The YMCA of Greater Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., operates 15 locations—11 branches and four full-day child-care centers—ranging in size from 50,000 sq ft to more than 70,000 sq ft built over the last century. While the facilities may vary in size and age, they are designed, constructed, and operated to high standards of energy efficiency and indoor-air quality (IAQ).
“Good indoor-air quality is very important,” Kevin Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Eastside Family YMCA in Penfield, N.Y., said. “Our members are quick to note if there is a problem.”
Wherever there are people, carpeting, furniture, and cleaning chemicals, there are pollutants. In some respects, the effects of pollutants are heightened in fitness centers because occupants are breathing heavily during workouts and inhaling more air through their mouths; this air foregoes the filters in the nose and travels deeper into the lungs. Also at fitness centers, there is a risk of mold growth and odor from sweaty garments and towels in locker rooms and from moist air emanating from swimming areas.
Mitigating odors and air-quality hazards associated with fitness centers requires diligence and careful planning. For example, the Eastside Family YMCA, the newest and largest branch in the Rochester association, opens at 5 a.m. and closes at 10:30 p.m. on weekdays. After hours, cleaning crews work to refresh the space, while ventilation operates 24/7 to keep the facility fresh and odor-free.
For these modern fitness centers, steps to ensure a clean and healthy environment began long before occupancy, with the specification of HVAC solutions during the construction or renovation phase.
High Ventilation Rates = High IAQ
Exhausting contaminated air and continually replacing it with fresh outdoor air is an effective method of maintaining a healthy indoor environment. The drawback is increased heating and cooling costs related to replacing the exhausted air. Facilities can marginalize the increased cost with an energy-recovery-ventilation (ERV) solution, which can reduce outdoor-air energy costs by up to 80 percent.
All branches of the YMCA of Greater Rochester use ERV systems to overcome the challenges presented by Rochester’s cold winters and hot, humid summers. For new installations, the association leadership team prefers Airxchange wheels, Christopher Marks, vice president of properties, said.
“Airxchange wheels have proven reliable in multiple buildings over a number of years,” Marks said. “We will specify Airxchange wheels in all buildings that utilize an ERV.”
Including ERVs during construction or renovation allows HVAC-system designers to specify smaller and more efficient heating and cooling units, reducing upfront cost and enabling the high ventilation rates that provide clean, healthy air.
At the Eastside Family YMCA, which has been recognized by the national YMCA as a “Top Ten” building in the United States, the child-watch, gymnasium, locker-room, and community spaces are ventilated using energy-recovery wheels as part of the commercial unitary rooftop system.
“In the eight years since this HVAC system was installed, there have been no maintenance issues, and system reliability has been excellent,” Fitzpatrick said.
The energy-recovery performance of the Airxchange wheels has resulted in them being specified for a 35,000-sq-ft addition to the Eastside Family YMCA that is under way. When the addition is completed, the facility will be a total of 105,000 sq ft, which will make it the largest branch in the region.
The Choice of System Designers
According to the principal engineers who designed the addition to the Eastside Family YMCA, Kathleen VanderZwaag and Casey Bernhard of Rochester-based architecture, engineering, planning, and consulting firm LaBella Associates, because of the project’s many energy-saving measures, the facility was awarded rebates from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
At the Eastside Family YMCA, LaBella Associates chose to pretreat incoming outside air with energy recovery to raise the temperature of the air on a winter design day, reducing the load on the gas heat exchangers.
Clean, Inviting Facilities
The YMCA of Greater Rochester’s buildings are bright, airy, and inviting family destinations, thanks to a proactive approach to building design and maintenance that serves as a shining example for any fitness center.
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