The National Pool Industry Research Center is expanding its facility to broaden the testing it can offer.

This new phase involves adding a free-standing swimming pool to the current setup, which will allow NPIRC to take on more research projects, or protocols.

“We want to enhance the scope of research that is done there,” says Greg Garrett, chairman of NPIRC’s Advisory Board. “We’re getting more and more requests for independent research that can’t be done because of the way our existing pools are configured.”

The center was established in 2003 on the campus of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and includes 12 pools, two spas and two pool/spa combinations.

The expansion also will enable certain types of studies to be completed that currently aren’t possible with the original pools, which were built inground and share walls.

The center itself and most testing to date have been funded by the National Plasterers Council. Because of this, the original pools were built primarily to test finishing materials and the chemistry that affects them. With the new vessel, other parts of the industry can be served.

“I believe we will become the research institute for the entire swimming pool industry,” says Damian Kachlakev, director of NPIRC and a professor of civil engineering at Cal Poly. “I believe this is good for everybody.”

The center already is headed in that direction as it prepares to embark on a research project for the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association. The study hasn’t started, so Kachlakev couldn’t discuss the details.

One main objective for the new pool is enabling it to accommodate manufacturers that have requested testing of their hydraulic components. NPIRC plans to construct the new vessel so that many of its hydraulic elements can be removed and replaced.

“The current pools are all shotcreted in place, so they don’t really have the configuration to do that, unless you jackhammer and tear up structures,” Garrett says.

To accomplish this, the NPIRC board expects the new vessel to sit above the ground, with much or all of the plumbing exposed.

Additionally, Garrett says, the pool will probably have at least one vanishing edge, so various finishing materials and waterproofing membranes can be tested simultaneously for long-term adhesion.

NPIRC officials also are planning a hot tub chamber for testing the efficiency of spas, which the group hopes to have completed by the end of the year.

“[We’re envisioning something] the size of a small room,” Kachlakev says. “The idea is to separate the spa from the external environment and measure the energy exchange between this controlled environment inside the chamber and outside.”

Looking beyond this expansion, Kachlakev says NPIRC may grow in the future to accommodate, among other things, studies to find ways to use home air-conditioning units to heat pools and pool water to cool homes. This research most likely would be funded by energy companies or government agencies, he adds.