records. A quality builder will stand behind their product with a full warranty at a minimum of a five-year period, and will be proud to have you call their existing clients and talk about their experience.
There’s a solution that can save you money every year and reduce the burden of running an aquatics center. You just have to find it.