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Show Highlights

Graham and Ashkahn talk about the options available for sustainable options when building a float center, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Unfortunately, the materials necessary to make a float room saltproof and waterproof tend to be very unfriendly for the environment.

The guys break down the specific options available and what to consider when adding green technology to your own center.

Show Resources

In some areas, it can be illegal to collect rain water or heavily restricted. Here is a directory where you can check your local laws before making plans to install one in your center.

Listen to Just the Audio

Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)

Ashkahn: Right.

Graham: Welcome.

Ashkahn: Hey, everybody.

Graham: Greetings.

Ashkahn: This is Ashkahn.

Graham: Salutations.

Ashkahn: This is Ashkahn. I’m Ashkahn.

Graham: Graham, I’m Graham.

Ashkahn: There we go. Great.

Graham: And there is a question for us today, which is “planning out my construction, are there good tips for going green?” Sorry, buddy, all we have on this podcast is bad tips.

Ashkahn: Bad to mediocre.

Graham: Say mediocre at best.

Sure, yeah, yes. But also-

Ashkahn: Also not really. No.

Graham: Float centers are demanding things.

Ashkahn: It’s really unfortunate, cause we-

Graham: It’s sad. It’s sort of a sad thing we got going on here.

Ashkahn: This is a desire I think a lot of people have, and us as well as we want to open up and we hear this from a lot of people as they go into construction. And it’s in a little bit of a tough bind. I think with the floating industry right now.

Graham: No, it’s not our fault or anything, but-

Ashkahn: The problem is we’re struggling to find-

Graham: Anything.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: At all.

Ashkahn: Anything that will hold up. We’ve narrowed the whole world of construction materials down to a very small handful of things that will actually hold up in a float center.

Graham: And they’re mostly terrible for the environment, right? Like the things that hold up to saltwater and that are entirely impermeable or else a very unnatural.

Ashkahn: Yeah. It’s just it’s just tough. When you’re looking into green materials, you’re basically back at square one. You have no idea what you’re looking at in terms of how it’s going to hold the salt or where the failure points are going to be. And very likely you’re probably going to have some problems with it, because even without trying to find green materials, people struggle to find things that hold up against the saltwater.

Graham: Yeah. So, construction wise it does become a little difficult. I mean, the nice thing is you can use, for general framing and a lot of the basic building, you can use reclaimed materials you can try to do your best to make sure that you’re using recycled materials for all of your furniture, for things that are actually going into your lobby, stuff like that, but when it comes time to coat your floors, to tile, to do different things, really it’s a challenge. So, if you’ve had success out there and you’re listening and you’ve used some, even just greener than epoxy or unplasticized PVC or those type of solutions, definitely let us know, especially if you’ve been open for two or three years and it’s just holding up strong.

Because the big problem is that the things that tend to be greener are also, again, a little less toxic and plastic and impermeable. And even if they can hold up well to something, often they do allow this moisture exchange, or they do allow some water getting into the material and that of course with salt would mean the entire thing being exploded and blown all to hell.

Ashkahn: Yeah, I think the best solution I’ve heard of is someone brought up the idea with me of just making your entire room out of salt, and that way the salt actually just adds to the room instead of destroying anything. And this room just continues to get stronger.

Graham: Preferably only salt giants or something as customers, so that as they shower off only salt is being chuffed.

Ashkahn: Yeah. So you could try that.

Graham: I mean, honestly, going into construction, one of the best things you can do is actually choose contractors and professionals who are used to working with green materials, and if you have money extra to spare, definitely finding a green architect to consult with. And really, the thing to do is just to make it incredibly clear that whatever you’re working with inside the float rooms has to be totally impermeable, and especially describing not just that, but the humidity, the moisture, all of that and making sure that what they’re recommending will still hold up.

And, I guess the good news is the further you get outside of the float room, the less that’s a concern. Really, you want some consultation, what might work for the float room design. When you get out to the lobby, again, reclaimed materials, you can use stuff that doesn’t need to stand up to moisture quite as much, so your options are a little broader when you’re just talking about lobby area or of the exterior of the building.

Ashkahn: And then, I feel like there’s another part of going green, which is your ongoing resources, basically your utilities, electrical and water and stuff like that, which luckily float tanks are pretty conservative on except for water use. If there’s one thing we’re consuming a lot of, it’s our use of water. And that one’s also tricky. We’ve looked into some stuff ourselves, because that’s been on our mind, because we you know we saw how many gallons of water we’re using.

Graham: Yeah, when you start floating, too, if you just hop in a float tank all the time, you start being more conscious of the environment, and you’re like, “How can I fix this for my own float center?”

Ashkahn: Yeah. And it’s the showers more than anything. And, I mean at some point we look into a rainwater collection system, because we’re in Portland, I think that makes a lot of sense up here.

Graham: Very rainy place if you’re not familiar with Portland.

Ashkahn: And part of the difficulty is stuff like that can be very expensive.

Graham: That was our main difficulty.

Ashkahn: Yeah, and for us to actually build one that would contain the amount of water we needed to run our place off of it, it was like the entire size of our building underground in a huge reservoir to have enough gallons to totally cover it, and we could have probably built something smaller, too, supplement some of our water use.

Graham: Yeah. When we were speccing it out, we would have had to dig up the entire parking lot out in back of our center and put in these tanks underground and then repave the entire parking lot in addition to just hooking up the collection system and tying into the utilities and stuff like that. So, it really didn’t work out as well as we’d hoped, but that is an option. If you are in a rainy place, you can think about putting in rain collection, and similarly for electricity, if you’re in a really sunny place, you can think about solar panels.

Ashkahn: Yeah. I think the scope of how big of a business we are is not quite in line with some of the solutions for things like that. I think it’s maybe a little bit bigger for a place that’s just a bigger entity in a bigger infrastructure and a bigger building and a bigger budget. All that stuff makes some of these things a little bit more manageable, or also makes it so that the cost savings pay themselves back a little bit sooner than they probably would have for us.

Graham: And that’s a really good point, is if you’re looking into sustainability for sustainability’s sake, there are options, and they’re probably going to be costly, and it’s probably not going to recoup its losses for its expenses for a really long time. Doing something like that rainwater collection system, we have like a few decades or something before it actually pays us back.

Ashkahn: Not that this should always be about cost, but it is when you’re starting a small business. It’s hard to figure out where to get the budget to do big projects like that.

Graham: You did make me think of something else, though, which is there are buildings that are specifically designed with green building practices, and with a lot of the stuff in mind and that will gain some of their energy from electric. If it means a lot to you, honestly, one of the best things you can do is probably to actively look for buildings that are meeting certain specifications and really try to base your float center in a greener building itself.

Yeah, it might be too much for you to put your own solar panels on, or maybe you can, but if you find a building that already has them installed, then just win. Those do tend to be more expensive, so you’re paying for it one way or another, in rent in this case, but still something to keep an eye on for sure.

Ashkahn: Yeah. Other things we’ve been looking into, like any way to conserve water in the shower process is probably your biggest push towards having a better footprint. And what we’ve seen, there’s been this shower company called Orbital Shower Systems that’s making these recirculating shower systems that they say will save a ton of water, but-

Graham: I think like up to 70% is what they were claiming.

Ashkahn: Yeah. But, again, it gets hard, because all of a sudden you’re like, okay, well, now, in my shower is some sort of system where water is collecting through a drain, it’s being pumped back in, like how is any of that stuff going to hold up to the salt that it’s going to be experiencing over and over again, and those aren’t questions these companies can answer very easily.

Graham: Like, “Well, you can try it. There won’t be any warranty, but you can try it.”

Ashkahn: And, again, these things are very expensive, it’s much more expensive to put one of those than a normal shower, so we’re just in a weird place with float centers, where we can’t buy stuff off the shelf and expect it to work in our place. Everything has to be so custom and specific to not get destroyed over time, that it makes it really hard for us to use these kind of niche products or things that are a little bit outside of the normal kind of way things are built.

Graham: Yeah, and you can even use something as simple as a flow restrictor inside the shower, flow restricted shower head or something like that, but then you run into this problem of people are showering and you want them out of the room really fast, so you can turn it over and they’re covered in a lot of salt, and some of them have really long hair, and they just paid a lot of money for a float session which feels like a luxury. And if the water coming out feels skimpy or like they just can’t get all the salt out of their hair, that impacts their impression of the luxuriousness of the entire float center. So everywhere you can compromise, it’s like squeezing a balloon or something, it just bulges out somewhere else.

Ashkahn: Here’s another tough one. There is the consumables that get used to during a float session, the ear plugs and petroleum jelly and stuff like that. Our instinct was also to try to cut down on these single use plastics and containers they come in and packets and all those individual packaging, which seems hugely wasteful. But it’s just really hard to find a sanitary solution that doesn’t involve those things. From a sanitation point of view, what you want is these individually packaged things so people are not spreading germs from one place to another, and that was another one that was very tough for us to come to terms with.

Graham: Right, like if you have petroleum jelly and you don’t have individual packets, then people are reusing the same tub over and over again, and if you have Q-Tips and you’re just keeping those in a little case in the room or something like that, then when someone reaches in for a Q-Tip, they’re touching the other Q-Tips in there, potentially even just dripping salt in, even if they’re shaking it out. So you really hit this point where it’s difficult to picture guaranteed sanitation without individual wrapping. And because the concerns of a customer actually getting sick or catching something like a fungus from another customer are very real, it’s scary to not do it. And if you’re overseen by the health department in your area, they’ll often require you to have individual wrappings on things.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Ashkahn: We did not do a very good job of helping out with this question.

Graham: Don’t shoot the messenger. Shoot the message.

Ashkahn: Again, mediocre tips at best.

Graham: Poor to mediocre.

Ashkahn: Yeah. I really wish there were different answers to this, because it is something that is obviously incredibly important. I guess the only solace I feel is that we’re just really not that big of a business, like the amount of stuff that we go through running a float center is pretty minimal compared to almost every industrial application or any business that’s 100, 1000 times bigger than us.

Graham: Yeah. And you can do a lot of small things. It’s just whenever the chance comes up choose to go for the environment instead of against it. Even paying your utilities, often times you can say, “Oh, I’m paying into renewable energy, for example,” or, “I’m paying into” Yeah.

Ashkahn: Or we try to buy local products when we get our soaps and shampoos and the other items we get. That cuts down on things being shipped around the world.

Graham: That actually goes a huge way. Buying local is one of the best things you can do for carbon emissions and stuff like that. Things like using LED light bulbs instead of just regular incandescent bulbs or something like that is better. It’ll save you money and helps the environment.

Ashkahn: Yeah. So we’ll take these things where we can for sure.

Graham: But, yeah, sadly, it’s like the wins are small, and you can find them in a lot of places, but fundamentally a lot of the materials we have to use aren’t the best for the environment and our ongoing utilities are pretty demanding. So there you have it.

Ashkahn: If anyone out there has advice. There’s one place to focus in my mind, it’s on water conservation. That, to me, seems like a great place for people to start experimenting with things and see if there’s better solutions out there.

Graham: One last little anecdote, too. We really wanted to have a green roof when we first opened up. We were just looking to every way that we could make Float On as sustainable as possible. And so we actually had someone come in and check out the load bearing nature of the building, and someone who advises for green roofs in town.

Ashkahn: Someone from the city.

Graham: Yeah. And they were like, “No, this building can’t sustain it.”

Ashkahn: We didn’t have any reinforced concrete, so our roof wasn’t strong enough to put a garden up there.

Graham: Yeah, off limits. So we couldn’t have a green roof, no rainwater collection. It’s just getting slapped around. So, if that’s how you feel now, we’ve been there is what I’m saying.

Ashkahn: So then instead of light bulbs, we just burn piles of oil now. We’re just like, “Screw it. Go the other way.”

Graham: All right. If you’re offended by that, head over to FloatTankSolutions.com/podcast.

Ashkahn: Yeah, leave us your hate mail and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Graham: But seriously, send in some questions.

All right. We love you guys.

Ashkahn: Yeah. That’s right.

Graham: You’re number one. All of you.

Ashkahn: Peace out.

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