Engineering researchers with the University of British Columbia (UBC) are conducting a study to find ways to reduce energy use and minimize potential health concerns in community pools.
The study will observe large-scale indoor pools across British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, and researchers will examine how pool design impacts chemical exposure experienced by bathers, as well as look at ways to reduce exposure in an energy efficient manner.
“This project is a mix of civil engineering and toxicology,” said Prof. Rehan Sadiq, associate dean of engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus and the study’s lead investigator. “Pools are a popular yet complicated indoor environment to manage, and we believe this study will help identify the most desirable ways pools can be built and operated.”
As part of the study, the group will be looking for ways to reduce the presence of chemical compounds commonly found in the air and water in indoor pool environments. These compounds include chloramines—which occur when bather’s sweat, saliva, or urine is mixed with disinfectants, and trihalomethanes, both of which are considered to have a negative impact on human health.
“While the evidence shows the benefits of swimming outweigh the risks, as engineers, we would like to minimize those risks,” said UBC researcher and PhD candidate Roberta Dyck, who will work with Prof. Manuel Rodriguez of Laval University’s Graduate School of Regional Planning and Development. “As water in swimming is not regulated like drinking water, we’re also hoping we can encourage some stronger standards that will create greater consistency in pool environments.”
In addition to data collection and sampling, the project will use computer modelling to examine various types of pool equipment, such as ventilation and water pump systems.
“The best thing to do from a health perspective would be to suck all the old air out and replace it with new air, which is highly energy inefficient and cost prohibitive,” said Assoc. Prof. Kasun Hewage, who is leading the study’s energy component. “Through simulations we will be able to see the best energy conserving strategies that are or could be used in the variety of equipment available for pool operations.”
The project has attracted a number of community and industry partners, including the AME Consulting Group (engineers), DB Perks (commercial aquatic supplies) and Waterplay Solutions Corp. (aquatic equipment designers), Acton Ostry Architects Inc., MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, Healthy Buildings (air testing), and various municipalities in B.C.
The research will also inform the operations of UBC Vancouver’s new $40 million aquatic centre, which is expected to have more than 600,000 annual visits when it is completed later this year.
“We wanted to take advantage of the latest research and figure out how our facility could be on the leading edge, which made this project a natural fit,” said Kavie Toor, director of facilities and business development at UBC’s aquatic centre. “This research will help us meet UBC’s mandate of energy efficiency and make sure our pool environment is as healthy as possible for users.”