While plans are moving ahead for building the new community pool, both the City Council and various citizen groups say they want to make sure the project is as environmentally friendly as possible.
The council on Monday unanimously approved issuing a “request for qualifications / proposals” for professionals to tackle architectural, engineering, planning and design work for the Piedmont Community Pool Project. Essentially, this is the formal call for professionals to express interest in working on the pool project.
But that 5-0 council approval was preceded by a robust discussion of whether Piedmont is shooting high enough to ensure the pool project meets the city’s ambitious environmental goals, including “net zero energy” developments in which — ideally — a project generates as much energy as it consumes.
Vice Mayor Tim Rood asked why the city’s Climate Action Plan, and its goals, are not mentioned once in the lengthy, detailed RFP/Q document. Several Piedmont residents called in to Monday’s meeting to bring up that same point.
Alice Sung said she favors that the pool project be powered entirely by electricity, including heating the pool water, a job that has traditionally relied on natural gas. Sung said all-electric projects are the “wave of the future.”
“We’d be remiss if we built a new pool with gas power,” Sung said.
Margaret Ovenden told the council it would be “unconscionable” for the pool project to use fossil fuels to any significant extent. “It’s the worst legacy that we can leave for our kids,” she said.
Moira Chapman agreed. “We really need to take the long view,” said Chapman, saying it would be sad if in the year 2035 local officials regretted the choice to go all out going green.
The expense of electricity compared to gas
George Samen, Griffin Structures’ project manager for the Piedmont pool project, said heating swimming pool water with electricity is far more expensive — by several fold — than if natural gas is used. It is possible to heat a pool electrically, he said, but it could make the Piedmont pool project prohibitively expensive.
And building an aquatic facility that is “net zero energy” would be a massive undertaking, Samen said. No such pool facility exists in the United States or Canada, said Samen, who said he wasn’t sure that is even possible. Swimming pools, he added, are typically “energy hogs.”
RFP first — then figure out how to make it environmentally friendly
Some council members seemed frustrated Monday night that a swimming pool project that would fit in well with the city’s ambitious Climate Action Plan will be a difficult and/or expensive proposition. One of them was Betsy Smegal Andersen, who said the best course of action now is not to hash out such details now, but to get that RFP/Q document out there and seek qualified professionals to help get the project moving along. The hope is for the new pool to open in Summer 2024.
The RFP/Q document says one specific goal of the pool project is that it achieves LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Certification, a high rating for green building. Samen said further specific requirements can be formulated by the city working with the professionals chosen to be part of the pool project — those that successfully respond to the RFP/Q document.
Benoit agreed, noting that the RFP/Q document is not the same as a contract, and that there’s time and opportunity ahead for the city to formalize its wishes with the various subcontractors.
Said Councilwoman Conna McCarthy, “This isn’t the end of it — there are opportunities for this discussion to go forward.”
Samen said Piedmont can make its new pool as green as technology allows. “Are the citizens of Piedmont willing to foot the bill?”
Or as Benoit put it, “It’s one thing if you can do it — it’s another thing whether you can afford it.”
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