Columbia River Chapter Members Enjoy Tour of New Natatorium

By Elin Shepard, CRC Vice President & Bill Henry, CRC Membership Chair

The Columbia River Chapter was pleased to join Energy Trust of Oregon and Anderson Poolworks to celebrate the newly‐constructed Chehalem Parks & Recreation Aquatic Center by offering an informative training and tour in May 2018. The new aquatic center houses a hot tub, lazy river, vortex, kiddie area, deep water tank, lap lanes. It also houses a separate area which contains an aquatic athletic venue for the local university, complete with bleachers and an 8‐lane, 25‐yard stretch pool with movable bulkhead.

Over 30 people made the one‐hour drive from downtown Portland to Newberg, in the heart of Oregon’s wine country. The new facility comes after the community passed a $19.9 million bond and replaces the existing center which opened in 1970. The project consists to two phases – the new natatorium, and the conversion of the existing pool building into a new gym and fitness center. While the first phase is now complete, the second phase aims to finish in late 2018.

This is one of the most sophisticated natatoriums in the area and features an innovative mechanical design, including high efficiency pumps with VFDs, dehumidification units, condensing gas boilers, and heat recovery. Since this event was sponsored by AEE, the CRC wanted to ensure a high level of technical discussion and a deep dive into these systems by a panel of experts, including the project engineers, pool system designers, and consultants experienced with pool-related energy efficiency projects.

They discussed how the owner’s objectives for a well-performing aquatic center resulted in higher first‐cost for certain equipment and systems. These costs were measured against incentives provided by the Energy Trust of Oregon and reduced utility costs to show a positive ROI, not to mention the ability to provide higher interior air quality and water quality to swimmers. Several attendees manage natatoriums or plan to construct new ones in the coming years and found the discussion extremely valuable for their projects as they had the opportunity to learn about the unique challenges and opportunities present when designing or assessing a natatorium.

One of the largest challenges lies in assuring air quality for occupants, particularly swimmers, who breathe in air near the water surface – where a mix of dangerous gases can build up as chlorine reacts to neutralize contaminants in the water. To prevent these gases from lingering in swimmers’ breathing zone, panelists described how Chehalem’s ventilation system was designed to provide consistent fresh air at a specific speed and flow pattern as close as possible to the water surface.

HVAC systems for an indoor pool also have two other important tasks: control humidity levels that are constantly being pushed up by evaporating water, and also keeping that water at a comfortable temperature – which entails nearly constant heating. While this presents the nearly ideal application for a heat recovery system, not all natatoriums are designed that way. However, Chehalem, along with assistance from the Energy Trust of Oregon, made the decision to take advantage of simultaneous heating and cooling operations via water-cooled heat pumps that produce chilled water for dehumidification and hot water for pool heating. The heat pumps have the option of turning to air-cooled operation at lower efficiency, but this mode is expected to rarely be needed.

A few other system highlights include:

  • A 200 kW PV solar array
  • 100% LED lights
  • Efficient pool water filters 
  • Elaborate building automation system
  • Integrated electric pressure washer system
  • Low‐flow showerheads and lavatory aerators
  • Parking lot bioswales to pre‐treat run‐off 

The event concluded with an optional happy hour at a local winery to continue the discussion and encourage networking among members. The CRC plans to continue offering two technical building tours per year, in addition to several technical lunch forums, a holiday party, and the Wrench of the Year awards.