Should commercial indoor pool facilities be dehumidified? That is the question John Cardillo, CEO of Premier Fitness, Canada’s largest health club chain, addresses here.
A review of Premier Fitness’ newest club prototype is a telltale sign of how Canada’s largest fitness chain won the “Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies,” competition in 2005 sponsored by Deloitte.
While many fitness clubs avoid the expense of aquatic rooms, Premier made its 6,000 square foot aquatics room a showcase in the new 50,000 square foot Oshawa, Ontario club in the greater Toronto area.
Additionally, other fitness clubs that invest capital in aquatic rooms many times take an inexpensive short-cut with the HVAC equipment necessary for healthy and comfortable indoor air quality (IAQ). Instead of incorporating “green” heat recovering commercial dehumidifiers, many health club operators cut corners on expenses by installing highly inefficient conventional HVAC make-up air systems that wastefully exhaust the warm, humid pool air outside. “If the aquatic room isn’t clean with comfortable 82°F air and 84°F pool water temperatures and a comfortable humidity of 50%, people simply don’t join a club or they don’t stay members very long,” said John Cardillo, CEO, Premier Fitness.
This philosophy is known as the “pay later” strategy where building owners pay little upfront capital equipment costs in the beginning, but pay exorbitant operational costs throughout the useful life of the equipment, which is many times multiplied as energy costs rise. “Chasing all the heat and moisture to the outside is not only costly, it’s environmentally irresponsible and against our corporate green policy,” Cardillo added.
Instead, Cardillo and his management team have been advocates of commercial indoor pool dehumidification for its energy-saving advantages since the technology was invented in the 1980’s. Cardillo even uses two dehumidifiers for his personal residence’s indoor pool. Contrary to the “pay later” philosophy, Cardillo’s dehumidifier strategy is “pay now.” The green equipment is more costly than inefficient conventional make-up air equipment, but the money saved from higher efficiency and lower operational costs result in an estimated three-year payback. Beyond three years, operational savings are continually collected throughout the life of the equipment with even more benefit if energy costs continue escalating. “After the payback period, Premier will probably reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in saved energy costs by using a heat recovery dehumidifier for the next 20 years and beyond,” said Jeff Kimble, sales engineer, Kilmer Environmental, Mississauga, Ontario, a manufacturer’s representative that served as an energy and equipment consultant on the project.
The new Oshawa location uses a DRY-O-TRON® model DS-162, manufactured by Dectron Inc., Montreal, Quebec, heat recovery dehumidifier, to maintain a 50% relative humidity while simultaneously heating/cooling the aquatics space. Humidity control is especially critical because the 1,400 square foot family pool with zero-entry and 1,800 square foot lap pool are also accompanied by additional evaporative sources such as a 140 square foot whirlpool, a 60-foot long waterslide, and a six-foot diameter water umbrella. “Basically a fitness club competes against the local YMCA or community center, so if it doesn’t invest at least $1 million into the aquatic room, they’re wasting their time, space and money,” said Cardillo who estimated the Oshawa aquatics room itself at $1.3 million.
“Fitness club pools are typically small and many times lack the proper equipment for indoor air comfort,” added the project’s consulting engineer, Ludovit Hudec, principal, LH Consultants Ltd., North York, Ontario, “but this facility is equal to any top community center aquatic facility in size and IAQ.”
Besides indoor air comfort, the dehumidifier is also integral to Premier’s operational savings. Compressor heat from the dehumidification’s refrigeration process, for example, is recovered and used to provide year-round free pool water heating space and temperature, according to Chad Zerback, operations manager, Dael Thermal, Toronto, a mechanical contractor that performs all of Premier’s HVAC work and provides service contracts on each location.
While seemingly an invisible attribute, dehumidification offers a visual aesthetic in the new location because it keeps the lobby’s 50-foot long, 20-foot high wall of windows clear of condensation for a clear view of the aquatics area.
Admittedly, state-of-the-art dehumidification equipment can tie up budgets for such an expansion-minded chain that grows by one location every four months under the women’s only Mademoiselle Fitness & Day Spa and Premier brands. Therefore, instead of purchasing outright the aquatic center’s dehumidifier, Cardillo leases dehumidification equipment through Equirex Leasing Co., Oakville, Ontario.
Besides the dehumidifier, other mechanical equipment such as York of York, PA rooftop HVAC equipment and Carnes of Verona, WE exhaust fans are used for the rest of the facility’s heating, ventilating, and cooling requirements.
Premier stands to reap operational savings from the heat recovery equipment; however Cardillo is considering even more energy saving items. A thermal pool blanket will retain and reduce evaporation by 90% during unoccupied periods. A night setback thermostat and outdoor air shutoff during unoccupied periods will cut room heating and ventilation requirements by 20% during unoccupied periods.
With its energy saving design, the Oshawa location will be a prototype for future Premier Fitness clubs and a cutting edge for public recreational facilities to emulate.
(Photo courtesy of Premier Fitness)