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“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 faster completion.

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 is king.

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 their visit.

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 growth.
  • 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 patrons.
  • 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 and needs.

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.