“It’s just a hotel with a box attached. We’ll theme it nice and the guests will beat a path to it.” Such comments often come up in the early stages of developing a waterpark resort.But in today’s market, the “build it and they will come” mentality doesn’t cut it.
Guest expectations are rising while competition and utility
costs are threatening revenue. As a result, the indoor waterpark
model has become more complicated, and whether you’re
renovating an existing property or building something new,
it’s time to adjust the approach to design.
The new paradigm is holistic design, which maximizes efficiency,
flexibility and return on investment. It also can produce a more
efficient design with fewer headaches during construction and
If the holistic design process is to be effective, establishing
a team mentality must be the first step. The design team must break
from traditional protocols where the owner hires an
architect/engineer to design the project; then bids it and selects
a contractor; then hires a resort operator who hires marketing
experts to sell the resort and conduct research to determine the
appropriate target audience.
Instead, all of these individuals need to come together in the
beginning to establish goals; list the criteria to measure success;
formulate communication protocols; and agree on each member’s
role in keeping the project on track. Information should be shared
freely, allowing everyone to see how their piece supports and
enhances the whole.
From day one, key stakeholders must be present and prepared to
provide input on their areas of expertise. They also must be
receptive to new ideas and willing to step outside normal comfort
zones. As the project moves forward, the goal is to create a
trusting and comfortable, high-energy atmosphere where creativity
Ideas typically start big picture and work down to the details.
But holistic design requires considering all areas — site
design; water quality, treatment and consumption; indoor air
quality; heating; cooling; and operational performance — from
various perspectives. Each area impacts budgets and the end-user
experience, and all can be integrated for a greener, more efficient
and cost-effective final result.
Remember, a building is ultimately a living, breathing entity
that functions most efficiently when its systems work in tandem.
What’s more, integration creates a more natural and
harmonious atmosphere, putting the end users at ease and enhancing
Here are some examples of how holistic design can work:
- Site design. By optimizing site selection
and development, the developers can reduce operational costs and
boost the performance of a resort while also incorporating
sustainable practices. For example, positioning a resort to take
advantage of natural daylight can reduce dependency on utilities.
But maximizing potential gains requires simultaneous attention to
structural issues and landscaping, such as window design and tree
- Water consumption. Whether from
showers, faucets, toilets or urinals, patrons use a large amount of
water, and a holistic approach to the water supply can greatly
minimize the impact of water consumption.
- Technologies such as low-flow faucets and showers, waterless
urinals, and timers/motion sensors can be designed throughout the
property, from guest rooms to the waterpark.
- Water quality/treatment. When each team
member understands the intended operation of the entire resort,
opportunities such as centralized water heating and distribution
systems can allow for a more sustainable property, and offer
operational savings. Current technologies can combine hotel and
waterpark heating and distribution systems, thereby reducing
equipment, maintenance and utility usage. Additionally, alternative
water treatment methods can improve water quality and lower
chemical usage, providing a better waterpark experience for
- Indoor air quality, heating, cooling and
ventilation. These are commonly viewed in terms of
operational costs and general environment. Often a resort has
adjacent spaces occupied by patrons, and planning the mechanical
and plumbing systems from a holistic perspective can provide
opportunities for increased efficiency. Water heating and energy
management systems designed with operator and end user in mind can
provide exceptional environments for the end user, with the
flexibility needed to maximize efficiency.
- Operational performance. Operational
flexibility provides a means to achieving sustainability. By
recognizing that not all spaces in a resort are consistently
occupied to capacity, it’s possible to maximize efficiency
throughout the day.
It’s easy to assume the collaborative spirit ends once the
team has come together, looked at each system in the context of the
whole and completed the project. But that’s not the case. To
maximize efficiency, everyone involved in facility operation must
be trained with the whole picture in mind.
Then, once the resort is up and running, adjustments requiring
an understanding of the specifics of each system can be made. For
example, installing various controls improves operational
efficiency, but often systems are designed with set points and run
times that don’t accurately reflect the in-service conditions
Optimization of building systems is a must if the benefits of
these energy-efficient components are to be realized.
To keep in step with these efficiency demands and expectations,
a holistic approach toward resort design, development and operation
is a must. When the collaboration is successful, the economic and
environmental benefits of holistic design begin to show.