In life, from early childhood conversations, during schooling and throughout my career, I have been taught that one of the best ways to increase revenues is by cutting costs. On the surface it made perfect sense, so I tried to apply the advice whenever I could. As time has progressed, I have come to appreciate one important lesson, summarized by the following quote:
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
The author of that quote was none other than Benjamin Franklin. I have learned many lessons (aka made mistakes) from trying to apply the “cost-cutting” advice. In order to help others not make the same mistakes, I want to share with you one way where you can really increase your revenues by NOT cutting costs up front. What am I talking about? I am referring to the importance of designing and engineering your waterpark in a way that maximizes savings on maintenance, chemicals, water, repairs, and much more.
Importance of Value Engineering
A colleague is often quoted as saying, “value engineering is just a fancy way of saying someone screwed up.” The term Value Engineering is usually understood to mean taking things out of a design to reduce costs. Value engineering is really about increasing the value brought to the project by improving the function or reducing the cost of something without sacrificing quality. The goal is to increase the value of a project and maximize the return on investment. Maximum value is only attained when the desired function can perform in a reliable way at the lowest cost, which really equals out to more profit. When used effectively, Value Engineering can help lead to significant savings, but more importantly, significant quality, reliability and function. Value Engineering really means that the design decisions add long lasting value to a project, and not just make it cheaper to build.
What does this have to do with designing and building a waterpark? Everything. There are many things you can do to increase the short and long-term value of your facility. Here are just three examples of ways you can increase your profit drastically over time by doing a little more investment up front.
- Use better filtrations systems
- Use ozone as your secondary sanitation system
- Install variable-frequency drives (VFD’s)
Unfortunately, these items are often some of the first things to be cut from a project to “save” costs. Let’s discuss each of them briefly.
Cloudy pool water is a turnoff for guests, and is always an indication that the treatment system isn’t doing what it’s supposed to. Filtration is a critical part of the system and must be carefully selected and designed for each specific pool application. The most common filters in the pool industry are high rate sand filters. These have served the industry well for decades and do a great job. In recent years, regenerative media filters have made an appearance in the market and the results have been truly outstanding. These filters do cost more than sand filters to purchase, but the additional cost is quickly offset by some significant gains.
Regenerative media filters can remove particles down to one (1) micron. Sand filters will get down to 5-10 microns. Not only will regenerative media filters remove more particulates from the water, but one (1) micron is small enough to actually capture cryptosporidium cysts. Regenerative media filters require approximately 20% less pressure differential to operate, reducing power consumption and lowering utility bills. Regenerative media filters use a fraction of the water that sand filters use to backwash – typically saving 90% or more on backwash water. This not only saves on water consumption, but also saves the chemicals and heat that would otherwise be flushed down the drain with that water. In new facilities, this can directly lead to less expensive sewer systems as they can be designed for less flow. These filters also have a smaller footprint, which can result in smaller mechanical spaces.
Several studies have shown that when compared to traditional sand filters, regenerative media filters will typically pay for themselves in two to four (2 – 4) years. The specific utility rates and construction costs for each project, along with operating season, are what determine your specific payback period. As with all products, not all regenerative media filters are created equal. Be sure to do your homework and invest the money to get the best product for your project. The investment will pay off very quickly.
When we consider that water is your most important asset, it becomes abundantly clear that investing adequate capital on water sanitation is paramount. Aquarium Life Support Systems use the most dependable water treatment technologies available to keep the animals healthy and the water clear for good underwater viewing. After all, if the water treatment system at the aquarium goes down, animals die. These systems have to be robust! Some of the lessons learned in the aquarium industry are easily applied to pools with great success – and without significant added cost. Just like in aquariums, proper water quality control and chemical balance are crucial to pool health. However, keep in mind that great technology cannot compensate for poor maintenance or control systems.
Ozone technology is a critical component to keeping aquarium tanks healthy and clean. While not new, ozone can be very successfully utilized in swimming pools, as it is the most powerful oxidizer and sanitizer available. The result of a system using ozone is safe and crystal clear water without the common itching and burning that often accompanies swimming. While ultraviolet light (UV) is being utilized more in commercial pools, it is not the most effective, nor necessarily the least expensive method of sanitizing pools. Unlike UV sanitizing methods, water turbidity (clarity) is not a factor with ozone’s effectiveness. Ozone physically interacts with the organic and inorganic particulates within the water. If turbidity is an issue, ozone helps improve water clarity through micro-flocculation of organics. Neither UV nor ozone will replace chlorine as neither system will leave a residual oxidizer in the pool water. These systems must be used in conjunction with chlorine.
Much like other treatment processes, when ozone is sized and installed appropriately, it adds many benefits that can help a facility achieve superior water quality. Ozone acts as a high-level oxidizer which can eliminate chloramines and the need to “shock” a pool. Ozone can reduce the use of chlorine and acid by as much as 40 – 60 percent. Because ozone reacts so quickly, it will kill micro-organisms and oxidize organics in the water before the chlorine can really get going. Chlorine is then free to remain in the water as a residual oxidizer without getting used up so quickly. In turn, you spend much less on chemicals and treatment and increase your profits. Even more importantly, water cleanliness is top notch and you have happy and healthy customers who want to return to your facility over and over again.
About a third of the world’s electrical energy is used up by motors of various types that have fixed speeds. With a plethora of pumps and machinery running your waterpark, electrical costs can add up very quickly. This is why we highly recommend investing in variable-frequency drives (VFDs). They are very effective on pump motors and can be another huge source of energy savings. These devices allow pumps to operate more efficiently, lowering the electricity usage demands. The technology has been around for a long time, but the prices of the devices have been coming down, making them more feasible even on small projects.
To demonstrate the value of VFD’s, let me share the experience of an award-winning indoor waterpark facility. This facility had VFD’s designed into the project in the beginning, but for a variety of reasons, the VFD’s were “value-engineered” out. At around three years of operation, they retroactively decided to put the devices on eight pumps at a cost of less than $2,650 average per pump. The savings in just the first year of installation exceeded the costs significantly and saved them an average of $4,350 per pump per year. Looking back, the amount of savings (profits) that could have been realized had VFD’s been installed as originally planned is considerable. These types of numbers are not unique, but can be a real expectation of savings when you utilize this technology in your facility.
There are a couple of other things that can be of great benefit as you embark on the journey of building a destination that people will love. Besides what was already mentioned, three other things are vital to help reduce costs and increase profits over the long run: 1) good design, 2) high-quality equipment and 3) reputable construction and installation. You should choose your design/engineering team, architects, and contractors by looking at the quality of their work and the longevity of their products. The quote from Benjamin Franklin is very applicable – don’t select the least expensive option based on price alone. The lowest price is often not the best value. In reality, quality of service and product will always cost less in the end. Those three things will help minimize the risk of a poor quality installation that often leads a facility to spend a lot of unnecessary time and money in operations, repairs and maintenance. If properly designed and installed, your facility will operate efficiently with minimal maintenance for many years, increasing guest satisfaction and putting dollars in your pocket.
It is clear that the idea of cutting costs does not always bring the best value. The real-life lessons I’ve learned have taught me that when it comes to getting the most value for your money and having the long-term success you desire, true Value Engineering should be a vital component to your overall plan.
Go check out this article in the World Waterpark Association’s Waterpark Development & Expansion Guide 2013-2014 http://www.waterparks.org/other_pub.asp?itemId=17