Coaches

A GREEN INITIATIVE UNIQUE TO NATATORIUMS

Statistical information and concept courtesy of Chip Harvey   
 
Proposition  -  A keynote program to save over $100 million annually by pursuing major energy efficiency and water conservation.  Our USA Swimming Clubs can become recognized as a leading advocate of the “greening of America,” while helping facilities realize financially attractive best operating practices.
 
Concept
Energy efficiency and water stewardship are two of the world’s leading issues.  Greenness, environmental practices, and climate change initiatives create world-changing transformation for most businesses.  There are over 50,000 commercial indoor year round swimming pools in the U.S.  These pools are heavy energy consumers due to maintaining water temperatures between 80–86 degrees and higher.  The problem is natatoriums consume over five times more energy generally than the average commercial building.  Addressing comprehensive energy-water solutions has social-political-economic impact and should become a top priority for survival mode with all indoor pool operations.
 
Being viewed as the leader in this energy efficiency and water efficiency awareness and implementation effort can greatly benefit USA-Swimming and its clubs.
 
Natatoriums everywhere face cost rationalization and closure when municipalities, schools, owners, and investors focus not only on the operating economics, but environmental implications of high energy consumption, water consumption, and emissions.  To preserve, promote, and grow the business of swimming, embracing major energy and water conservation initiatives through the use of pool energy blankets is a responsible necessity economically and ecologically.
 
USA Swim Clubs have an opportunity to gain recognition with distinctive energy leadership among all businesses during this critical period of the “greening of America” by launching a high visibility unique program for energy efficiency and water conservation.  Clubs and facilities need to understand how good an investment blankets are.  Savings of between 30% and 50% energy, water, and emissions are possible.  Green leadership can benefit the sport and business of aquatics, promote sustainability of swimming pools, and highlight swimming’s unique efforts to address two of the most important issues, energy and water, of the coming decades.  By advocating the use of indoor pool energy blankets to achieve real economic and environmental improvements, this combined effort among USAS Clubs could achieve practical results and higher visibility for the sport.
 
With over 2700 swim clubs using 4100+ pools, USAS Clubs efforts to advocate the practice of employing energy blankets could have huge practical and promotional implications -  gas and electricity combined savings of  $100 million annually, water savings of $15 million, and $5 million chemical savings.  That’s $1.2 billion over 10 years.  Not to mention IAQ and corrosion reduction results by stopping humidity and airborne chloramines, plus the significant environmental benefits of reducing CO2 greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 400,000 tons. 

Background
In an effort to save operating expenses, Dynamo Swim Club Atlanta Georgia installed solar hot water heating systems and began using pool energy blankets on its indoor pools beginning in 2003.  For the four years period from 2004 through 2007, the Club saved over $200,000 annually in gas, water, and chemicals.  75% of savings were energy efficiency achieved with the use of blankets, while only 25% was attributable to solar.  Yet blankets were 10% of the project capital cost.  It is believed this 4-year study of evaporation is one of the first of its kind ever undertaken.
 
While the research and monitoring methods were not ideal, the year-to-year results of gas therm consumption, water consumption, and monetary savings from the 2002 baseline show significant performance changes.  Because of capital investment, cost savings, and results, Dynamo has continued to seek improvements in productivity of blankets, while solar remains a secondary energy program with higher capital, lower returns, and much slower payback.  Clearly energy efficiency is a better investment for pools than alternative energy creation at this time.  In a natatorium, 97% of heat loss from the water is due to evaporation (70%) and ventilation (27%).  Placing a vapor barrier material on the water surface virtually stops the heat transfer physics of evaporation loss and humidity gain in the air.  An energy blanket, applied for 7-8 hours at night when the outdoor differential temperatures are much greater than the indoor pool water temperature, can stop 50% of total heat, water, and chemical losses to evaporation year round.
 
Based on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) geographic climate savings calculations for indoor pool energy consumption, evaporative heat loss total costs and relative savings using blankets nationwide are surprisingly close.  Dynamo’s study over four years averaged 17% better than DOE calculations for Atlanta.  The DOE data shows it is economically attractive for all indoor pools to use blankets.  As a very general rule of thumb, annual indoor pool water heating costs will run about $,20/square foot of surface water area, and potential 50% savings with energy blankets about $.10/sf.
 
An estimated 95% of natatoriums (indoor pools) do not use pool blankets because of two primary reasons  -  first, heat energy loss from pools inside HVAC climate-controlled buildings is not clearly understood by operators; and second, time and labor problems with blanket handling.  While the evolution of dehumidification in natatoriums has made great progress in the last 20 years, architects, HVAC engineers, and pool operators still generally fail to address the primary source of humidity and heat loss, the open pool itself.  Yet ASHRAE 90.1, the guideline for natatorium energy design and the basis for most building codes nationwide, has a mandatory requirement, “Heated pools shall be equipped with a pool cover.”
 
Purpose
Demonstrate leadership, USA Swimming Clubs brand enhancement, and deliver practical membership results through energy efficiency and water stewardship for indoor swimming pools.  Generate national attention for a practical energy and water program of efficiency and environmental improvements creating $100 million-plus magnitude of annual savings which the DOE, Federal Government, LEED, and ASHRAE have basically overlooked or misunderstood.  Stimulate public awareness of swimming, reflect positive environmental contributions, highlight uniqueness of energy efficiency efforts, promote ongoing financial benefits for operating all indoor pools.  Communicate awareness of low capital investment, fast payback, high ongoing returns and impact on operating budgets.
 
Objective
Advocacy support from  the USA Swimming Facilities Development Department, and a coordinated effort among 2700+ club teams using 4100+ pools to cut energy and water consumption in half. 
 
Target
Cover 4000 pools, 8 hours every night, conserving $100 million annually in gas (70 million therms) or electricity, $15 million in water (2.3 billion gallons), and $5 million in chemicals.  A result of these savings will be a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions (400,000 tons) as a result of consuming less energy.  Major deliverables are greenness and operating cost avoidance.
 
Incentives
Interestingly, though many are becoming available (federal, state, local), no supplemental tax incentives, enticing subsidies, fancy rebates, generous grants, or carbon credits are needed to financially justify investing in energy blankets.  The bottom line is rapid payback (months) and pure, green, real savings (ongoing).  Added energy-water incentives are added bonuses.
 
What’s Unique?
Water retains heat quite effectively, and pools are very large storage vessels.  However, evaporation from water surfaces, whether indoors or outdoors, results in a huge amount of heat loss as a result of the physical transformation of water from a liquid to a gas.  This evaporation process can be virtually stopped by applying a vapor barrier material on top of the water.  This also stops humidity.  Quite simply, the huge energy cost for mechanical dehumidification can be drastically reduced  when a vapor barrier is applied to the source of humidity, evaporation from the surface of the pool.
 
Proposition
Our USA Swim clubs are in the unique position of creating awareness which can result in  incentives, information, and motivation for everyone associated with aquatics. We can pull together for the greater good of realizing a would-class energy and water conservation initiative to achieve a common goal of savings exceeding $100 million annually, global attention, and a gold star for innovative change to an industry’s operating base, all while saving substantial money doing so.  Everyone benefits.  Many sports make pitches at being green and push environmental consciousness, few have such significant real opportunities to make a difference and impact the existing economic model.  The short and long-term benefits are so huge, the promotion of this concept deserves the largest possible attention to assure its success.  The greater the success, the stronger the USA Swimming brand, the greater the social, competitive, and financial value-added for swimming, and the more natatoriums will be built and renovated as a result.  Few messages ever so clearly combine a window of opportunity for image enhancement and energy policy with profitability.
 
Future
Beyond its 2700+ swim clubs, other organizations like the YMCA, NCAA, prep schools, high schools, states and municipalities, and DOE may jump on board.  This has the potential to grow the energy-water conservation program for commercial natatoriums to $500 million savings per year.  Our  leadership in water efficiency and energy efficiency is fundamental to the image of swimming.
 
Conclusion
Energy, environment, and water are the three cultural, political, and economic forces driving change opportunities for natatoriums.  Energy blanket use must become an accepted operational practice for natatoriums.  The financial savings and green-consciousness results are too big and too positive to ignore.
 
For more information please contact:  mnelson@usaswimming.org


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