Aquatic Facility Interior Design: Environmental Sustainability

By Esther Yates-Abrams and Melissa Gooding

For indoor aquatic facilities that are looking to renovate their pool areas, stretch ceilings provide a sustainable option as paint is eliminated from the process, thus eliminating any interior fumes, leftover paint and cans, and harsh chemical cleaning agents, which may be required for new paint to adhere. Eliminating replacement walls and ceilings for damaged or badly repaired drywall or plaster can keep tons of old material out of landfills and save on the transportation of new materials. Stucco ceilings would involve much heavier material and create much more mess, during removal and installation. Stucco also requires waterproof paint in wet rooms.

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Aquatic Facility Interior Design: Lighting And Colour

Fluorescent tubes, fibreoptics, and/or light-emitting diode (LED) lighting can be installed behind a stretch ceiling membrane, while other types of fixtures, like pot and pendant lights, can come through reinforced openings created during the ceiling installation. Photo courtesy Laqfoil Ltd.

By Esther Yates-Abrams and Melissa Gooding

Many luxury residential and commercial pools are housed in purpose-built rooms designed to provide views out onto landscaped grounds. Daylight and lighting design are very important to creating an oasis, not just a pool. Fluorescent tubes, fibreoptics, and/or light-emitting diode (LED) lighting can be installed behind a stretch ceiling membrane, while other types of fixtures, like pot and pendant lights, can come through reinforced openings created during the ceiling installation. It is best to have lighting installed prior to the stretch ceiling. All fixtures must be anchored to the underlying ceiling structure. Stretch ceilings cannot support weight and remain flat.

For subterranean pools with little or no daylight, the challenge is to vary the ambiance during the day. Automated controls, electronic or computer-based, can be programmed to simulate natural lighting conditions. Because pool rooms are often simple, uncluttered spaces, and because swimmers and loungers tend to stare upward, stretched ceiling features can be used either to add interest, or to simulate an outdoor location. A translucent stretched ceiling covering lighting, with or without a multi-level ceiling or a shadow gap detail can be used to flood a space with light, creating the illusion of daylight streaming into the room without the glare of non-shaded, point-source lights.

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Aquatic Facility Interior Design: Sound Absorbing Qualities

By Esther Yates-Abrams and Melissa Gooding

Multiple hard surfaces often create acoustic problems in some swimming pool and spa facilities, causing every sound to carry and/or echo. This can make a peaceful relaxing atmosphere or a private conversation seem almost impossible. Stretch ceilings address this problem as they have excellent acoustic properties due to the ‘give’ of the material.

The stretched membrane vibrates when sound hits it, converting sound energy into motion. These sound waves are partially absorbed through the membrane and into the space between the membrane and the ceiling or wall, converting sound energy into heat energy in this plenum. The size of the space is what ultimately influences the sound absorption quality. For example, a 30-mm (1.2-in.) space will provide for good sound absorption except in the low frequencies, while a 60- to 72-mm (2.4- to 2.9-in.) space will provide a high performance sound buffer, absorbing speech and other sounds, as opposed to having them bounce off of hard surfaces.

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Aquatic Facility Interior Design: The Installation Process

Tall spaces can be made more intimate by lowering the ceiling height using a stretched ceiling, or possibly even intermittent panels. Photo courtesy Laqfoil Ltd.

By Esther Yates-Abrams and Melissa Gooding

For flat panel applications, polymer membranes are heated by portable forced air heaters and therefore, are made to order anywhere between two and 20 per cent smaller than the final desired size. On the other hand, polyester fabric is cut slightly larger than the framing to assist in the stretching, as it does not get heated in the installation process.

Polymer film comes in 1.3-m (4.3-ft) widths, which can be welded together with flat seams that are only 0.2 mm (0.008 in.) wide, making them visible only at close range or under direct light. Welding is done at the manufacturing facility, so stretching the membrane across a large void such as a swimming pool is not a problem. Polyester fabric comes in a width of 5 m (16.4 ft), and cannot be welded. Digital printing is usually done on polyester textile membranes, but can also be done on polymer. Using a single piece of stretched material, seamed or seamless, the system is capable of covering up to 50 m2 (538 sf). For larger indoor pool areas, intermediate joining rails can be added to permit the coverage of more than 100 m2 (1,000 sf).

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Aquatic Facility Interior Design: Suited For The Aquatic Environment

Modern stretch ceiling systems are light, sound attenuating, and thermally insulating. Photo courtesy Laqfoil Ltd.

By Esther Yates-Abrams and Melissa Gooding

Today, instead of natural fibres such as linen, silk, and cotton, stretch ceiling membranes are made from more durable and infinitely recyclable polymer films and polyester-based fabrics, which are capable of lasting more than 25 years without fading or absorbing any particulates.

While these membranes do not need to be replaced like those of yesteryear, they can be easily changed to quickly alter the look of an interior space, whether it is just for fun, or to keep an indoor swimming pool/hot tub area look cutting edge.

Not only do these materials come in a wide range of colours and surface textures, they can also be digitally printed, offering an affordable, modern version of the ancient art of wall and ceiling frescoes. Printing may include a company logo, digital photograph, or faux texture. With digital photography, trompe l’oeil (the illusion of a three-dimensional space beyond the artwork) effects become incredibly lifelike. Backlighting added behind a printed translucent membrane can make an outdoor space depicted in a digital image come to life, and appear as a natural extension of the actual indoor pool area. This is especially useful for bringing the outdoors to a windowless space, maintaining privacy while creating a natural atmosphere, or opening up the feel of a small room.

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