Sustainable Natatorium/Aquatics Center Design – Part Two (Control Natural Light)
Poorly lit older pools are a common problem for school districts across the country. For years, incorporating the use of natural light in a natatorium simply wasn’t a priority. Schools wanted to build quickly and inexpensively; some pools were actually located within the basement.
A natatorium lacking in natural light is uninspiring to swimmers, unwelcoming to would-be spectators, and unfavorable to energy bills.
Natural light is now an essential part of the modern day sustainable aquatics center. The designer’s main challenge involves bringing in as much light as possible, while preventing the glare that can distract swimmers.
Niles North managed to transform its old dark pool into one of the country’s premier high school sustainable aquatics centers. Below are a few natural light design tips for districts considering natatorium projects, whether they involve renovating an old facility or building a new one.
When Niles Township High School District 219 determined that it wanted its new Aquatics Center to be a model for sustainable natatorium design, one of the biggest challenges was what to do with the district’s half century old pool. The solution reveals a couple cost-effective techniques.
The design team eliminated the drop ceiling to regain the height of the space so that it lost the feeling of being in cave. Additionally, a new glass wall was installed to separate the old and new pools, while maintaining the feel of a cohesive aquatics center.
When it comes to newer aquatics centers, the right combination of clear and translucent (i.e., frosted) glass can bring in the ideal amount of natural light throughout the year.
The Niles North Aquatics Center has translucent glass on the east and west walls, which take the biggest hit from direct sunlight. The translucent glass diffuses the sunlight, while preventing glare and excessive heat that would typically come with clear glass. Clear glass at the north allows natural light to wash over the spectators to provide an open, comfortable viewing environment. Clear glass at the south is protected by the roof overhang, which doesn’t allow the direct sunlight into the space to impede the swimmers or spectators.
Next time, I’ll discuss how a natatorium’s massing (i.e., size and shape) affect its sustainable performance.