Feature Article - May/June 2006
Find a printable version here

Undercover Operations

With proper planning, adding a pool enclosure can boost patronage and profits

By Dawn Klingensmith

Pleasant under glass

If putting a pool in an old Piggly Wiggly lacks appeal and conventional construction is out of your price range, prefabricated see-through enclosures with retractable roofs can be an attractive option that not only offers permanence but also the added bonus of an outdoorsy feel.

"Basically, they look like greenhouses," Mendioroz says, adding that their cost, at $100 to $150 per square foot for a top-quality system, is less likely to elicit a cry for smelling salts.

Designed specifically to withstand harsh pool conditions, these systems are composed of a corrosion-resistant extruded aluminum frame, roof panels made of clear or tinted polycarbonate, and glass wall panels. The glazed components come with UV filters to block out harmful ultraviolet rays.

"They ship you all the parts, and you assemble it on site, like a big Erector Set," Mendioroz says. "It's kind of cool."

These systems also feature a thermal break design, which means inside parts are separated from outside parts by a low-conductive material that reduces the transfer of cold and heat, thereby preventing condensation caused by an indoor-outdoor temperature difference. Due in part to this feature, prefabricated pool enclosures are suitable for all types of climates, from sunny Los Angeles to snowy Alaska, although the venting requirements will differ from one climate to another.

Several configurations and roof types are available, including gable, hip, shed and offset ridge. Walls can be solid or made of glass with banks of sliding doors.

On blue-sky days, the roof and walls can be opened to create an outdoor pool environment, complete with direct sunlight and warm summer breezes. In cold or inclement weather, the roof and walls can be closed up tight with no threat of inducing cabin fever.

When the Almaden Valley Athletic Club Swim School in San Jose, Calif., opted to enclose its instruction pool six years ago so it could offer lessons year-round, the promise of a retractable roof is what got Davis, the program's director, on board. It was as clear to her as anyone that offering lessons year-round would be preferable to the seasonal program AVAC had kept in place for nearly 40 years.

"It was frustrating to make progress with kids over three or four months and then have to stop in September," she says. For the next seven months, the kids would have no access to a pool.

"So when they'd come back the next summer, instead of building on the skills they learned, you'd have to start all over again," she adds.

However, Davis—who grew up swimming competitively and spent countless hours at indoor pools where the reek of chlorine was like an assault—was somewhat wary of the proposed construction.

"I was concerned about dank; I was concerned about smelly; I was concerned about that awful closed-in feeling," she says, until a striking glass enclosure with an operable roof was settled upon.