Saturday, March 22, 2008

Alternatives to the bubble

At some recent Council meetings, I've been advocating the view of the Energy Commission and, what I believe is, the view of much of Cheshire... the pool bubble wastes too much energy and money. And if America is serious about conserving energy (Clinton, McCain and Obama all seem to talk about it), then we're going to have to take steps at the local level... not just at the federal level.

So in an effort to move past the bubble... on the way home from work yesterday (exit 56 on the Merritt), I finally stopped to see the Milford YMCA. The Milford Y has gotten some attention here in Cheshire due to their former use of a "bubble" for their pool... a bubble which was eventually replaced with a permanent structure designed and built by OpenAire of Canada. (For a view of the OpenAire structure in Milford, see here.)

But that's been described as the "Cadillac" of permanent structures for pools. And I certainly am not advocating Cheshire move in that direction. I'm just offering it as part of a broader dialogue.

Anyway, I was writing a post on the pool, then realized a much better approach to this would be to simply use the report prepared by Energy Commissioner Dave Gavin... but I'm going to break it down into pieces, starting here:

What's wrong with the bubble?

- large surface area and volume, low R value <2
- air-supported, requires lots of hot air
- more than 20% escapes as “leaks”
- inefficient blower exchanges the equivalent of 2 Cheshire colonial houses of hot air per minute
- high humidity leads to corrosion and fouling problems
- aesthetics and ambiance
- significantly lower non-summer attendance
- $40k (up and down) and 2 weeks downtime per year

So that's the first two pages of Dave's report. I'll continue providing more of it over the next week or two... and based on my conversation with Matt Hall a few days ago and with Dave Gavin today... I have hope that we will be able to move forward with this... because, while I'm comfortable making it a summer-only facility, others aren't... and I don't want to get to the point when we can't use the bubble and we still haven't even considered any alternatives. That really would be the equivalent of sticking our heads in the sand. And that would be unacceptable.

Tim White
Town Council, Energy Commission liaison


Anonymous said...

Great job posting this information from the Energy Commission's Pool Report. I watched the meeting where they presented their report and it seemed very well prepared and seemed to present several alternatives to the "bubble." So why the TC couldn't move forward when you presented your motion for an RFI is still inexcusable to me.

I hope Mr. Altieri reads your blog because maybe then he'll realize how the people of Cheshire feel - stop wasting $425,000/year on the pool! Do something, please!

Tim, Are you going to post a summary of the budget meeting that reviewed the BOE's requested budget? I hope you can before the next public hearing.

Tim White said...

I'll try to do something on the school budget. But in a nutshell, much of the conversation was focused on infrastructure and the creation of an infrastructure budget for the schools.

So I pointed out that such a fund (Capital non-recurring) already exists.

I think what was frustrating for me was when Matt Altieri made some comment about how the town ignores maintenance and operations for the schools. But the reality is different from the rhetoric.

For years the schools have poured their year-end surpluses (usually $100,000's) into maintenance. But since the schools don't discuss that much... we hear comments about ignoring our school infrastructure.

Bill said...

The Milford Y did their homework, due diligence and made their decision based on revenue generation. Their choice was either close the facility or fix it. They did not hire a pool consultant, they met with their users. After the changes they were rewarded with an energy reduction of 70% and an increase of member ship of a bit over 300%. In the case of Cheshire if we reduced our energy by 50% and doubled membership the pool would be cash flow positive and would pay for the improvements.

Anonymous said...

Do it once
Do it right
Look at lifecycle cost, not front end cost

Anonymous said...

Take a slogan from Nike "Just do it". The longer we wait the more it will cost both in the current operation and future building costs. What is the problem?

Anonymous said...

Just do it? Great idea. Let's spend more of the tax payers money on the pool! I realize that Tim is going in the right direction but this thing is a joke! Who is going to explain to me about the $1,000,000 + dollars that have been spent on a bad design? The pool should be closed or we should slam a "FOR SALE" sign in front of it. Enough is enough!

Anonymous said...

Who's going to buy it? There are many people who would come out of the woodwork to make sure it doesn't close. So the next best thing is to cut our losses and build something that is self suporting because of energy savings etc. I don't want to spend my tax money on this, but we have no choice.

Anonymous said...

"FUBAR" is a great example of the "sunk cost fallacy"..."we have to get something out of our past investment even if it failed."

The Bubble should be written off. Since public policy in town is now tied to a year round swimming facility (a government program equates to immortality) , let's get one at the lowest net lifecycle cost to the town. Forget stupid aesthetics and wishful thinking revenue projections; lets be functional for a change