Preventing Condensation at the Demakes Family YMCA Aquatics Facility

By Scott Henriques, PE, LEED AP, CEM

Scott Henriques

Scott Henriques, PE, LEED AP, CEM

To provide a state-of-the-art recreational facility and investment in a growing and changing gateway community on Massachusetts’ North Shore, the YMCA of Metro North recently undertook a multi-pronged modernization project to replace their outmoded YMCA in Lynn. This effort resulted in the construction of the Demakes Family YMCA, a new modern 70,000sf facility that features an elevated track, a gymnasium, several exercise studios, weight and cardio equipment spaces, sauna and steam rooms, a preschool area, cafe, teaching kitchen, and an aquatics center. The former YMCA building is slated for redevelopment in the next several years as a dedicated Youth and Teen Center.

Much like at other YMCAs around the country, the pool was a major focal point of the Demakes Family YMCA modernization. In this case, the aquatics facility was an 8,700sf, 2-story natatorium with lap and teaching pools and a splash pad. Project architect Maugel Architects of Harvard, Mass. retained Weston & Sampson to provide mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection services (MEP/FP) for the new pool project.

Most natatoriums have a substantial amount of window glazing, and like with other indoor pools in New England, one of the biggest challenges is a build-up of condensation of the moist indoor air on the cool glass surfaces during the winter months. In extreme cases, excess condensation can “rain” within the pool area. Condensation build-up is not just an aesthetic issue, it can also increase the risk of airborne mold particles and lead to health problems. Mold can also find its way into the structure of the building, causing premature deterioration.

The solution to prevent condensation from forming requires a multi-disciplined, coordinated approach. The most insulative 3-pane window assemblies will not prevent the glass surface temperature from dropping below the dewpoint, nor will blowing hot air on a 2-pane assembly. To prevent excess condensation and provide a healthy pool environment, Maugel Architects designed the natatorium with super-insulated glass and Weston & Sampson provided a highly engineered HVAC system capable of blowing hot air down the fenestration to the natatorium deck 26 feet below. Providing the correct wall of hot air to “wash” the windows required careful application of high air flow diffusers, corrected for the downward “throw” of hot air. The proper application of the ductwork velocity was also critical to the throw performance of the diffusers. The solution was a success, and the pool windows at the Demakes Family YMCA did not experience any condensation build-up during the first winter of operation in 2020-2021.

Our design also included seamlessly integrating the MEP and fire protection systems into the building’s unique architecture using a high efficiency, gas-fired condensing boiler plant that provides heat to the building and is integrated into the pool’s water heating system.

The result is an attractive, functional, and healthy aquatics facility that remains dry and causes no undue moisture build-up.

Scott Henriques, PE, LEED AP, CEM is a senior project manager at Weston & Sampson. 

This article was originally published in High Profile magazine, January 2022.

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