Kalamazoo College Natatorium Wins Innovation Award For Sustainable Design

We’re thrilled to share the Kalamazoo College Natatorium has received the USGBC West Michigan Chapter’s Innovation Award! The USGBC’s Innovative Project Award is designed to honor projects that break the mold of standard building construction, design, and operations. The projects in question exemplify innovation and astute practices that reflect the goals of U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan (USGBCWM)’s programs. The Innovative Project winner was chosen this year by a vote between USGBC Board members and Staff.

The new Natatorium opened its doors to the school’s swim and dive teams, as well as the community, in the fall of 2021. The original Kalamazoo College natatorium was constructed in 1968 and housed a six-lane, 25-yard pool that no longer satisfied the College’s growing athletic program. The facility also suffered from poor ventilation and maintenance Issues. TowerPinkster worked with Kalamazoo College to design a replacement natatorium that includes a NCAA competition-compliant pool with wet offices and classrooms, spectator viewing areas, and locker rooms.

Our team collaborated alongside pool designer Water Technology, Inc. (WTI) to construct the $17 million natatorium. The 28,000 square foot facility includes 10 lanes and a separate diving area. During design and construction the collaborators considered materials, efficient design, and the overall health of the facility’s inhabitants in their sustainable practices.

The typical natatorium smell of chlorine is not present in this facility due to the cutting-edge technology used to keep the air clean. A chloramine evacuator system is installed at the pool perimeter to maintain a healthy indoor environment for swimmers and visitors. The system exhausts chloramine-laden air from the perimeter of the pool to improve the air at the water surface where swimmers breathe. In addition, regenerative filters and ultra-violet (UV) treatment are used to maintain healthy pool water chemistry which reduces the generation of chloramines. In order to provide the healthiest environment for athletes and visitors, the design focused on targeting contaminants at the source through the chloramine evacuator system.

Additionally, the building systems were designed with energy recovery and efficiency methods. The gutter exhaust is also captured for energy recovery to pretreat what ventilation air is provided. Heat recovery is utilized between the pool air distributed through large ducts above the space and pool water in order to reduce heating loads. The dedicated outdoor air units that serve the spectator areas and locker rooms both utilize air-to-air heat exchangers to conserve energy and provide optimized indoor air quality for occupants. Additionally, all areas within the building are monitored and controlled to provide healthy air and operate as efficiently as possible.

Efficiency and overall experience was also considered in the physical design and materials used in the building. The windows to the west and north allow for comfortable light to flow in and connect the users to the outdoors and the rest of campus. Multi-purpose materials were used throughout the building as well. For example, recycled concrete provides both structure and finish. This minimalist approach to expose raw surfaces reduced the number of materials required in the spaces. Where finishes were used, these materials were based on recycled content, sustainable sourcing, and transparent reporting of their content.

“Improving the air quality for athletes and spectators, while also reducing the long-term impact on our environment through sustainable practices,” was the main goal in the construction of this natatorium. This new facility allows K-College to continue to be a competitive space for future swimmers and divers and allows them to schedule higher-quality meets going forward. The project is on track to become LEED certified early next year.

The USGBC-WM Leadership Awards promote outstanding green building initiatives by recognizing projects, organizations, and people who have made extraordinary contributions to achieving healthy, energy-efficient green buildings in the state of Michigan.

“Our built environment should be a conduit to our wellness and vitality. In most cases, an employer’s largest operating cost is its people,” said Cheri Holman, Executive Director of USGBCWM. “Investing in those people by providing them with an indoor environment that is safe, comfortable, and inspiring is a key way to attract and retain a flourishing workforce.”