Consider Key Design Areas Before Adding a New Pool to Your Club

Water and oil don't mix, but water and exercise certainly do, and aquatic exercise is here to stay for club owners who want a competitive edge over their dry-land cousins. As waistlines expand, it is more important than ever for club owners who opt for water programming to get it right.

Before you dive in, consider these points to prevent design oversights:

  • Water temperature

    Lap swimmers can tolerate nothing warmer than 82 degrees. Aquatic exercisers and students in swim lessons want nothing colder than 86 degrees. Rehabilitation and therapy users require temperatures of 90 degrees or higher. Therefore, owners of many full-service clubs are building three separate pools to deliver optimal water temperatures for aquatic activities.

    Hot whirlpools must reach 105 degrees, and cold plunge pools must maintain 55 degrees. Often, these pools are adjacent to each other, which can result in cooling systems fighting heating systems. Non-insulated cold piping that shares a pipe trench with non-insulated hot piping will lead to a lifetime of excessive energy costs and dissatisfied members.

  • Heating and cooling

    For both indoor and outdoor venues, the science of heating and cooling pool water requires careful analysis of loads, equipment sizing, routing of piping and energy conservation. The savings you'll get on your energy bills from solar heating can pay back the added cost of roof-mounted solar collectors.

  • Water treatment

    The hype about salt-based chlorination systems is true. The water feels better, smells cleaner, looks clearer and is easier on skin and eyes. The key to success for salt chlorination is three-fold. You must understand bather load, as high bather densities will rule out salt systems. Specify on-site system start-up assistance and pool operator training by the salt system vendor. And you must engineer compatible systems and components for filtration, heating and pH balance.

  • Indoor air quality

    Deck-level air exhaust is absolutely essential to remove chloramines from the swimmer's breathing zone. This is best accomplished by exhausting the surge tank and gutter chamber and by locating return air grills at deck level. In all but the driest climates, you must provide mechanical dehumidification of an indoor pool environment.

  • Indoor air balance

    No one likes to detect the odor of a pool in non-aquatic areas of a club, and doors alone won't do the job. The best prevention method is to maintain positive air pressure in all dry areas and negative air pressure in all wet areas. This assures a steady migration of air from dry areas to wet areas and fights against the upstream flow of odor/vapor-laden air.

  • Corrosion

    Avoid the use of steel components — even stainless steel — in chlorine environments. This includes door handles, grab rails and fasteners. Safe material choices include glass, concrete, aluminum, ceramic tile and epoxy coatings. Using dry wall and acoustic ceiling panels also must be carefully understood and appropriately detailed relative to the vapor barrier envelope.

  • The user experience

    All pools should have step-in/step-out access options. Many people in the prime target market for aquatic programming will not do well with ladder-only climbouts.

    Depth profiles should be purpose driven. Lane walking is a common entry-level aquatic exercise and requires consistent lane-by-lane depths with some variation for individual height. Be mindful of your lane widths for lap swimmers. Only the most capable swimmers can share a lane, so you should provide full competitive lane widths of 7 feet, 6 inches. The typical recreational lap swimmer prefers a private lane of about 6 feet in width.

  • Gutters vs. skimmers

    For superior water quality and wave quelling, the simple — although expensive — choice is gutter pools with a continuous perimeter gutter. They will add $25,000 to $75,000 to the cost of a pool.

  • Decks and deck drains

    Hands down, the best deck finish choice for cost, esthetics, cleanliness, non-slip and durability are 1-inch by 1-inch ceramic mosaic tiles. The best choice for deck drainage is a recessed strip drain located at the junction of the deck and pool shell.

  • ADA compliance

    Avoid ramped entries. They are a huge waste of space and unneeded for disabled access. Deck-mounted hoists will satisfy the accessibility requirements and are easily shared among multiple pools.


Hervey Lavoie is president of Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative, an architecture, aquatic design and interior design firm. With 35 years of design experience, he has completed club design assignments in 42 states and six countries.

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