Heading to the pool is usually an exciting time for kids and families seeking fun and adventure. For others, pools offer unique exercise and therapeutic value. While the design of aquatics facilities maximizes the opportunities for excitement, fitness and healing, it must also take into account numerous measures to ensure the safety of those in and around the water. There are many layers to safety in exercise facilities, but pool and water safety has unique and very critical details to consider.
The Lifeguard’s Point of View
Supervision line-of-sight is critical for proper lifeguarding around the pool deck. Designated areas designed specifically for lifeguards should be clear of pool equipment, slides, diving boards, building columns and swimmers. Views of distractions (such as concessions stands or other non-related nearby sports) should be limited. Elaborate pool shapes involving partitions or other elements that block views can cause the need for additional lifeguards to be on duty.
Lifeguards methodically sweep their view along the bottom of a pool. Glare from sun or bright lighting can cause high-contrast veiling reflections, which can prevent lifeguards from seeing someone in trouble under water. Designing a facility to avoid or minimize low-angle direct sunlight and to rely more on indirect lighting is a much better solution. The challenge is to provide enough light, since inadequate lighting can also be a hazard. Another strategy is to provide increased underwater lighting in the pool; providing ambient light to the space and minimizing contrasting glare on the water surface. Lighting placement must be carefully considered and analyzed by experienced lighting designers.
Accessible and Safe
As facilities provide access to users of all abilities, keeping those with less mobility safe is a distinct responsibility. Pool lifts need to be placed in areas that will not cause line-of-sight problems or be in the way of swimmers, but are also convenient for those who need them. Lifts need to be easily accessed by maintenance staff in order to keep them in good repair.
Zero depth pool entries allow a variety of users, such as babies and toddler or elderly people with mobility challenges, to have water fun and enjoy easier access into the pool. People with injuries or health concerns are often encouraged to exercise in a pool as they recover; sloped entries are helpful for providing access to them as well.
Separation of Uses
Careful design consideration must be given to the separation of specific pool features and uses. As an example, water slides can have a slide “run-out” on the pool deck at the end or can drop the slider directly into a pool. If swimmers are going into a pool, lifeguards are needed to supervise the top and the bottom, and the portion of the pool the sliders drop into must be separated from other swimming areas. If a recreation facility wants to have fewer staff, the run-out type of slide does not require a second lifeguard.
Competitive swimmers should be kept separate from recreational swimmers in order to avoid user frustrations and potential collisions. In addition, areas for leisure or recreational swimming need to be clearly demarcated from areas for new swimmers. Keeping the various types of activities separated from each other with enough square footage may mean a bigger facility or specific scheduling of activities in order to make the activities function properly and safely.
Pool decks are regulated by health and code requirements for sloping to keep water from ponding and becoming slippery. Poolside surfaces require proper coefficients of friction to prevent slippage. Decks need to be large enough to allow adequate clearance for walking and sitting and prevent users from accidentally falling into the pool.
Make it All Look Amazing!
Safety in the design of aquatics facilities does not have to compromise an aesthetically pleasing, well-composed facility. Good design happens by incorporating all the constraints and factors elegantly. Orchestrating the components of design to create a beautiful product takes skill and practice, so choosing an architect that has a proven history of delivering this project type is critical.