It was 2003 and the ball was in motion. W. Jack Kalins,Split Rock Resort president/CEO, had decided he wanted to add a waterpark to our full service destination resort, and we had entered into a design agreement with architects, designers and consultants.
From the outset, it was obvious that the comfort of guests visiting
the waterpark was vital, and early conversations focused on the
critical need to balance water and air temperatures as well as
The architect suggested we look at heat recovery units, but our
team knew little about them. Our experience was limited to the
dehumidification systems in our indoor pools, which provided a
certain level of comfort. Ultimately, however, after reviewing
information and proposals for both directions, the final decision
swayed in favor of the heat recovery.
At the time, our dehumidification vendor simply did not manufacture
a piece of equipment large enough to efficiently treat the 1.8
million cubic feet of air in the planned 53,324-square-foot indoor
waterpark. It would have required six dehumidification units vs.
two heat recovery units. And so we prepared to jump outside our
normal comfort zone.
Little did we know the new challenges that lay ahead.
The equipment went in, and H2Oooohh Indoor Waterpark opened in
October 2008. Our goal was to learn to balance temperature and
humidity, and maintain acceptable building pressure without raising
our utility costs beyond expectations. Despite the fact that we had
an entire team present for the start-up and training of personnel,
we were quickly consumed with a number of day-to-day challenges of
operating the HVAC system with the heat recovery units and
establishing synergy with the rest of the building systems.
From the outset, we faced several major hurdles. Perhaps the most
immediate issue involved the filters. Construction dust had lodged
in the duct system and, left alone, it would have been sucked right
through the ventilation equipment. Fortunately, we realized this
early and even before the heat recovery and HVAC system was turned
on, we ordered extra filters and scheduled maintenance to replace
the dirty ones.
Within a few weeks of opening day, the weather had turned cold and
our systems were running full steam. Right away we noticed that
sensors indicated the propane burners on the recovery units were
not operating properly. Solving the problem required input from
everyone — from the HVAC and electrical contractors, the HRU
manufacturers’ representative and even the manufacturers rep
for our building management system. Flame rods, gas and pilot
lights all had to be set at optimal settings, and that required
collaborative consultation with each party.
An ongoing issue has been controlling building pressure. We
discovered that when the recovery units were operating in
“defrost” mode, the air balance in the building would
expand, resulting in a whistling sound and causing some interior
doors to push open. Alleviating the problem — and avoiding
heat loss and the resulting increased utility expenses —
required manual operation of damper controls and exhaust fan usage
based on outdoor temperatures.
Ultimately, we discovered the building management system was not
reacting to conditions that would trigger mechanically opening up
the dampers. The solution was to better integrate communication
between the HVAC system and the overall building control system,
allowing the building to correctly respond to temperature and
However, in trying to establish synergy between the systems, we
discovered that what might seem to require a simple fix is actually
a very complicated equation. Just like a child, an indoor waterpark
environment requires constant care and monitoring. After much
trial-and-error troubleshooting, we’ve been able to establish
what seem to be optimal set points. If waterpark conditions exceed
60 percent humidity or a temperature of 86 degrees, the exhaust
fans cycle on automatically.
The challenges we faced undoubtedly would have caused even greater
headaches were it not for one thing: From the beginning, we tracked
and recorded everything on a daily basis, monitoring and adjusting
temperature settings according to conditions to ensure optimal
conditions while still controlling expenses.
Thanks to careful record-keeping, we now have a full year of data
to look back on as we move forward. In the end, as a
management team, we never lost sight of the fact that our
guests’ health and comfort is paramount. And in spite of the
learning curve, we feel confident the heat recovery units were the
right way to go. Today eight seamless air exchanges per hour
provide the “comfort zone” that allows our guests to
remember the fun they had for years to come.