Whether it’s a standard outdoor swimming pool or a luxurious indoor facility with a spa, pools make wonderful amenities that appeal to all tenant types.
To help building owners get the most out of their pools, we spoke with Martyn Knowles, Commercial Sales Manager for Hayward Canada and Certified Pool Operator. Mr. Knowles is also a member on numerous committees, including Ontario Building Code revisions, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Code changes and implementation of Coroner’s Report and directives. His aquatic credentials include aquatic supervision, lifeguard training and administration.
What qualities of a pool contribute to the overall experience for the user?
The common sensory experience of the pool user is the water itself. All users will want to have water that is the right temperature, sparkling clear and chemically balanced for safety and lack of irritation. If one of these three elements is not up to anticipated standards, then the user will be dissatisfied.
Temperature is completely subject to the individual but extremes should be avoided. Since water can conduct heat away from the body better than air, pool temperature is typically warmer than the air temperature. As a matter of practice, most pools used for leisure are maintained between 27-29° C (82-85° F).
Clarity must be maintained so that the (required) black disc at the bottom of the pool is clearly visible in order to meet Health Regulations. But ideally, the water should sparkle under normal conditions.
Water conditions include many factors and the required standard readings are intended to protect the health and safety of the users. Both disinfectant (Chlorine/Bromine) and pH (balance of acidic/alkaline) levels must meet the criteria of the Health Department standards. One often overlooked factor is the amount of disinfectant by-products in the water and air. If you can stand on the pool deck and smell that characteristic “chlorine” odor, then these by-products are present and can irritate eyes, lungs and mucus membranes of the body. In most cases, disinfectant chlorine in the water will not irritate or smell, but chlorine by-products, if not treated and removed, will certainly do so.
What are some common maintenance problems that should be fixed to ensure pool longevity?
The Pool Health Regulations, in most cases, are intended to avoid conditions or operations that would pose a health threat to the users. This same regulation does not prescribe standards of operation for the protection of the pool equipment, treatment systems or pool shell. There are industry standards that note the methodology for maintenance and proper operation, however in Canada; there are no required certifications or training standards mandated for the pool operator and/or technician. I would suggest to owners of commercial pools and spas that the number one way to ensure longevity of the pool and the pool equipment is to establish a proper maintenance plan with a reputable firm and proper training of staff.
Secondly, I would suggest that all recreational bodies of water be equipped with an automatic water quality controller that would sense when the primary chemicals are not in proper range and automate feeding devices to make the appropriate corrections. In this way, proper disinfection is assured and the pool equipment and shell are exposed to more balanced water conditions.
The trends in facility construction and renovation follow the progress in efficiency and technology, some of which are:
- LED underwater lighting to ensure minimal electricity use and vastly improving safety versus conventional high voltage underwater lighting.
- Use of automatic chemical controllers that allow for online communication, chemical/operational tracking and supervision of commercial pools. The controller will download and record not only the readings from the pool, but also alarms that are triggered by improper operation. This also means that a central office can view the operational performance of several facilities at the same time.
- While the underwater portion of a commercial pool shell must be white by code, the waterline tile can be any colour. Many choices of tile are available but a high gloss finish will allow for easier cleaning.
- While it has been law that all pubic spas must be fitted with Safety Vacuum Release Systems, pools also have the possible liability of suction entrapment of bathers. The installation of these Vacuum Release Systems should be seen as mandatory for pools as well.
On the technology front, how have pools changed? What can we expect in the future?
Chlorine resistant pathogens, viruses and bacteria are an emerging concern, just as antibiotic resistant disease is in the medical community. The use of Ozone and UV light, when properly installed into the pool filter system, is an answer to the secondary sanitation recommendation of the CDC for pool use. An added benefit of UV/Ozone in water treatment is the destruction of chlorine by-products, thereby removing the “chlorine” irritation and odor.
On the aesthetic side of pool design, the use of infinity edge or zero edge pool design is becoming an excellent choice. This vanishing edge design, especially when combined with pools on high rise podiums or located on the top of a high rise building, makes a dramatic statement. There are many examples of this feature constructed in the Toronto Condo Market over the last 10 years.
This has only been a brief overview of some of the factors in the design, construction and maintenance of commercial pools. For further information, contact a commercial pool specialist near you.