By Lee Battams
After talking to longtime swim instructor Kerri Russell for the first time in June 2017, and hearing the passion she had for the swim school she wanted to build, as well as the children she taught, it was obvious to this author the project was not going to be a typical commercial pool design. Nor should it have been.
Instead, this was going to be a project fuelled not by typical codes, standards, and practices, but by Russell’s desire to provide the best possible swimming environment for the large, loyal base of customers she had developed and dedicated herself to over the past 13 years.
In the beginning
In 2004, Russell was teaching swimming with the Town of Markham, Ont., but thought there was a need for smaller, more intimate and personal lessons. After receiving a local entrepreneurship grant, she decided to start offering lessons out of her parents’ backyard pool, with a goal of teaching 50 children. However, instead of 50, she taught 150.
Throughout university Russell realized that not only continuing, but expanding the swim school was something she wanted to pursue after completing her post-secondary education. The more private lessons she taught, the more word spread, and she was soon hiring additional instructors to keep up with the demand. The numbers grew so large that it turned into a year-round business in which she began renting pool time from local hotels. This offered her flexibility in the amount of children she could teach, as well as the number of programs she was able to offer. Her sister Kristi joined the team the following summer, and today the Russell Aquatics Swim School teaches more than 1000 kids per week.
Building the best pool possible
During the initial stages of the project, Kerri and Kristi were very adamant on several aspects of the design. Kerri was not interested in just meeting, or even slightly exceeding the current building and health code standards; she wanted to ensure the dedicated user group she had acquired over the past 14 years were getting the best pool and water quality possible. In fact, one of the key factors to help uncomfortable swimmers feel more at ease in the water was to ensure the water itself felt pleasant.
Due to the high numbers of young and first-time bathers the swim school would see over a short period of time, the main concern expressed by Kerri was experiencing cloudy and dirty water towards the end of these sessions (a condition she had too often experienced in the pools she had previously taught in). This would put excess stress on the recirculation and sanitation system, which together are integral to achieving consistently clean and clear water. Ensuring the right-sized equipment and flowrate, along with the proper size and automation of the sanitization system was thoroughly thought out and discussed over the course of the design process to best deliver the type of quality Russell Aquatics was looking to achieve.
For instance, when it came to designing the swim school pool’s recirculation system—the heart of all pools—Kerri was adamant a vastly increased turnover rate, one that would exceed health and building code standards three times over, was her top priority. This meant increasing the size of several aspects of the recirculation system. First, increasing the pump size was required to achieve the desired flowrate through the system, which in turn would provide a faster turnover rate of the pool volume. Next, larger piping sizes for the entire system were also a necessity to accommodate the increased flowrate. For instance, a much larger horizontal-stacked filtration system was required as an upgrade to what would traditionally be installed at a pool of this size, which would provide a proper filter rate for the upgraded turnover time.