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february digital focus : aquatics AB Highlights aquatic coverage compiled from our extensive archive

This month's focus takes a deep dive into our aquatics archive. We’ve got you covered with stories on how to plan, program and equip your pools, as well as how to keep your patrons safe and happy. Whether you use your pool for competition or campus and community recreation, we think you’ll find something worth reading below. Read on for advice from industry professionals, design ideas and equipment purchasing guides.

-AB Editors

How to Combine Community Use and Competition in Aquatic Centers

By Ted Watson

In developing a multi-use aquatic center, designers and operators are often met with a fundamental challenge — how to combine the demands of performance-based competition with those of community-based leisure offerings under one roof. To put it another way, how can your aquatic center train athletes, teach tots and entertain thrill-seeking bathers all at the same time?

Two projects recently undertaken by our design firm and local partners have addressed this challenge.

At the time of the UBC Aquatic Centre's 2013 conception, the existing varsity aquatics program had just sent more athletes to the 2012 London Olympic Games than had any other site in Canada. At the same time, development of lands surrounding the campus for new student, faculty and market housing had contributed to the university becoming one of the fastest-growing communities for families and youths in greater Vancouver.

The university had become its own municipality, responsible for a full range of services. This means not only providing memorable aquatic leisure and entertainment activities between classes for 50,000 students seeking memorable social outings — the kind of on-campus experiences that world-class institutions need to attract the best students and faculty internationally — but now community-based recreation, as well.

RESEARCH CONTEXT

First, a survey of both campus and civic aquatic facilities throughout Canada and the United States revealed that these facilities were geared almost exclusively toward either competition or community, and the ones that did combine both programs were found to have clear drawbacks, significantly limiting their ability to deliver one or the other program to its full potential.

On American campuses, there appeared to be an extreme focus on competitive aquatic programming — often with multiple training basins, significant grandstands, event infrastructure and associated performance support spaces. Given the emerging trend for greater campus recreation and "aquatainment" offerings, it seemed leisure-focused aquatic spaces were often developed as distinct but cojoined aquatic halls or as entirely separate facilities.

On Canadian campuses, aquatic spaces were comparably focused as highly functional but "cold dark-blue rectangles" of competitive training programs. There was, however, noticeably less event capacity. These facilities creatively offered programming flexibility for other leisure-based group activities but none provided the leisure features that are now considered standard within community-based aquatic spaces: lazy rivers, Tarzan ropes, basin variety, water spray features and the like.

Multiple water bodies and aquatic features viewed in close proximity also create a collective ‘wow factor.’ A child from a learn-to-swim program can watch an Olympic athlete train and imagine, ‘Maybe someday that could be me.’

COORDINATED USE

What we have seen as a regional trend over the past decade is that municipalities throughout Western Canada have become pioneers in developing integrated competition and community-use facilities, showing numerous examples of successfully combining 50-meter competition programs with leisure-basin community offerings within a single aquatic hall. Understandably, due to the community bias of these facilities, it was found that various competitive aspects — such as event hosting and training functions — were significantly restricted at these venues due to acoustic, operational and user-space challenges.

For the University of British Columbia, the competitive aspect was a key driver for the facility, and in no way could it be compromised. The project was mandated and has now been seen as the state-of-the-art campus competition facility in the country.

The extremely tight budget for the project limited any opportunity for isolating the programs — they needed to be together, under one roof. It was also clear in the client's agenda (and a truism seen in other Canadian examples) that combining multiple pool basins, varied user groups and flexible programming opportunities delivers the highest-value space by increasing participation, excitement and interest. Multiple water bodies and aquatic features viewed in close proximity also create a collective "wow factor." From the university's perspective, a child from a learn-to-swim program watching an Olympic athlete train and imagining, "Maybe someday that could be me," would be the ultimate indication of success.

But how to design, program and plan to overcome the limitations associated with such close quarters? The following seven points illustrate some of the key strategies employed at the UBC Aquatic Centre to successfully merge the client's goals within the tight budget constraints that many campuses and communities typically face:

1. Programming flexibility

The requirement to co-program elite-level training and competitions with daily community use led to a square plan with a two-sided natatorium. On one side, the 10-lane, 51-meter-by-2-meter deep basin with a moveable 1-meter bulkhead offers opportunity to host FINA and NCAA aquatic events and training.

The community side houses three basins — lap, leisure and hydrotherapy — for variety and flexibility of community programming. This space includes fun features for students, teens and children, such as a Tarzan swing, a current channel (for both fun and therapy), spray features, a hot tub, a sauna, a steam room, a water basketball court, and 3- and 1-meter springboards.

While a moveable floor in the lap pool did not fit the budget, the basin and tunnels have been designed to accommodate one in the future to further provide programming flexibility. The leisure basins intentionally do not take on curvilinear shapes, but rather retain rectilinear planning to allow for maximization of learn-to-swim programming, while still providing variation in depth, islands and other planning to offer exploration opportunities and intrigue.

2. Clear Planning

The lobby, which contains the building's single point of control, provides participants and spectators access to either the dry corridor or the viewing and bleacher spaces.

Spectators can bypass the lobby and intuitively enter the bleachers from the exterior, while not disturbing community functions. Change rooms are designed with a central universal change space, completely transparent from the exterior, providing for a clear, bright and inclusive community space. Gendered change rooms are also provided to accommodate competition events, as are team athletic locker spaces.

The location and access to and from these spaces minimizes overlap of the two populations.

3. Daylighting

Community programming welcomes controlled natural daylight with a preference for low-glare top lighting. Competition spaces conversely desire conditions anywhere from limited controlled daylight to complete blackout.

The UBC Aquatic Centre employs a central Y-shaped bank of columns that splits the structural roof span with a 21-foot-wide glazed slot down its center, delivering light into the center of this deep plan. A translucent Barrisol screen filters and diffuses light to the competition side while reflecting and amplifying light into the community basins. Perimeter glazing provides operable blinds to fully control daylight conditions for events.

4. Separation and Identity

A large bench structure and translucent screen creates a luminous but open barrier between the two spaces. While no actual physical or acoustical separation exists, there is a subtle balance and delineation of space that is achieved — differentiating and providing identity and character for both sides, while also remaining welcoming and open. Important team branding and varsity identity can happen on one side without creating an overall dominant or exclusionary feel.

5. Acoustics

Anyone who has spent time in the notoriously hard and reverberant environments of an aquatic hall will appreciate the need to carefully manage the sonic component.

With hordes of gleeful children or students adjacent to competition training, the jobs of the lifeguard, swim instructor and coach become a challenge in what needs to be an instructional environment. To help control reverberation and reduce noise, the UBC ceiling is sloped downward to its minimum functional heights and the entire ceiling surface — including the sides, which tessellate downward to capture the glazed walls — are a highly absorptive fiberglass acoustical paneling system called Techstyle, designed by Hunter Douglas for humid environments.

Reports on audibility have been extremely positive. Coaches have indicated that they can position themselves anywhere in the facility for optimal instruction.

6. High-Quality Air

Low-level displacement air is delivered along the central bench that acts as both a seating space and a physical separator. This air is drawn across the water surface to the opposite perimeter gutter, where return air is captured back into the heat recovery system to remove chloramines and deliver fresh air to the athletes and bathers.

7. Integrated function with campus spaces

The exterior spaces are used to help manage users. Ramps parallel both sides of the aquatic hall, rising to the level of the bleachers on the east. This affords students dynamic views into the pool, creating a sense of openness and invitation. Free access through the doors at the top of the ramp allows students to casually use the bleacher space, shortcut to class or arrive at a competitive meet without the need to enter and disrupt community lobby functions.

A 35-foot-wide space is created on the north side of the building, functioning as a terraced campus laneway, but it can also be captured as space for use by the aquatic centre as an outdoor sunbathing area, a marshaling zone or a dry-land training space.

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Article Continued...

In 2010 and 2011, a series of deadly earthquakes devastated Christchurch, New Zealand's second-largest city. The recovery was unprecedented and included the 300,000-square-foot, $160 million (U.S.) Metro Sports Facility as the key community-focused recovery project.

While this was to be one of the focal social venues to bring people and vitality back to a downtown that lost 80 percent of its building fabric, it was also to be one of the South Island's top regional, national and international sports destinations. The facility features a 100,000-square-foot multi-use aquatic hall, along with a comparable bar of community and competition sport courts. Other programs such as fitness, movement and community studios, national sport partner offices, a daycare and numerous retail outlets round out the project.

The program is structured within an iconic and highly functional H-shaped design expressing the parallel dry- and wet-bar programs, with the community and social spaces conveniently inhabiting the space between.

OUTRAGEOUS INDULGENCE

In addition to delivering the most comprehensive high-performance aquatic facility in New Zealand, there was an equally important agenda to deliver the country's most ambitious leisure water and play zone, with inventive and outrageous flourishes of indulgence and aquatic enjoyment.

Many of the operational design strategies implemented at UBC Aquatic Centre were undertaken here to help merge these dual goals. Further innovative aquatic programming was developed to help create unique and memorable competition and community programs. The express intent was to provide the entire spectrum of aquatic experiences.

The following features express the facility's fun side:

HydroSlides

A series of six HydroSlides and a tall glassy tower penetrate the front facade and become the facility's key outward expression of community fun and engagement. A grand canopy to the street architecturally contains these sleek black serpents, and provides shade and shelter for a connected outdoor splash pad and café below.

From the sidewalk, one sees jubilant sliders climbing the tower, and through the full height glazing down the length of the hall, one can also see the diving towers: "sentries" that mark the far end of the site. The clear message of these iconic bookends is an invitation for amateur thrill-seekers to engage with elite athletes.

Shallow-water play / beach café

This space is highly dynamic and charged to engage families and children. The bulk of the open leisure water is here, along with considerable shallow-water play space that includes an 18-foot-high inhabitable play structure. A beach entry and deck chairs surround a café.

Private experiences

In addition to providing a large, open community leisure space, three partially separate and more private spaces were also developed as part of the holistic aquatic experience.

Warm-water space specifically for adults to relax and undertake therapy is located adjacent to but acoustically separate from the leisure hall. Operable walls allow this area to be opened as part of the full leisure space. In addition, a learn-to-swim space is acoustically isolated off the main leisure area, allowing for security and auditory control for young students. Finally, an innovative sensory water center has been developed as a wellness and special treatment therapy space. This healthcare offering within the aquatic space is closely associated with a rehabilitation therapy provider located off the lobby.

Dry-land training and dry diving

In addition to the fully flexible competition basin designed to be capable of hosting future Commonwealth Games, a dry-land training space is located (along with performance coaching spaces) immediately off of the competition deck. Dry diving is also located in proximity to the dive towers to allow for viewing and participation of athletes both in and out of the pool.

The UBC and MSF projects were undertaken by MJMA in association with local partners Acton Ostry Architects (UBC), and Warren and Mahoney Architects and Peddle Thorp Architects (MSF). While these projects differ greatly in scale, they both focus on maximizing programming flexibility while maintaining dual community and high-performance functionalities. Both projects have been carefully designed to ensure that all members of the community — regardless of age or ability — are capable of participating and are encouraged through proximity to take further steps toward greater and more advanced participation.

September 2017, page 34

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Making room for aquatics leisure and competition under one roof." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry.

What Does Renovation Mean for Your Pool?

Effective planning for any pool renovation starts with taking an honest look at your budget and answering two questions up front: How much new interest can you afford to generate? And how much can you afford to maintain?

By: Courtney Cameron

Reflecting on a Decade of VGB Compliance

With the 10-year anniversary of the Virginia Graeme Baker Act approaching in 2018 — and coinciding nicely with the average expiration date of many specialized products designed to meet the requirements laid out in the legislation — the industry looks back over a decade of compliance at the evolution of VGB attitudes and design.

Equipping Pools for Competition

Let's assume that your competition pool is no shorter than 25 yards, 25 meters or 50 meters with touchpads installed. No touchpads? You're allowed to add an extra 0.03 of a yard or meter, respectively, to the minimum length, per FINA rules. Let's also assume that you have 16 to 20 feet of deck width to accommodate not only spectators, but dozens of idle swimmers and roaming meet officials, who combined likely outnumber the spectators. Sufficient locker rooms, storage rooms and auxiliary spaces to accommodate team training and massage are a plus (and required if you plan to host an NCAA event).

How to Ensure Air Quality at Indoor Aquatics Facilities

Indoor air quality is something that typically goes unnoticed — until it's bad. The reality of managing an indoor pool is that there is a high potential for the air to go very bad, resulting in a range of symptoms from moderate to severe: itchy skin, rashes, chlorine burns, eye irritation, coughing and even voice loss. Unfortunately, planning for great indoor air quality is one of the easiest things to cut in the early stages of designing and building an aquatics center.

Seven Steps to Ensure Proper Pool Water Quality

Today's commercial swimming pools — whether built for competition, recreation or wellness — are complex operations. And that's before anybody takes the plunge. Add swimmers, each introducing a paper clip's worth of organic material to the water, and you have a recipe for what one pool professional calls "homo sapiens soup." Large bather loads bring even greater challenges to the delicate but critical process of keeping the water clean, disinfected and safe for users.

Aquatic Design Portfolio

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