Category Archives: Design

Strange Bedfellows: Aquatics and College Football

With the NCAA official early signing day for college football prospects fast approaching, you may be wondering what college football programs are doing to set themselves apart from other schools. What you might not know is that programs are doing just that by adding aquatic facilities to their already high-class training facilities. Prospective student athletes can sign their letters of intent on Wednesday, December 19th and while these athletes are not only looking for schools and coaches that will help further their athletic dreams of playing in the NFL, they are also taking note of top rate facilities that will help them recover faster and train harder to make those dreams a reality. Counsilman-Hunsaker has helped many of these facilities come to fruition by designing aquatic therapy elements that add to the programs ever expanding training facilities. Trends in the aquatic therapy market for facilities of this nature include items like cold plunge pools, hot plunge pools, hot and cold spas with hydrotherapy benches and jets, resistance water training, and underwater treadmills that will help student athletes recover between practices and after games. Not only do their serve their function in aiding athletes in recovery but are also playing a huge role in the recruiting game. Trends such as adding graphics to the pool areas and adding wow factors such as waterfalls enhance the experience of the current and prospective student-athlete. Let’s dive deeper in the facilities Counsilman-Hunsaker has been a part of and let us know if you see your favorite school on the list!


University of Alabama

 At the University of Alabama, the accomplished football program and championships speak for themselves. In August 2013, the Alabama Crimson Tide’s $9 million renovation of the Mal Moore Football Building was completed.  Integrated within the new locker room are two new hydrotherapy spas used by players before and after football practice or games.  Other upgrades include a team meeting room seating 212, position meeting rooms and a player’s lounge. The hydrotherapy spas include one cold spa and one hot spa, with the hot spa having the capability to be converted into a second cold spa. The hot spa includes four waterfalls, underwater lights, and can accommodate up to 27 players. The cold spa includes underwater lights and can accommodate 27 players. The hot spa operates at temperatures from 102 to 106 degrees while the cold spa operates from 60 to 65 degrees. You can catch the #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide take on Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Saturday, December 29th!


Clemson University

 Clemson University officially opened its new $55 million football operations center in February 2017.  The 145,000 ft² complex is the largest and most programmatically inclusive football-specific training facility in the nation. The state-of-the-art building connects the indoor practice facility and outdoor practice fields, consolidating football operations into one complex. Designed to support the day-to-day activities of players, coaches and staff, the new Allen N. Reeves Football Operations Complex further elevates the Tigers’ football program, and promotes the recruitment, training and development of student-athletes. Functioning as a home away from home for many of the athletes, the complex offers amenities that allow the student-athletes to train, study and unwind in one place. Features include outdoor leisure and entertainment space, state-of-the-art hydrotherapy, steam and recovery room, and a Gatorade fuel bar. The aquatic amenities include a stunning six bodies of water including a therapy pool with ramp and stair entry, Hydroworx 3500 pool with underwater surveillance system, a Hydroworx 1200 pool with a movable floor, a Hydroworx thermal plunge pool, a Hydroworx polar plunge pool and a cold spa that includes two hydrotherapy bench areas and underwater bench area located in the locker room. You can catch the #2 ranked Clemson Tigers take on Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday December 29th!


Georgia Tech

 The Georgia Tech football facility is the oldest in Division I and was host to its first collegiate games before World War I.  In 2018, the newly-renovated, 8,100 ft² football team locker room, located at Bobby Dodd Stadium at historic Grant Field, looked to honor the past history of the program with an eye to the future.  The new locker rooms include a large focal feature on the ceiling for the team to gather around, 116 ventilated lockers each with a 15 -inch digital video screen that can be used as a nameplate or to display highlights, sleek interior finishes, adjustable lighting, upgraded mechanical systems, as well as new sinks, toilets, and showers. The trademark GT hexagonal pattern is expressed throughout the design tying the lockers, ceiling feature, graphics, and even the tile accenting around the spas into a cohesive and consistent branding element. The cold spa, capable of holding 18 people will be utilized primarily during post-workout recovery and includes an underwater bench. The hot spa, capable of accommodating 11 people, provides bench seating around the full perimeter with hydrotherapy jets. You can catch the Georgia Tech Ramblin’ Wreck take on Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl on Wednesday December 26th!


University of Iowa

 In the fall of 2014, the University of Iowa celebrated the grand opening of the new Richard O. Jacobson Football Operations Building.  Because of his continued support for the Hawkeyes and generous donations of millions of dollars to numerous university programs, the facility was dedicated to Mr. Jacobson. The new 76,000 ft² football practice facility will help guarantee an exceptional experience for the student-athletes who participate in Iowa’s football program. One of the main attractions is the aquatic area featuring a two lane, 25-yard therapy pool and two hydrotherapy spas designed to help soothe the muscles of players before and after football practice or games. Aquatic amenities include a 550 therapy pool with stair entry and varying depths of 3’-6”, 4’-10”, and 6’-4, a hot plunge hydrotherapy spa with underwater bench and hydrotherapy jets, and a cold plunge hydrotherapy spa with hydrotherapy jets. The therapy pool includes an underwater treadmill to aid in athletic rehabilitation. You can catch the Iowa Hawkeyes take on Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl on Tuesday, January 1st!

If you didn’t see your favorite team on the list don’t worry. Counsilman-Hunsaker has been a part of designing facilities for the University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Maryland, Penn State University, West Virginia University, Northwestern University and University of South Carolina. If you want more information on these facilities head to our website or get in touch with one of our many aquatic designers to discuss adding a new aquatic facility to your university!

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Surge Tanks

A surge tank is a water containing vessel that takes water from a swimming pool perimeter gutter system. Swimmers create waves when they enter a pool, compete, swim laps, exercise or just play. The perimeter gutter system captures these waves, or surge of water, so that they do not rebound back into the pool. A perimeter gutter and surge tank system are important in that they assist competition pool water, or any pool with a gutter system, return to a quiescent state which is a faster pool. Competition or training pools that do not utilize a gutter and surge tank system are slower and antiquated.

Surge tanks are typically constructed of concrete and located in the filter room or under the pool deck adjacent to the swimming pool. Cast-in-place concrete allows the swimming pool designer to size the surge tank as needed to fit the site conditions. Pre-cast surge tanks can be used as well but the dimensions tend to be less flexible. The surge tank size depends upon the surface area of the swimming pool. Most local and state health codes require one (1) gallon of surge capacity for every one (1) sq ft of pool surface area. Only a few health codes require two (2) gallons of surge capacity for every one (1) sq ft of pool surface area. This should be confirmed with local or state health department regulations.

There is a lot going on inside a surge tank. Piping from the perimeter gutter to the surge tank enters at several locations. The number of gutter dropouts depends on the size of the pool. Main re-circulation piping pulls water from the surge tank to the re-circulation pump and filter system before it is chemically treated and returned to the pool. Special consideration is also needed for maintaining atmospheric pressure inside the vessel. Typically, an air relief vent pipe is satisfactory for maintaining this equalization. However, the vent line should be routed independently to atmosphere to ensure that noxious fumes and vapors from the surge tank are not introduced into the filter room or natatorium. A water level controller should be installed in the surge tank as well to monitor the water level and automatically activate the automatic water make up control valve should the water level drop below design levels. An access hatch is always required to access the interior of the surge tank for cleaning and routine maintenance. When surge tanks are constructed under the pool deck adjacent to the pool, they are usually placed next to the deep end of the pool. This approach saves on construction cost as one wall is common with the pool.
Surge tanks are installed on the fastest swimming pools in the world including Olympic Venues, Universities, High Schools, Elementary Schools and Municipal Aquatic Facilities. If your aquatic facility has a competitive pool, training pool or lap pool and a fast pool is desired then you will want a perimeter gutter system complete with a surge tank.

Swimming Pool Gutters

Perimeter overflow systems are a critical part of any swimming pool. There are two main types of perimeter overflow systems; skimmers and gutters. Skimmers are often times the more simplistic and less expensive options as they are traditionally used for back yard or leisure-style pools. Gutters, however, can be used on any pool type and they can be constructed in an array of different shapes and sizes. Depending on the intended use for the pool, some gutters are better suited than others. The following will discuss the pros and cons of the four most common styles of gutters: deck level, fully recessed, roll-out, and parapet.

Deck Level Gutter

The deck level or “rim flow” overflow system features a gutter lip 1” above the elevation of the pool deck. This design enables even the weakest swimmer to egress with little effort over the water’s edge. This is often the most desirable gutter for the recreational and instructional swimmer. Program heavy natatoriums, where many classes are taught, often choose this design option. Deck level gutters are the least expensive gutter option as they require less concrete and forming compared to some of the other options.

The deck level gutter does not have back curb, therefore, water has the potential to “run” across the gutter grating or splash-out resulting in a wet pool deck. Because the water level in the pool is typically at or above the elevation of the adjacent perimeter slabs, surge tanks often will need to be fitted with overflow piping to prevent flooding.

Fully Recessed Gutter

Competitive swimmers and coaches prefer this design. The pool deck cantilevers over the gutter trough. The top of deck is approximately 12” above the water. The overhang provides the competitive swimmer with a visual reference plane for the underwater wall. The recessed gutter very effectively captures the wave amplitude and keeps the pool decks relatively dry. The disadvantage is that the high overhang makes egress from the pool rather difficult, and as a result, most people choose to use one of the pool ladders. This option is often used for natatoriums where competitive swimming is the predominant programmed activity. It should be noted, however, that fully recessed gutters are typically one of the most expensive gutter options.

Roll-Out Gutter

The roll-out gutter profile combines the features of the fully recessed and deck level configurations. It consists of a gutter lip and grate at the water level. The deck, approximately 5” above the water surface, forms a curb at the rear of the gutter grate. This curb contains much of the wave action and keeps the pool deck relatively free from water escaping the gutter assembly. The low configuration at the water’s edge still allows swimmers to egress easily. Unlike the fully recessed gutter however, the roll-out gutter does not provide competitive swimmers with a visual reference of the end wall above the water surface.

Roll-out Gutter with Parapet

A roll-gutter with parapet combines the roll-out gutter design on the sides of the pool with a parapet on the ends of  the pool. The parapet is very similar to the fully recessed gutter option with a 12” water to deck dimension and a visual reference plane for the underwater wall. The parapet utilizes a 6” curb from the pool deck to top of the gutter where the starting blocks would typically be located. This option is often times used when lap swimming is the primary use, but the pool is also used for other programming activities.

Swimming Pool Deck Widths

Most swimming pool codes require only a modest pool deck width of 4 to 5 feet around a swimming pool but depending on the pool configuration and use the need for a larger pool deck is paramount.

We have all been to that swimming meet where there is no deck space.  Competitors are squished together with the other teams on a row or two of bleachers.  Spectators are on the other side of the pool, if lucky, on tip and roll aluminum bleachers and its hot but that’s another topic altogether.  For competitive swimming pools the following deck widths are recommended.  At the starting end of the competition pool, 18 to 20 feet of deck space is recommended to stage all the swimmers, timers, and officials.  This deck width is especially important during relay events where several relay heats may be waiting for their event.  The opposite end of the competition pool doesn’t have to be quite as large however 15 to 18 feet is still recommended.  The sides of the competition pool are for staging the swimmers and spectators.   First, a 4-foot clear walkway is desired for officials on the sides of the pool.  Add walking space for the competitive swimmers and the bleachers and a total deck width of 14 to 15 feet on the swimmer side of the pool is recommended.  Depending on whether your spectator seating is at deck level or elevated above the locker rooms will impact the deck width on the spectator side of the pool.  If the spectator seating is at deck level than 14 to 15 feet of deck width is recommended but if the spectator seating is elevated than a larger deck is needed due to sight line requirements.  Raised spectators should have a clear view, or sight line, of the closest lane to them.  Sight lines typically require deck widths of 16 to 18 feet when the spectators are elevated above the locker rooms or other support spaces.

Outdoor recreation pools require an even larger deck space.  Visitors to an outdoor pool often desire space to relax and sun bath.   Deck widths for these types of pools are often 20 feet or more with additional grassy areas that are often equivalent to the area of the paved deck.    Indoor recreation pools tend to have smaller deck widths due to construction budget constraints and the fact that there are no sun bathers and less people sitting around.  While pinch points might occur where the deck width gets narrower around a feature like a waterslide stair or diving board, indoor recreation pools should have deck widths of 8 to 10 feet minimum with 10 to 12 feet preferred.

Often, the pool deck width is cut first to stay within a construction budget.  Knowing that your new pool will be around for 50+ years, you may want to consider other options to stay within budget as opposed to shrinking the pool deck which could have operational and functional consequences for the life of the facility.


Unique Design Approach for Projects Located in North Slope, Alaska.

North Slope Alaska is a unique place that presents unique design challenges for swimming pool projects.  Due to the remote nature of most pools in the North Slope, simple tasks like delivering equipment and performing scheduled maintenance can turn into a huge endeavor.  These challenges are addressed during design by strategically selecting robust equipment that requires limited maintenance over its expected life.  For example, cartridge filters are typically utilized by North Slope pools instead of sand or regenerative media, due to their simplistic design and ease of cleaning.  Another helpful design practice is to incorporate remote monitoring into the pool mechanical system.  This feature, typically a part of the pool chemistry controller, allows individuals to remotely monitor and even change the pool system characteristics that are in constant flux.


Other obstacles that are involved with North Slope pool design involve limited potable water, challenging soil issues, unreliable power sources, and limited space for mechanical equipment.  In many remote areas of the North Slope the simple task of filling a pool can be a challenge due to limited fresh water supply.  How the pool is filled and how long it will take to fill is addressed and coordinated early in the design process to prevent any potential issues when the pool is complete and ready to be filled.  Unreliable power sources are another common issue often faced on the North Slope.  Pool systems can be complex, involve multiple electric components, and require continual operation 24 hours a day to maintain safe conditions for pool users.  If the source power to the pool system fails, water circulationand chemical treatment will inevitably stop.  Additionally, hard shut downs on the pool equipment can be damaging.  While most North Slope installations have backup power to assist during these emergency scenarios, it is still important to thoroughly coordinate electrical design of the pool system and verify that all electric pool components can handle the occasional hard shut down and startup.  Strategic placement of check valves is also necessary to control the flow of water when the power goes out as flow from the pool re-circulation pump is lost.


Two additional design obstacles commonly faced on North Slope projects are the difficult soil conditions and lack of space for pool equipment.  Due to the unique soil conditions of the North Slope, traditional below grade concrete pool design and construction is not feasible.  Construction typically consists of above grade stainless steel pool structures to accommodate the local soil conditions.  This method of design and construction is unique and requires special coordination during the design phase that most pool projects in the lower 48 states do not require.  The last common issue frequently faced on North Slope projects is a lack of available space for the pool mechanical systems.  Construction in the North Slope is very costly, so creative and efficient mechanical room design to maximize space usage is a must.


While challenging, designing pools for the North Slope can be both successful and rewarding with a little bit of forethought  and careful planning.