OK, full disclosure: I live in Portland, Ore., one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the nation. I recycle religiously. I take public transportation whenever I can. I was the chair of my university’s Earth Day celebration. In short, I’m a tree hugger.
But I’m also a realist.
So when I started hearing about green design options for aquatics facilities, I was pretty excited. But it was a different kind of green that made me decide to devote an entire issue to environmentally conscious design and technology. That green is the kind we could all use a little more of sometimes: money.
Turns out, caring about Mother Earth also is the best way to take care of your bottom line. Anyone who’s been to the gas station lately knows why. The cost of energy has skyrocketed in recent years. Since 2001, natural gas alone has leapt from 62 cents to 85 cents per therm, an increase of nearly 40 percent.
Those kinds of increases have had a serious effect on all businesses. But aquatics facilities, which one expert called “energy hogs,” have been hit especially hard. Consider an indoor facility. Heating, cooling, circulating, lighting — they all take energy. Lots of it. That makes aquatics a big target for city councils and the like looking for ways to squeeze more out of shrinking budgets. And when they look to the list of essential services, like it or not, aquatics is not usually on it. As one designer put it, “We’re going to have to get smart about how we design, especially when we’re talking about what some people consider a luxury.”
Getting smart about design is what this issue is all about. In it, you’ll find the latest green technology that you can use today to start saving money tomorrow. There are simple things such as flooded suction pumps, which require a pit and a service person willing to climb down into it when repairs are needed. But they also save nearly 30 percent on energy bills. On the more futuristic side, there’s fuel cell technology, which produces only water as waste — and so much energy you can actually sell the excess.
It’s all laid out for you in our in-depth report, “Going Green,” along with handy boxes that detail the upfront costs and when you can expect the technology to pay off. You may be surprised at how quickly. Variable frequency drives, for instance, pay for themselves in one or two years. Thermal blankets will do so in less than a year.
Lest anyone think these are pie-in-the-sky ideas, we also profiled three facilities that are not only using the latest in green technology and design, but also loving it (especially when the power bill arrives).
To me, that money-saving motivation is the best news of all about our green design issue. Because even though I’m an environmentalist at heart, I know green practices will never take hold unless people have a more selfish reason to adopt them.
Of course, I can’t help but appreciate the irony. Environmentalists always say thinking green is about survival of the planet. But when it comes to aquatics, it’s really about survival that hits much closer to home: your own.