Sustainable Natatorium/Aquatics Center Design – Part One
Swimming consistently ranks among the top sports for building muscle, strengthening the heart, and controlling weight. Sadly, many facilities that host swimming programs are out of shape.
By embracing sustainable design strategies, a high school can achieve a natatorium that stands as a reflection of the activities it hosts!
Four years ago, Niles Township High School District 219 (D219) set out to transform its 48-year-old pool at Niles North High School into a model for sustainable aquatics centers. Recently, the expanded and renovated Niles North Aquatics Center earned LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
How can a high school create a natatorium/aquatics center that mirrors the health and efficiency of its athletes? Over the next few weeks, I’ll be offering a few tips based on my experience at Niles North. Here’s the first:
Stop Wasting Water!
Aquatics facilities have the potential to waste a lot of water. So designers and districts embarking on natatorium construction should prioritize water efficiency.
It starts before people even enter the building. Permeable pavers can help reduce stormwater runoff. Native plantings limit irrigation needs. More advanced rainwater harvesting systems can even collect water for non-potable (i.e., non-drinking) use.
Then the pool itself should be outfitted with efficient systems. For instance, the regenerative media system at Niles North helps reduce backwash by 89% compared to a regular pool filtration system.
The right collection of water-friendly support systems can further reduce water use: Niles North uses electronic water coolers with bottle fill stations. The stations have tickers that keep track of how many plastic bottles are saved. Low-flow plumbing fixtures and staff-monitored shower controls reduce student and staff water use by 42% compared to a regular building.
In my next post, I’ll discuss the importance of welcoming (and controlling) natural light.