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Vol. LXIV, No. 34
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
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Environmental Commission Applauds Pool Proposal and Supports Renovation

Ellen Gilbert

“The proposed plan has the potential to be a model of environmentally sensitive development for the municipalities, and to showcase by example how to build in a way that is minimally invasive to the environment,” said Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) Chair Matthew Wasserman in a recent memo sent to Director Lee Solow and members of Princeton Township Committee and Borough Council. “We commend the Recreation Department for its efforts to use the most efficient pool equipment available,” noted the memo.

The conclusions of the memo were based on the PEC’s review of the plans proposed by Brandstetter Carroll, Architects and Engineers for the Municipal Pool Complex as of August 12. “I think it’s going to be an ongoing process,” said Mr. Wasserman when asked about subsequent changes in the pool complex proposal. “Jack [Roberts, Recreation Department Executive Director] sits in on PEC meetings, so there will be input all along the way.”

The PEC’s scheduled meeting, on Wednesday, August 25, has been cancelled; its next meeting is at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 22.

“The PEC supports the proposed renovation of the Community Park Pool complex in order to make it a safe haven for summertime recreation and enjoyment,” said the memo, which was also sent to members of the Princeton Site Plan Review Advisory Committee, the Princeton Shade Tree Commission, and the Princeton Township Board of Zoning Adjustment. “The existence of a public pool complex demonstrates a commitment to public health and welfare, and the particular location of this complex, within walking and biking distance of the most densely populated areas of our community, is in itself a major contributing factor in the sustainability of the project.”

With respect to renewable energy, the memo commended the Recreation Department and the architectural firm “for paring down the original proposed plan to a scale that is more suitable to the site.”

It especially commended plans to install an array of 250 photovoltaic panels on the roof of the building containing the bath house and concession stand. “This would be the first municipal building to use solar power, and would demonstrate to the community that the governing bodies are serious about lowering carbon emissions,” noted the memo. “Additionally, it would be a model project that could be used for educational purposes by the school district.”

A question posed by the PEC is whether or not the amount of installed solar electrical production would be prohibited from exceeding the energy demand of the facility where the panels are being installed. “If that rule would limit the number of panels that can be installed,” said the PEC, “then we would want to include other township buildings in the calculation.”

“Strongly” encouraging Township Committee and Borough Council “to consider life cycle costs and Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s) when debating the purchase of the array,” the PEC pointed out that, according to the architectural firm’s consulting engineer, the estimated cost of the array is $373,780. “Over the course of 15 years total savings in energy costs would be $437,350. In this era of climate change and rising energy costs, using a clean source of energy that will help reduce energy costs is a win-win proposal for pool users, taxpayers, and municipal budgets.” 

Addressing the question of whether or not the entire new facility would be air-conditioned — a point that has needed clarification at recent municipal meetings — the PEC noted that “there will be a mechanical system to control air temperature only in one portion of the proposed complex. That portion contains the ticket office, first aid room, lifeguard room, and meeting room. We believe that installing environmental controls in this portion of building is reasonable.”

Some caution was expressed with regard to the Recreation Department’s interest in allowing off-season use of a proposed meeting room. This “should be carefully evaluated in light of the increased burden of heating this space,” observed the memo.

“The proposed use of clerestories [high windows above eye level that bring outside light and fresh air] at the perimeter of spaces is another good strategy for getting natural light into rooms,” said the PEC. Members expressed reservations, however, about the proposed addition of overall exterior lights to the complex, which would enable the space to be used after 8 p.m. “While we understand the rationale behind the desire to produce more revenue for the complex, we believe that there may be lower energy-impact methods of lighting the space for evening events that may also produce a more aesthetically pleasing outcome.” The PEC recommended “examining the use of lower profile, solar-powered lights for the exterior, as opposed to pole-mounted lights,” and requested a lighting plan for the complex that shows “what daylighting measures are being taken and what supplemental lighting is required.”

Observing that while “the proposed plan’s footprint seems to decrease in size, it does contain concrete pavement at the pool decks as well as an increase in the parking footprint.” The PEC asked for data reflecting the need for additional parking, as well as an information session with the architectural firm that would compare and contrast the use of pervious vs. impervious pavement on pool decks as well as the parking lot.

Other PEC requests included the use of Water Sense-labeled faucets and toilets; formaldehyde-free, local wood species in building materials; organic lawn care of pool grounds; and that the site’s trees “be preserved to the maximum extent possible, and that additional shade trees be planted as needed.”

The memo also expressed the hope that concession stand operators would be “attuned to the community’s interest in having healthy food choices available, including milk, juices with no fructose corn syrup, whole grain breads, etc., and that they market these healthier choices for the benefit of residents.”

Overall, proposed pool plans received high marks from the PEC. “In conclusion,” said the memo, “we applaud the Recreation Department for its initial steps in terms of long term sustainability of the pool complex, and we look forward to the architectural firm’s responses to the questions and concerns we have raised, and to working with the Recreation Department to make the pool complex as environmentally innovative as possible.” 

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