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Keeping cool

Green water park recycles heat in Eau Claire

Photos courtesy of Mark Steil
Photos courtesy of Mark Steil

Green means more than saving the environment to Chaos Waterpark owner Mark Steil.

He said the extra $500,000 he invested in his park’s innovative
heating and ventilation system reduces energy consumption — and his
bottom line.

“We budgeted about $35,000 a month for energy, and we’re paying about half that,” Steil said.

He credited those savings to the design work of Ramaker &
Associates Inc., which tied the Eau Claire water park’s mechanical
systems to the attached Metropolis Hotel.

“They suggested I could be very green, and it would pay if I used
the waste heat in my rooms to heat the water park,” Steil said.

Ramaker engineered systems that reduce heat, water and chemical consumption.

“A water park is certainly a big heat sink,” said Jim Schwingle, project manager at Ramaker.

Room and water temperatures hover around 82 degrees year-round, he
said. When excessive heat builds up in the hotel — from large
gatherings of people, kitchen operations and computer use — exchangers
send that heat to the water park pools. Normally, that excessive heat
would be dumped to the outside air in a cooling tower.

“To tie all that together was kind of a trick,” Schwingle said. “This is the first system done like this in Wisconsin.”

Ramaker, which has designed numerous water parks, including The
Springs Waterpark at Country Springs Hotel in Waukesha, had proposed
the advanced heat-recycling system to other clients, but no one was
willing to try it, Schwingle said.

“You have to have that certain person who is really looking for the
long term and is willing to invest that money upfront,” he said.

The system employed at Chaos Waterpark will be paid off in about four years, Schwingle said.

Ramaker used such other sustainable elements at the park as
regenerative filters that consume less water than traditional sand
filters and air-handling systems that reduce ventilation based on how
crowded the park is.

And instead of the traditional concrete flooring, Steil persuaded
the state health department to approve the first use in Wisconsin of a
foam-type flooring made in Minnesota. Authorities had to be convinced
it would not cause bacteria problems, he said.  The extra work was
worth it, Steil said, as no children have slipped or been injured,
which cut his insurance rate in half.

“Now that there’s been approval for this flooring system,” Schwingle said, “I’m sure we’re going to see it used again.”

Chaos WaterparkLocation: Eau Claire

Submitting company:
Ramaker & Associates Inc., Sauk City

General Contractor:
Mark Steil Builders, Eau Claire

River Valley Architects Inc., Menomonie

Ramaker & Associates Inc.

Mark Steil, Tom Hahn and Kerry Kjelstad

Project size:
27,280 square feet

Project cost:
$4 million

Start date:
November 2008

Completion date:
May 2009

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