Category Archives: Design

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.

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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.

Logos at the Bottom of Dive Wells

Hawkeyes, Tigers, a Lumberjack Blade, and P in the pool?  Well maybe not quite, but these school logos can be seen at the bottom of University dive pools across the country.   Used mainly for instilling school pride and psyching out opposing dive teams, these logos have been staples of new aquatic facilities over the last 10 to 15 years.

These logos are large and can be seen anywhere in the natatorium.  A dive pool is typically 75’ (25 yards) by approximately 58’ and the school logos can be upwards of 20’ by 30’ or even larger.   Universities require that these logos follow their exact guidelines for color and dimensions.   After the dive pool structure is constructed and the concrete is prepped, the logo is carefully laid out.   Tile setters install unglazed ceramic mosaic tile as the logos final finish.  After the logo is completed, the rest of the pool finish is applied.  This can be tile, similar to what was used for the logo, or a quartz aggregate plaster finish.  Floor markers for swimming are not installed at the bottom of the dive pool when logos are present.  Wall targets and floating lane ropes still allow for lap swimming and a warm up/warm down area for large swim meets.  Dive pools typically have diffusers for the sparger (air bubbling) system at the bottom of the pool.   Spargers are used for training and create a soft landing for divers attempting new and difficult dives.  The diffusers are painted to match the logo where conflicts exist.  The logos can also be advantageous for divers during competition.  The logo provides a contrasting color to the typically white ceiling of the natatorium which helps the diver spot the water surface during complex dives that require numerous spins, twists, and flips.

Often these logos are the center of photographs highlighting the Aquatic Center and sometimes the entire University.  Check out these great images of dive pool logos….

 

 

Pool Features

As a swimming pool consultant, I have the pleasure of inspecting, auditing, and renovating an abundance of existing swimming pools each and every year.  It seems to be that a majority of the older pools I encounter are some variation of a 6-lane, 25-yard lap pool with potentially, if they are lucky, 1-meter diving at the deep end.  Functionally, there is nothing wrong with these types of pools.  They are great for swim lessons, an occasional swim meet, or for simply cooling off on a hot summer day.  What these pools are lacking, in my opinion, is something that will keep users coming back day after day.  These pools need some excitement! 

What exactly can you do to pump up the thrill factor in your pool?  Well, one of the simplest ways is to install new pool features.  With today’s technology, it is not necessary to build a new pool in order to capture the excitement you are looking for.  In fact, it is not even necessary to endure a prolonged shutdown.  Pool feature manufacturers have been making leaps and bounds in terms of minimally evasive features that can be added to an existing pool.  In some cases, minor pool deck or pool floor anchors will need to be added, however, many of the newer generation features can utilize existing pool anchors or even no anchors at all.

With a vast array of pool features on the market, you, as the Owner, will need to determine which features will suit the needs of the facility, the management personnel, as well as the patrons who will be using them.  Some of the most popular new features that I have come across include climbing walls, miniature zip-lines, and monkey ropes.  If you are more a fan of the classic competition games, water basketball or water volleyball are always an excellent choice.  One of the most challenging features that has recently emerged is the log rolling activity which imitates a log floating on the water surface. The goal is to balance on the log while it rolls back and forth and ultimately outlast your opponent who is positioned on the other end of the log.  Each feature, however, should be thoroughly vetted prior to purchase with consideration given to maintenance staff, life-guarding staff, and age group offerings.

Gone are the days that a standard lap pool will suffice as the sole aquatic offering for a community.  While great for lap swimmers, many of the patrons are looking for a little something more.  Adding a mix of pool features that will appeal to an array of age groups is a surefire way to add some spice to your existing pool.