North Slope Alaska is a unique place that presents unique design challenges for swimming pool projects. Due to the remote nature of most pools in the North Slope, simple tasks like delivering equipment and performing scheduled maintenance can turn into a huge endeavor. These challenges are addressed during design by strategically selecting robust equipment that requires limited maintenance over its expected life. For example, cartridge filters are typically utilized by North Slope pools instead of sand or regenerative media, due to their simplistic design and ease of cleaning. Another helpful design practice is to incorporate remote monitoring into the pool mechanical system. This feature, typically a part of the pool chemistry controller, allows individuals to remotely monitor and even change the pool system characteristics that are in constant flux.
Other obstacles that are involved with North Slope pool design involve limited potable water, challenging soil issues, unreliable power sources, and limited space for mechanical equipment. In many remote areas of the North Slope the simple task of filling a pool can be a challenge due to limited fresh water supply. How the pool is filled and how long it will take to fill is addressed and coordinated early in the design process to prevent any potential issues when the pool is complete and ready to be filled. Unreliable power sources are another common issue often faced on the North Slope. Pool systems can be complex, involve multiple electric components, and require continual operation 24 hours a day to maintain safe conditions for pool users. If the source power to the pool system fails, water circulationand chemical treatment will inevitably stop. Additionally, hard shut downs on the pool equipment can be damaging. While most North Slope installations have backup power to assist during these emergency scenarios, it is still important to thoroughly coordinate electrical design of the pool system and verify that all electric pool components can handle the occasional hard shut down and startup. Strategic placement of check valves is also necessary to control the flow of water when the power goes out as flow from the pool re-circulation pump is lost.
Two additional design obstacles commonly faced on North Slope projects are the difficult soil conditions and lack of space for pool equipment. Due to the unique soil conditions of the North Slope, traditional below grade concrete pool design and construction is not feasible. Construction typically consists of above grade stainless steel pool structures to accommodate the local soil conditions. This method of design and construction is unique and requires special coordination during the design phase that most pool projects in the lower 48 states do not require. The last common issue frequently faced on North Slope projects is a lack of available space for the pool mechanical systems. Construction in the North Slope is very costly, so creative and efficient mechanical room design to maximize space usage is a must.
While challenging, designing pools for the North Slope can be both successful and rewarding with a little bit of forethought and careful planning.