Premier Fitness John Cardillo: Engineering Aquatics Centres

john cardillo aquatics centre

By Paul Jonas

Building Premier Fitness John Cardillo realized the importance of including state of the art aquatic centres within each club. He also designed each indoor pool facility with state of the art air dehumidification systems to control the room temperature and air quality.  John Cardillo, Premier Fitness,  who became one of Canada’s largest fitness club chains discuss their aquatic design approach.

Having visited John Cardillo Premier Fitness’ prototype fitness club is indicative of why they have become one Canada’s best fitness club  chains and were voted  “Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies,” an award by National Post newspaper and the accounting firm of  Deloitte.

John Cardillo says “fitness gyms avoid  expensive aquatic rooms,  Premier Fitness  decided to make its 6,000 square foot aquatics room a showcase in our new 55,000 sq ft Ritson Road Oshawa club”.

The fitness industry has fitness operators that take the inexpensive route when it comes to building their aquatic centres by not installing humidification handling equipment required for air quality that is comfortable. Instead of investing in  “green” commercial dehumidifiers for heat recovery, many fitness club owners cut corners on expenses by installing inefficient conventional make-up air systems that exhaust the  humid warm pool air outside. “In an aquatic room the temperature should be at least  84˚F along with the temperature of the pool water. The humidity should be at most 50%, or else members won’t enroll in aquatic programs in a commercial fitness club” said John Cardillo, Premier Fitness CEO.

This erroneous philosophy can be characterized as the “pay later” strategy where gym owners invest little upfront capital on dehumidifying equipment in the beginning, and then pay exorbitant monthly operational costs throughout the  life of the HVA equipment, as energy costs rise. “Exhausting the heat and moist air outside is costly, not wise and environmentally irresponsible”, Cardillo added.

Instead, Premier Fitness John Cardillo and his building team have been advocates of  pool dehumidification systems  for its energy-saving advantages. John Cardillo also  uses 2 dehumidifiers for his own home’s indoor pool. Contrary to the philosophy of “pay later”, Cardillo’s pool dehumidification strategy is “to pay now.” The upfront cost of the green dehumidification system is costly compared to the inefficient HVAC exhaust equipment. However l, the savings received  from lower operating costs and higher efficiency green system results in a payback over 3 years. After 3 years, the savings continue for the life of the equipment while Canadian energy  costs/bills continue escalating. “After the 3 year payback period, Premier Fitness will reap thousands of dollars in saved costs by using a heat dehumidifier recovery system for the next 20-30 years,” said Jeff Kimble  an environmental engineer, in Mississauga, Ontario.

The Oshawa Premier Fitness location invested in a DRY-O-TRON® model DS-162, built  by Dectron Inc., Montreal, Quebec, for heat recovery dehumidification to maintain a 50% humidity while at the same time heating/cooling the aquatics room. Humidity control is important because the 1,400 square foot zero entry family pool and 1,800 square foot Olympic style lap pool are in the same room as the 140 square foot whirlpool. The aquatics room Aldo has a 60-foot long water slide, and a water umbrella that is 6 feet in diameter.  “ My Premier Fitness club can easily compete against the local community center or YMCA, therefore the investment of at least $1 million into the aquatic room makes economic sense for the future,” said John Cardillo who estimated the Oshawa Premier Fitness aquatics room cost $1.3 million.

“Fitness club aquatic areas are typically small and lack the adequate dehumidification equipment for air comfort,” Ludovit Hudec, principal, LH Consultants Ltd., North York, Ontario Premier Fitness consulting engineer. “but this facility is comparable to any YMCA or community aquatic facility in size and IAQ.”

Besides air indoor comfort, the dehumidification  system is an important  part of Premier’s monthly operational savings. Heat from the dehumidification process is recovered and used to provide free water heating year-round. While an invisible attribute, Premier Fitness dehumidification system offers a visual aesthetic in the new state of the art location because it also keeps the entrance lobby’s 50-foot long, 20-foot high wall of windows sparkling clear of condensation for a beautiful view of the aquatics room.

Certainly the state-of-the-art dehumidification equipment systems are costly and can tie up budgets for such an expansion-minded fitness club chain that grows by one location every 4 months. Therefore, instead of purchasing outright the DRY-O-TRON system , Cardillo leases this rather expensive equipment.

Premier Fitness stands to reap operational savings from the DRY-O-TRON heat recovery equipment; however John Cardillo is considering even more green energy savings. Such as a  thermal pool blanket to retain and reduce water evaporation by ninety percent during unoccupied periods. A nightly setback thermometer and air shutoff during unoccupied periods will cut room ventilation and heating requirements by twenty percent during periods when the room is unoccupied.

With its energy saving program, John Cardillo Premier Fitness  Oshawa location will be a prototype for future clubs and a state of the art cutting edge for public aquatic  facilities to emulate.

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