Waterfront: November 2007

Environmentally Friendly In Europe

Pool and hot tub designs model alternative energy

1107 19a Sustainable goods and services are hot-ticket items these days, and the European market continues to respond by building pools and hot tubs using alternative energy methods.

Relax, the world's first solar-powered, emission-free, geothermal swimming pool complex, recently opened at the Aqua City resort in Poprad, Slovakia. Relax is enclosed in a steel and glass structure with photocells built into its triple-glazed façade to provide electricity.

Pool and shower water comes from a nearby borehole, which is connected to a subterranean lake. AquaCity representatives say the resort saves up to 30,000 kg (66,000 pounds) of carbon emissions per day because of its ability to generate 80 percent geothermal electricity.

Jan Telensky, owner of AquaCity, told the Guardian Unlimited that the resort's use of green technology, rather than fossil fuels, has helped it save 2.5 million euros (that's approximately $3.3 million) on conventional energy costs in 2006. Speaking of pools, a planning committee in Lancashire, U.K., voted earlier this year in favor of a proposed wind turbine to power the Edisford swimming pool. The proposed turbine will be nearly 20 feet tall, and each blade will measure about 10 by 16 feet.

In Scotland, two Sutherland men launched a new venture to make eco-friendly wooden hot tubs heated by aluminum stoves. Roddy Laing and Terry Keighley were inspired to break into the hot tub industry after the importer of a Swedish-manufactured planing machine approached them about an attachment for the planing machine that would allow them to create the staves for the tub.

They made their first tub during a three-day hot-tub-building course organized by Logosol, Swedish wood-processing machine maker. Rather than using nails, screws or glue, Laing and Keighley fit tongue and groove together to form the base and the sides of the tub. Then an aluminum wood-burning stove is fitted into the back of the tub. The stove is immersed in water when it's burning to prevent melting.

While it takes nearly three hours to heat the water, no electricity or plumbing is required. Any size tub can be made, but their first tub on display at the Dunrobin Sawmill is 7 feet wide and 3 feet tall. Laing says the tub can seat up to eight people.

Austin Rejuvenates Its Deep Eddy

Texas bathhouse gets a major makeover

Renovating a pool's bathhouse built during the Depression-era by the Works Progress Administration is no easy feat, especially if the pool, well known for its history of diving horses and performers, now resides on the National Register for Historic Places and is an Austin Historic Landmark.

But mix a little old in with the new and voilà, the Deep Eddy bathhouse is reborn. The original bathhouse was last used in the 1960s, when roughly twothirds of it was taken over by the Austin Natural Science Center and turned into a nature center. In the 1980s, when a new nature center opened at a different location, Austin's aquatics department temporarily occupied the building. When that moved out, the bathhouse was boarded up and basically forgotten.

In 2002, Friends of Deep Eddy, a nonprofit organization that devotes its time and resources toward protecting and improving Deep Eddy and its facilities, began its quest to re-beautify the pool and its surroundings. The organization raised nearly $1 million to renovate the bathhouse, while the City of Austin donated about $500,000. Five years later, after raising $1.5 million, their hard work paid off.

As part of the renovation, most of the stone walls in the bathhouse were kept, and while some of the cedar plank and antique pine doors are the same, all now have iron handles and trim. Guests who enter the bathhouse are greeted by a wood and limestone ticket kiosk with a wagon wheel chandelier, just like in the original bathhouse built, in 1936. Both the men and women's dressing and shower facilities are again roofless, making way for plenty of sunshine and a good oldfashioned outdoor experience.

Visitors are also able to buy concessions in the same area where refreshments were sold years ago. However, in keeping up with the times, parts of the bathhouse are now ecofriendly. Rather than an air-conditioned lobby, chilly spring water is piped under the floors to keep it cool. Also, new bathhouse benches are made of ipe, a South American sustainable wood. These days, guests can enjoy a warm, steamy shower, thanks to on-demand water heaters, a first in Deep Eddy history.

"To bring something back that's a cool part of Austin and making it new again - that's a neat project," project manager Matt Escobedo told the Austin American-Statesman.

This Is Fargo? You Betcha

1107 19c After a massive renovation, the Hotel Donaldson in downtown Fargo, N.D., was reborn as a modern boutique hotel - complete with rooftop hot tub - that showcases Big Apple style and sophistication, yet remains true to its Midwestern roots. For instance, art produced by Dakotans and Minnesotans decorates the hotel's 17 poshly appointed suites, and meals at the upscale HoDo Restaurant often feature regionally produced and organically grown meats, cheeses and spices.

The rooftop Sky Prairie bar, with heated tiles for year-round enjoyment, also exemplifies the hotel's unique aesthetic. Amid native grasses and plants and a dry rock bed that emulates the Red River Valley, guests can savor their favorite cocktails and relax in the bar's hot tub while taking in views of revitalized downtown Fargo. Or they can simply soak up the sunset.


Pool owner performs a fragrance-free skunk rescue

1107 19d Every so often, Ted Pack of Elmira, N.Y., notices his Kreepy Krauly is running when it's not supposed to. Usually, he just sticks his hand in the skimmer to grab the leaves or whatever else is blocking the water flow, and the vacuum shuts off.

Luckily, Pack decided to look first one time last August, and he discovered a small skunk had found its way into his pool's skimmer. Pack says his yard is hopping with tree frogs, and he suspects the skunk was after one when it fell into the water. He doesn't know how long it was in the pool, but by the time he spotted the skunk, it was quite exhausted from keeping its nose above the water.

Pack called a friend who's also a nuisance- animal remover. "He said, 'Give the skunk confidence, and let it figure out you aren't trying to hurt it,'" says Pack. "So I just put the dip net down there, and the skunk eventually climbed out on her own. But she was stuck in there tight."

After helping the skunk out of the water, Pack set it down and stepped inside his patio while the animal plopped down, panting. A few minutes later, it waddled over to the patio door. "I'm not sure if she was saying 'thank you' or what," says Pack, "but then she ran away."

Because his daughter's dog swims in the pool often, Pack puts what he describes as "something that looks like material for silky underwear" on the skimmer basket, and that keeps the dog hair out of the filter. Fortunately, this material was in place when the skunk fell in because, Pack says, "The skunk panicked and pooped everywhere."

Horsing Around

Equine pool opens in Chicago area

1107 19e Seeing Mister Ed talk on TV is one thing, but what about a half-ton horse swimming laps in a pool? That's all in a day's work for the staff of Wood End Farm in Barrington, Ill., which opened its equine training and therapy pool this past July.

"It's fascinating," says Nicola Birch, a director of Wood End Farm. "[Horses] are like big dogs. Basically, they'll swim around the edge [of the pool], and you'll have two people who run around with a line on the horse's halter and keep even with the horse's head on both sides so that the horse has some direction." The farm, a nonprofit organization, specializes in the care and retraining of retired thoroughbred racehorses. It's located on the 36 acres that used to house Luscious Valley Spa, a standardbred training facility.

After not being used for at least seven years, the 140,000-gallon pool needed some care . . . and a new filter. "This has been a catalogue of some challenges and frustrations in that the manufacturer of the filters we had couldn't find anybody that would be able to supply replacement parts," says Birch. "It took us three months to completely wait for the new filters to come because we had to order some from another supplier."

Caring for the horses' pool isn't much different than caring for a "people pool" says Birch. "By and large, the level of maintenance really depends on the volume of horses you swim. You just have to do a good job of keeping it clean with a pool vac on a really routine basis. And if you do that, most of the time with the upkeep of chlorine, it's not a huge maintenance issue."

However, there are some differences to maintaining the 12-foot-deep equine pool. The pH level doesn't raise as much of a concern as it would in a residential or commercial pool. "The horse is less sensitive than a person in that regard because of its coat," says Birch. And chlorine levels can be kept at the low end of what they'd normally be, as well. The low levels do an effective job, says Birch, because the pool doesn't require the same level of sanitization as a residential or commercial pool. As you can imagine, however, horses do bring their fair share of baggage into the pool.

"Even a clean horse is basically grubby," says Birch. So before and after each swim, the horses get a thorough cleansing. "You don't want to track any unnecessary dirt in the pool if they've been walking around in mud or sand. "After the horses get out of the pool, you have to thoroughly wash them down again. You don't want to have any residual chlorine in the horse's coat." As of right now, Birch and her team maintain the pool without the help of a professional company. "You just have to do as much preventative as you can to stay on top of things," she says.

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