We often drool over residential pools built with millionaires’ budgets and almost limitless constraints on design. But there’s a bigger dose of reality in the commercial public pool world, with the goal of maximining usage and revenue is paramount. Meeting this goal is largely being driven by innovation from specialist manufacturers and installers. The availability of moving pool floors is one example, and a recent installation at the QEII Recreation and Sport Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, shows it is a worldwide trend. An integral component of the centre’s 25 x 25 metre pool, the moving floor is central to a ‘Swimsmart’ programme. The centre can change the depth from two metres for laps to one metre for lessons in just a few minutes. Suffolk-based Wrightfield Pools installed the moving pool floor in Christchurch. Mark Watson, Pools Sales Manager, says: “Pools that dedicate areas to specific activities may struggle to achieve maximum usage throughout the day. As an example, installing a permanent diving pool for ten metre boards often creates dead space for much of the time. “Moving pool floors overcome this. A single pool can cover everything from parent and toddler sessions to learn-to-swim classes, aqua aerobics, length swimming and Olympic-standard diving tuition.” Deep and shallow ends can be configured as required, including with the option of a tilting floor arrangement. Some systems even enable the floor to be fully raised so that the space can be used for something else altogether. “It’s about maximising usage and revenue,” Mark says. “Timetables can be created that perfectly meet users’ needs, potentially transforming a facility’s popularity with the local community.”
Innovation is also happening at a fast pace when it comes to plant and equipment technology. A particular challenge that most commercial pool projects throw up is a restriction on space for plant rooms. Wrightfield Pools’ Business Development Manager Clive Morton says: “Quite understandably, architects and their clients want to get the best possible usage from available space. Plant rooms don’t generate revenue, so why should they take up more valuable squarefootage than is strictly necessary? “So it’s a shame that so many designs feature the traditional approach to plant, with space-hungry pressure sand filtration systems. This method demands a great deal of space as numerous large filter vessels are integral to the design, so expensive basement installations are often required.” Alternative filtration methods are now increasingly available that can reduce plant room space requirements, and even eliminate basement construction in its entirety. Wrightfield Pools, for example, have a commercial arrangement with the Natare Corporation to offer alternatives to pressure sand filtration. Clive Morton says: “These are pre-engineered systems that take up much less space. They are also much quicker and easier to install than piecing together a traditional filter bank, with far easier access. “Each self-contained unit looks like a small shipping container and is designed to be buried in the ground. There’s no need to build a basement, creating an opportunity for considerable space and cost savings. It just needs everyone involved to think outside the traditional approach.”
LESS BUILD TIME
According to Mark Watson, innovation when it comes to pool construction is also something for commercial pool designers and operators to take on board. “Much of the build time for new pools is typically taken up with the traditional concrete casting process,” he says. “Complexities include difficulties created by weather conditions and regulatory compliance. Significant risks are associated with pouring vast amounts of concrete, creating the potential for time and budget overruns. “And of course, concrete is not in itself waterproof, so there is the challenge of ensuring durability and performance over a longtime period. “But if you reduce the amount of concrete casting required, the whole project suddenly gets a lot less complex, and therefore shorter from start to finish. It’s even possible to remove the pool from the critical path for the build plan.” According to Wrightfield Pools, this is one of the reasons they focus on stainless steel pools. Offsite fabrication using modular construction methods is possible, and the company has found that less time is needed at the site itself. Installation is streamlined, with just a single concrete slab required to create a horizontal footing for the buttress support system. The company’s experience has been considerably shorter build times and less risk of delays than with traditional concrete construction.
The company also points to the increasing focus on the reduction of waste and minimising environmental impacts, noting that most stainless steel produced today contains over 60% recycled materials. It’s also 100% recyclable, so the environmental impact of a stainless steel pool at end of life is less than an equivalent concrete pool. Mark Watson sums up what he sees as the key ingredient for achieving business goals with new build or redevelopment pool projects: “Architects and operators need to talk to engineers, manufacturers and installers about options open across all aspects of pool technology. “Instead of simply repeating the last project because it worked, exploring new ideas can create opportunities for cost effectiveness, durability and operational success.”
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