Category Archives: Design

Supercharging Your 50-Meter Pool

Have you ever observed a child play with a box? They are often more amused with the box than the toy that came inside it. Similarly, a rectangular pool doesn’t have to be boring. I confess that, as both a competitive swimmer and coach, I’m partial to the good ‘ol fashioned lap pool. And I admit that the average rec swimmer probably  doesn’t share my addiction to following the solid black line for thousands of yards at a time. But that doesn’t mean that your classic 50-meter pool is obsolete; it’s actually quite the contrary. Your facility is full of recreational potential. A 50-meter pool is large enough to incorporate many different attractions. It is also large enough to accommodate several different activities at once, giving the facility a lot of programming flexibility. With a little creativity – thinking outside of the box, if you will – you can transform your “box” into the coolest pool in town!

Without further ado, here are Counsilman-Hunsaker’s top ten ideas for supercharging your 50-meter pool:

10) Diving Boards

Heritage Park - Henderson (1)While many facilities are removing their diving boards, we encourage you to keep them, or perhaps even re-install them. (This assumes your pool depth and shape meets the applicable code requirements.) Diving boards – both one-meter and three-meter – offer a lot of recreational value, as well as a different experience for each swimmer, depending on their ability. Looking to add to your diving board use? Host a cannonball contest for added fun!

9) Jumping Platforms

Most patrons are not competitive divers, but many will welcome the opportunity to experience a little “cliff” diving. A jumping platform can be different than the platforms used for competitive diving. There are no specific dimensional requirements, but the pool depths must be appropriate for the equivalent height of the diving platform.

8) Water Slides

Tall and colorful water slides will attract attention from your regular patrons, as well as folks who have been driving past the pool for years without paying much attention. Water slides with runouts make a great addition because they don’t require any space in the pool as the plunge area. Drop slides discharge into the pool, but require about the same amount of clear space as a diving board. Sometimes it is possible for a drop slide to share a platform with a three-meter diving board.

7) Zip Lines

Zip line SEMO (1)Speaking of features that can share the three-meter diving platform, zip lines can add a lot to your facility. Other than a secure place to anchor the cable and a tall platform (approximately 6-10 feet), a zip line doesn’t require much equipment. They don’t require a large footprint of deck or pool space, nor do they obscure sightlines as do some of the larger pool features.

6) Climbing Walls

Climbing walls also come with a water depth and clear space requirement, but if you have the space, go big! Climbing walls offer a fun experience across a wide range of ages. Consider installing two climbing walls to add a competitive aspect to your facility, with climbers racing one another to the top!

5) Spraygrounds

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf your 50-meter pool has more deep water than you need, consider adding a sprayground. Your facility may already have enough extra deck space to add a small sprayground. Or, there may be an opportunity to extend the pool deck to accommodate this type of feature. Flush-mounted sprays, vertical features, and even multi-level play structures are all options for spraygrounds. The opportunities when it comes to theming these structures are also practically limitless.

4) Inflatable Obstacle Courses

Not every pool has enough space to contain this much excitement, but your 50-meter pool does! Inflatable obstacle courses offer the experience of climbing, running, and jumping, all while racing friends along the way. Obstacle courses also lend themselves well to tournaments or obstacle course “Olympics.”

3) Water Basketball

Water basketball is a classic swimming pool activity. It is a low cost addition that can be provided at almost any pool. Swimmers will enjoy playing games, or just shooting hoops.

2) Water Volleyball

Similar to water basketball, water volleyball is a classic swimming pool activity. It is also a low cost addition which can be added to many pools. Nearly everyone knows how to play, and families and friends of various ages can all play at the same time.

1) Recreational Aquatic Sports Leagues and Tournaments

Many of the above activities can be transformed into a league, tournament, or even a one-day event. Cannonball contests, climbing wall races, obstacle course tournaments, basketball and volleyball tournaments, or even water polo or underwater hockey can all be established activities. Whether you create a regular league, or promote and host a one-day event, these events can draw in new swimmers of all types. Offering small prizes throughout the summer will keep them coming back for more. However, bragging rights may be the best prize of all!

So there you have it! Utilize some of these ideas in your facility to get more use out of your 50-meter pool.

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Buying Direct or Through a Contractor? What’s Right for You?

On both large and small commercial pool construction projects, owners have multiple options when it comes to purchasing operating equipment. Most commercial swimming pools are designed and constructed “turn-key,” meaning everything needed to run the pool is provided by the contractor as part of the construction process. This includes items like first-aid kits, lifeguard stands, and the first 30-days worth of pool chemicals. chemBut turn-key is just one of many delivery methods. Another popular method involves owners purchasing items directly from wholesalers or manufacturers. Like most aspects of the construction process, the sooner this is communicated to the design team, the better.

Pools are delivered to the owner turn-key because it helps the project get through the construction review process. Local health departments and other review entities will want to verify that all necessary maintenance and safety equipment is on-hand when it comes time to open and operate the facility. If an owner purchases directly, these items typically still need to be included in the construction documents to obtain necessary building permits. Owners should coordinate with their designers to ensure health departments and building authorities understand that requirements will be met.

Purchasing Direct:

  • Allows owners to specifically choose their products. Often times, general contractors supply the lowest bid product. If you prefer one product over another, purchasing direct allows you to make that decision for yourself.
  • Allows owners to easily provide input on quantities of product while placing the order. This is a big draw for facilities with limited storage space.
  • If done right, purchasing direct should save the owner money. Contractors sometimes mark up products as part of the construction process.

Items Typically Purchased Direct:

  • boardLarge play features like waterslides and aquatic play structures. These are typically installed by the manufacturer regardless of who purchases it.
  • Scoreboards in competitive venues.
  • Maintenance and safety equipment.

Why Turn-Key Might Be Good For You:

  • Purchasing direct requires a lot of research to ensure you’re purchasing the right items. Additionally, it requires you to be budget and spending-savvy so your purchases are good things for your bottom line. Contractors tend to have the in-depth technical understanding or prior experience necessary to make smart product decisions. This isn’t always the case for facility owners.
  • Purchasing direct also requires negotiation skills to secure fair pricing. Without a skilled negotiator or buying power, the process can lead to higher costs and lower-quality products.

Don’t think you can do this on your own? Hire a professional to help you navigate the process. With a professional, you often gain negotiating power as part of a larger entity. This should automatically qualify you for prices that even the most skilled negotiators will not be able to obtain. Look for a professional that has a wide range of supplier relationships and has your best inerest at heart when it comes to operations products.

What Are Natural Swimming Pools?

At a time when people, more than ever, are aware of the dangerous chemicals associated with products they use every day, it’s no surprise that this consciousness has made its way into people’s thoughts about the places they spend their time. When taking a dip in a pool, swimmers know that chlorine and other chemicals are used to keep the water safe and clean from harmful bacteria. But as concerns rise regarding the effects of prolonged exposure to these chemicals, people tend to look into what alternatives are available. One common alternative that comes up is the natural swimming pool.

While a relatively new idea in the United States, natural pools have been seen in Europe for decades. The first natural swimming pool was built in Austria in the 1980’s. The private pool began to gain popularity, and the first public natural swimming pool was built in Germany in 1998. Now, there are over 20,000 private and public natural pools in Europe. In recent years, we have started to see this trend gain traction in the United States, with many choosing to add natural pools in their own backyards. Due to regulatory reasons, natural pools have really only been developed for residential, private use. However, last summer, the very first public natural swimming pool opened in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Due to the strict chemical requirements of public pools in the United States, this project required many layers of approval from the state legislature to become a pilot project for this type of pool. Should the project prove successful and efficient, we will likely see more natural pools in the United States in the near future.

nat grapicNatural pools consist of two areas: the swimming pool and the regeneration zone. These two spaces can be located directly next to one other or in completely separate areas. The pool works by filtering water through biological filters before reaching the regeneration basin. Natural gravity can drain the water to the regeneration area, or pumps can be utilized to send the water to the basin. The regeneration zone consists of plants which create an ecosystem to clean the water. The plants and gravel in the basin help remove any harmful bacteria from the water before it is pumped back into the main pool area. Pool skimmers are also often used to keep the water surface clear of debris.

The primary advantage of natural pools is that there is no chemical use, which can lower maintenance costs. Additionally, the regeneration area can serve as a home for some wildlife. However, where there are advantages, there are also drawbacks. Projects like this often require a larger footprint than a typical pool due to the regeneration zone. Project scale should always be considered. Additionally, it can take some time for the artificial ecosystem to take effect. This initially could cause issues with algae and other organisms running rampant in the regeneration zone. But after time, this problem diminishes. Natural pools tend to have a more greenish color than traditional swimming pools, which can be concerning for some swimmers. But, swimmers who are used to the crystal clear blue of traditional swimming pools can swim assured knowing the natural pool is keeping the water clean and safe for them to enjoy.

Whether a natural swimming pool is designed to look like a pond or a traditional pool, users can enjoy an experience that is new and unique, yet familiar and enjoyable.

Which Project Delivery Method is Right for You?

One of the major items often misunderstood on a construction project is the delivery method. Traditional project delivery methods include design-bid-build, design-build and Construction Management.

Historically, the design-bid-build process has been the most common project delivery method for large scale commercial projects. Under this delivery method, the owner holds separate contracts between the ddeliveresign professionals and the construction team. This delivery method is most common amongst publicly-funded projects.  The design team (including traditional building architects, landscape architects, MEP engineers, structural engineers and aquatic design professionals) works directly for the owner to develop a set of construction documents. These documents are then used to create a competitive bidding environment between multiple vendors, manufacturers and suppliers.

The teaming circumstances between the design professionals and the installing contractor are different under the design-build scenario. Under this delivery method, the design-build team is led by the building contractor. The design professionals are then contracted through the building contractor, thus providing the owner with a single point of contact for both the project design and construction.

del 2In design-build, the contractor traditionally works with the owner on the development of a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) based upon partially-developed plans. Design-build can, under certain circumstances, provide opportunities to expedite the overall project schedule. The owner should request that GMP drawings be as complete as possible, and participate in the development of the GMP package to minimize surprises with the pool and any support buildings. While initial construction costs can sometimes be reduced through a design-build process, the owner must be wary of cost-cutting measures that can decrease the lifespan of the facility and increase yearly operational cost, both of which are bad for the owner of the facility.

In the Construction Management project delivery method, the owner typically holds separate contracts with the construction manager, the design professional, and in some cases, the installing contractors. Construction management can either be performed “at-risk” or “not-at-risk.” When not-at-risk, the construction management agency (CM) typically becomes the owner’s representative by managing the project from the back end of design through construction.  In this scenario, the CM does not directly hold a contract with any specific contractor. When at-risk, the CM typically commits to a GMP prior to construction and acts as not only the owner’s representative, but somewhat equivalent to a general contractor during construction. If the owner does not possess knowledge or experience in construction projects, the inclusion of a CM in some fashion can benefit the overall process for the entire team.

Once you have chosen your preferred project delivery method, it’s time to think about the process for selecting your design and/or construction professionals. Several tools are available to assist owners when determining the best team to help create the desired facility. These include Letters of Interest, Requests for Qualifications (RFQ), Requests for Proposals (RFP), and the Interview process. These tools can help determine the proper team who will create and manage the project from start to finish.

Cast-in-Place vs. Shotcrete Concrete Pool Installation

For many, the question commonly arises as to what type of concrete material makes the best watertight vessel: cast-in-place concrete, shotcrete or gunite. While each have their own strengths, one must consider key items such as geographical/site location, soil conditions and most importantly, availability.

There are many locations in the United States where shotcrete and gunite are not produced. Soil conditions can also play an integral role in the decision making. Questionable and/or remediated soils often call for thicker concrete placement due to the needed increase of structural steel (rebar).

The placement method utilized for concrete is to discharge it from a ready-mix truck down a shoot directly into form work or into a hopper equipped with a boom pump. The concrete is then pumped into forms and must be vibrated for compaction. By contrast, the shotcrete process, whether using wet or dry material feed, may only require single side forming or no forming at all by utilizing the earth as the back form in selected areas. This process utilizes a smaller pump with added air pressure via an accompanying compressor. The air is introduced atshotcrete the end of the discharge hose nozzle, creating a high-pressure discharge of the concrete mix. The pressure creates compaction, thereby enhancing design creativity and application flexibility, often resulting in a savings of time or money. The impact velocity of correctly placed shotcrete quickly compacts the material, yielding an “in-place” mix that’s richer in cement and higher in strength than the same mixture prior to placement. With shotcrete, what appears to be a waste of supplies, known as “rebound” or overspray, in reality ends up in thick, high-energy shotcrete as a portion of the mixture ricochets off the receiving area and away from the placement area. The loss through rebound will vary based on various factors including the dryness of the mix, the shooting distance from the surface area and wind conditions. The expected thickness is generally overshot, trimmed back to the design thickness reflected through “look-outs,” and finished to the required surface consistency and appearance. This process commonly requires more labor for multiple finishers to cut and finish the concrete and laborers to follow with clean-up and rebound removal. Compared to the additional materials and labor required to form both sides for the cast-in-place process, this can often times offset each other. However, cast-in-place does require additional labor for front and back form removal.

Characteristics of how concrete or shotcrete is delivered for pumping or placements are very similar. Typically, regardless of the concrete type, shotcrete or cast-in-place concrete has a 90-minute window from the time it is batched at the plant until it placed. Temperature of the material, air temperature and humidity levels can increase or decrease the set times of the concrete. Typically, ready-mix companies hold back 10-15 gallons of water in the mix so the contractor can adjust the slump of the concrete onsite. A concrete truck typically hauls 8 to 10 yards of concrete and 1 cubic yard of concrete typically contains 38 to 40 gallons of water. Project specifications dictate the required mix design and testing agencies commonly verify the concrete slump of the first truck prior to pumping, as well as periodically through the day. Adding 1 gallon of water over the design mix (amount of gallons of water per yard of concrete) can decrease the strength of the concrete by 200 PSI.

Often overlooked, the curing process is an integral step for optimum intended performance of concrete or shotcrete. The mix design can be perfect and the placement can be of the highest quality, but if not cured properly, adverse effects can impact the quality dramatically. While there are many methods, curing concrete or shotcrete surfaces with water is by far the best method for maintaining adequate moisture and controlling shrinkage cracks during the hydration process. After some time, the concrete starts the chemical reaction that eventually hardens the concrete. Curing vertical and horizontal surfaces with water can be easily accomplished with alternative curing methods considered due to project scheduling, the availability of fresh water and the ability to discharge the water being used. Curing compounds may also be applied to the concrete or shotcrete mix or to concrete surfaces after placement. However, these compounds can also have an adverse effect on the finish materials such as paint, plaster or tile mortar. It is suggested to consult with the finish contractor and the structural engineer prior to concrete placement to verify acceptance of curing compounds.

In closing, the question of which process is better? Well, as you can see, there are many variables to consider. While cast-in-place is better-controlled and suited for close tolerance work, it can be a less economical option. Shotcrete, if applied properly, can also provide a superior watertight vessel. Counsilman-Hunsaker’s advice? Make sure your concrete or shotcrete contractor is qualified to perform their work. Do your research. Ask for references and verify if their nozzleman is American Shotcrete Association-certified. Water test your pool prior to the placement of pool finishes. This process is detailed in American Concrete Institute 350.

Remember that pool finishes, such as paint, plaster and/or tile, are not designed to waterproof your pool. If the structure behind your finish is not watertight, your finishes will only serve as a temporary barrier.