When Lorain County (OH) Metro Parks embarked on building a new aquatic facility, it was at a terrible disadvantage because of a limited budget. At a time when most large aquatic centers were spending upward of $20 million on construction, Lorain had slightly over $5 million with most of that coming from generous local donations. But being underfunded would not stop the owner from having anything less than a top-notch facility.

Jim Larsen, president of Larsen Architects and the facility designer, said that despite the facility's small budget his firm was able to design a first-class structure. "Lorain County wanted a facility that would handle both the recreational and competitive needs of the community," Larsen said. "Since some of the area schools do not have a swimming facility, each would share this pool for practice and competition meets."

Splashy Installation

The Splash Zone - as it has come to be known within the Oberlin, OH, community - started out as a pre-engineered structure but Larsen Architects added large glass walls on the south and east walls to take advantage of natural light. The 27,000-sq-ft facility includes a competition-sized, eight-lane pool with diving area and a toddler pool that adjoins a 6,000-sq-ft outdoor water park with a host of water-spraying toys and a 174-ft water slide.

The Osborn Engineering Company was contracted by Larsen Architects for the engineering design of the facility. To address dehumidification needs, Osborn's lead mechanical engineer for the project, Doug Lancashire, P.E., CEM, based the design around a PoolPak dehumidification system. This dual-fan configuration has 25,200 cfm, a 60-ton capacity and the ability to remove 260 lb/water/hr.

"In designing the mechanical system, we went for the most energy-efficient approach to maintain low first costs and meet budget constraints," Lancashire said. He added that Paul Hinman, a PoolPak representative, also suggested another way of further decreasing startup costs and reducing the facility's operating expenses.

The PoolPak system's main tasks include lowering rh to 55% within an enclosure, as well as maintaining pool water at 84 degrees F and pool air temperature of 86 degrees . These system functions both ensure occupant comfort and prevent condensation from forming on walls or windows.

In return, the unit recycles energy from the dehumidification process to heat both the indoor pool water and space to save on heating costs. As the demand for heating is satisfied, especially during the warmer months, excess heat is typically directed to an outside condensing unit for dissipation.

Putting Excess Heat To Work

Rather than disregarding this excess heat, however, Hinman suggested making use of it to warm the outdoor pool. Since Lorain County is located near Lake Erie, it typically experiences summer days that hover around 75 degrees. As such, the outdoor pool water requires supplemental heating to maintain a comfortable temperature for bathers.

"This was a new concept only used a few times before, but we felt the benefits far outweighed the risk," Lancashire said. "The net result was not only elimination of an outside condenser but free heating for many days out of the summer. The owner was very pleased because we solved a critical operating cost issue at no charge to him."

Dan Martin, director for Lorain County Metro Parks, backed up those comments saying, "The project is a raging, royal success." He added that "There's never a bad day to swim. We have an outdoor pool for hot days and an indoor pool as the weather turns cooler. And I can open both pools if the attendance is high as it was since the Memorial Day weekend opening."

Besides getting the project done on budget, Martin said he appreciates the lower operating costs as a result of the supplementary heating of pool water. He also appreciates how easy it is to run the PoolPak environmental control system and its ability to be linked to the factory for direct access if necessary.

Running The Cannon In Off Hours

The amount of recyclable heat made available by the PoolPak unit was illustrated first-hand during some of the hottest days this past summer. As in many parts of the country, Ohio experienced above-average temperatures most of the summer. These conditions, plus the normal heat load recycled to the outdoor pool, allowed the water to become warmer than the design setpoints. "As the local temperatures returned to normal, the high heat situation corrected itself," Lancashire said.

A simple solution that Lancashire recommended to compensate for higher ambient temperatures was to operate aquatic equipment, such as water cannons and sprinklers, after the park closed. "Should the overheating occur during another hot spell, a few hours of operation [for aquatic equipment] should allow evaporative cooling to dissipate enough heat and bring temperatures back into the normal range," he said.ES