Category Archives: Design

Smaller Items That Deliver Tremendous Pool Design Impact

In the grand scheme of a pool design, many people stop the design process once all major decisions (pool size, shape, perimeter style, system equipment, etc.) have been made. After all, it is just a hole in the ground filled with water. However, this is when some of the smaller items can go unnoticed, be skipped or never addressed at all.

We’re highlighting some items on the aesthetic side of pool design that often go unnoticed. Tile, wing wall elements, skimmer lids, shade structures and depth markers are all small pieces of a larger puzzle. But with the necessary coordination, they can make a huge impact.

Tile is one of the most resilient pool finishes still used today and can provide a major impact to the design. Pools can incorporate tile in various ways from entire interior finishes to strategically located tile accents. The customization options associated with tile color, shape, size and patterns are almost infinite. The location of the tile Tenn, Univ Chattanooga (36)within the pool will typically drive the size. For instance, mosaics provide an easier installation on a curvilinear pool wall, but larger format tile such as metric tile (12.5cm x 25cm) lends itself to a straight rectilinear format. The actual shape of the individual tile is another consideration. Tiles can be offered in octagonal, circular, and rectangular shapes just to name a few.  Color selection and tile patterns should blend with the facility and coordinate with the overall color palette.

A common element in leisure pools, the wing wall, is often not thought of as an aesthetic element in the pool design. It’s seen as simply a functional element to separate areas in the pool that often have different water depths adjacent to each other. But, not only can tile continue up and over the horizontal surface of these walls, they can be dressed up with thickened pre-cast caps to highlight elements of the wing wall.

Another element that stands out in the pool deck is the skimmer lid. The skimmer lid is a necessity of a skimmer pool overflow system, but one that could be blended into the deck finish. The lids are offered with an option of a pan-fillable lid. This allows for a matching deck finish to be placed in the lid pan to make the lid virtually disappear.

In an outdoor pool setting, shade elements and structures add not only shade but a pop of color. They come in all shapes and sizes allowing placement in different areas around, over and sometimes in the pool. Shade elements should complement the colors of other pool features like water slides, vertical spray features, play units, etc., and pull everything together.

LaMiradaOften times, required deck depth markers and warning signs are not given any thought. The typical installation is a 6 inch x 6 inch white field tile with black numerals.  Contrary to popular belief, the colors, fonts and materials can all be changed. The only aspect that cannot be altered is the height of the numerals. Any depth markers and warning signs are required to be contrasting in color to the deck they are surrounded in. This is so patrons can quickly recognize and easily read the signage. Options other than the standard tile include etched and stained stone or concrete, as well as a contrasting spray deck stenciled into the deck finish.

While certain aspects of the pool design are seemingly less important than others, when those smaller items are utilized to their fullest potential, they can add a lot to your overall pool designs, especially aesthetically. Check out our E-Book, The Power of Aquatic Design, for more pool design advice and tips!


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Sustainable Pool Heating Options

The human body is sensitive to water temperature. It can even discern a water temperature differential as small as .5°F. Thus, the temperature of water varies between pools to correlate with the aquatic activity that will occur in the pool.  This may be a temperature of 80°F for a 50-meter competition pool, 84°F for an activity pool, 95°F for a therapy pool, or 104°F for a spa.  Regardless of the pool function or water temperature, from an operational perspective, it is imperative to easily and efficiently heat the pool.

The work horse for pool heating over the years has been the gas-fired pool boiler. Boilers have increased in efficiency over the years as there have been advancements in burner technology. A generation ago, atmospheric pool boilers were 80%-82% efficient. Today, atmospheric boiler efficiency has incrementally increased to 84%-85%.  When additional air is provided to the combustion process (similar to a turbo charger on an automobile), the boiler efficiency increases to 88%-89%. The inefficiency of atmospheric boilers has been reduced from 18%-20%, down to 11%-12%. A 40% improvement is pretty substantial.

Additionally, the gas-fired boiler industry has worked out how to incorporate condensing boilers into the swimming pool market. With a condensing boiler, the boiler has a second stage that extracts additional heat from the exhaust, further increasing the overall efficiency of the boiler. Condensing boilers run at efficiencies of 95%-98%. With condensing boilers, the inefficiency of gas-fired pool boilers has been reduced from roughly 20% down to 2%, which represents a great leap forward for efficiency and sustainability of gas-fired pool boilers.

Heat pumps are also a reliable source for pool heating. Two common types of heat pumps are air and water source heat pumps. Air source heat pumps exchange heat with the ambient air around the pumps, while water source heat pumps exchange heat with a water source (pond, a cold pool, etc.). The beautyheat pumps of a heat pump system is that the energy consumed by the system is only that which is required to run the pump and the compressor.  The heat (or energy) transferred or moved from one body to another can be a significant multiple of the energy used to run the system. This is called the coefficient of performance (COP), which can easily be above five. Heat pumps do face geographical limitations as they need air and water temperatures to be reasonable (above freezing) to work efficiently, but where ambient temperatures are available, they are a great sustainable system for both heating and cooling if needed.

Other sustainable systems include the harnessing of solar power to heat a pool. Passive solar pool heating is accomplished when the sun is shining, which is the primary heat source for many seasonal pools. Active solar heating harnesses additional heat from the sun through an array of panels that collect and transfer the heat to a fluid system. The fluid then transfers the heat to the pool water, providing a sustainable heating solution that efficiently extends the outdoor pool season.

With indoor natatoriums, it is very common to adapt the sustainable strategy of rejecting waste heat from the HVAC units to the pool water. If a system is rejecting heat, it is always wise to determine if another system might benefit from gaining that heat. Implementing a second use for waste heat is a great strategy for minimizing operational costs. It also reflects a holistic approach to sustainability for a project.

Similar to how the sun is the silent provider of heat to many seasonal pools, wind and evaporation are the silent thieves that rob pools of heat. Water loss through evaporation continually cools a pool. If cooling is desired, as is needed in some hot climates, agitating the water to increase evaporation is a sustainable way to cool the pool. In most of the United States, however, there is no need for that. Therefore, minimizing evaporation helps keep heat in pools. The use of pool covers is the easiest way to minimize water evaporation from the pool. It takes some manual labor to install and remove pool covers, but they are fantastic at reducing heat loss.

There are additional strategies for providing sustainable practices and good stewardship when heating a pool. Technology continues to open new doors and provide new solutions to the market.  By using sustainable pool heating solutions, one can be cool while providing heat to the pool.

Are Water Tightness Tests During Construction Necessary?

A water tightness test is a procedure that is used to determine if a water-holding vessel is free of leaks. Water tightness testing includes three main steps: filling the vessel(s) with water, monitoring and measuring the water level of the vessel(s) over a prolonged period of time, and analyzing the measurements and observations recorded during the test. Depending on the results and how they are interpreted, the contractor may be required to complete repairs on the vessel(s) and conduct the test a second time. The American Concrete Institute (ACI) provides guidance on how concrete structures should be water tested as well as the expected results. All language pertaining to water tightness testing is found in Section 350.1-10 of the ACI code.

The ACI is adamant that any water tightness testing must be conducted prior to the vessel(s) receiving any type of finish, sealant, or waterproofing. This may seem like a backwards methodology; however, concrete, by nature, should be watertight. Therefore, it must be tested prior to receiving any type of coating or finishing layer. The pool finish should be thought of as a secondary means of water containment, with the first being the natural characteristics of concrete. In theory, a plaster finish, waterproofing membrane, or any other form of finish, may temporarily hide or cover imperfections in the concrete vessel(s). Hidden imperfections may become exposed over time and begin to leak.

The water tightness test is a procedure that occurs over a minimum of six days. It is important that the concrete vessel has cured for at least 28 days prior to the test taking place.  Once the Pool 003concrete has cured and gained sufficient strength, it is ready to be tested. It is essential that all penetrations through the concrete vessel(s), such has drains, lights and inlets, be thoroughly sealed off before the test is conducted. Once all penetrations have been sealed and the shell has cured, the contractor can begin the test. The vessel(s) is expected to lose water through concrete absorption during the first few days of the test. Concrete is porous by nature, and will soak up water. It is unknown how long this will take or how much water will be absorbed, so the contractor is advised to monitor and refill the vessel(s) over the first three days. After three days or whenever the water absorption has stopped, whichever comes first, the contractor may begin taking down measured recordings. The contractor must take measurements of the vessel(s) water level(s) every 12 hours over a span of three days. It is essential that the recording process remain consistent throughout the test to generate accurate results. After three days of recording, the results shall be compiled and analyzed to determine if the water loss meets or exceeds allowable levels.

Evaporation and precipitation can greatly affect the results of a water tightness test, and must be considered in the test calculations. The contractor shall fill a restrained, calibrated, open container with water and allow the container to float within the concrete vessel(s) during the testing period. The open container will be used to measure evaporation and precipitation throughout the test. Every time the contractor measures the water levels of the concrete vessel(s), they must also measure the water levels of the open container(s). The water loss or gain seen in the open container(s) is a direct result of evaporation or precipitation and should be used to analyze the concrete vessel(s) recordings. For example, if the open container is measured at ¼” below the starting measurement after 12 hours, and the concrete vessel is observed at ½” below its starting measurement, we can attribute ¼” of water loss in the concrete vessel to evaporation. Furthermore, it can be concluded that the remaining ¼” of water loss seen in the concrete vessel in those 12 hours is the actual water that was lost due to issues with the concrete vessel.

Water tightness testing is one of the few, if not the only, surefire ways of determining whether a concrete vessel has been built watertight. It is important to understand the time, money, and resources needed to conduct a proper water tightness test. Each test typically takes at least one week, requires thousands, if not millions, of gallons of water, and adds to the overall project cost. While the test requirements seem immense, they guarantee the concrete vessel will be watertight once complete. If the vessel is not tested, and experiences leaks over years of use, the cost and time needed to fix any damage related to the leaks could be much greater than the initial cost of testing the vessel. Counsil-Hunsaker believes that every concrete vessel should be tested for water tightness to verify the quality of the build and to certify its longevity.

Design Differences: Indoor vs Outdoor Pools

Besides the obvious fact that indoor pools are built inside of a building while outdoor pools are built outside, there are many additional differences between them that need to be considered during the design process.

When it comes to outdoor pool design, one of the biggest things to consider is seasonal changes and how they might affect the operations of the pool or facility. For instance, if temperatures fall below freezing, the pool will need to be winterized to prevent pipes from breaking. The materials the pool is made out of will also need to be able to handle the sun’s UV rays and other weather conditions. Choosing the appropriate type of material can significantly prolong the life of the pool, making this an important area of design. Some indoor pools receive a small amount of UV rays, but usually nowhere near as much as outdoor pools.

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Typically, indoor pools have a tiled deck finish, whereas outdoor pools usually have a concrete deck. Some concrete decks have artistic designs to them, and can even use a splash of stain, which adds to the look and feel of the environment.

Diving boards and platforms require clearances to maintain visitor safety. Considering these clearances while designing can inform decisions surrounding ceiling height, hanging light fixtures, duct-work and other surrounding equipment for indoor facilities with diving boards. It is important to check with state and local building codes to ensure all required diving board clearances are met.

Lighting is something else to consider. While outdoor pools use the sun as its source of lighting, indoor pools must use hanging lights, wall lights or underwater lights to illuminate the natatorium. If an outdoor pool will be open after the sun goes down, it will obviously also require light poles and potentially underwater lights as well. Underwater lights can also add a bit of elegance to the pool. Like diving board clearance, the lighting system should also be adequate per state and local health codes.

Bavarian Inn (1)Water slides are a staple of both indoor and outdoor aquatic facilities, but there is more flexibility when it comes to outdoor water slides. Typically, outdoor projects allow for a greater number of water slides, as you don’t have to worry about blowing your budget by increasing the building size to accommodate several slides. A trend that Counsilman-Hunsaker is beginning to see are water slides that exit and reenter buildings through the wall before exiting into a pool or runout. This utilizes both indoor and outdoor space and helps eliminate the need for a larger building. It also adds a mysterious and intriguing aesthetic to your facility design.

One of the most important elements associated with designing indoor pools as opposed to outdoor pools is structural support. An indoor pool could be elevated on the 13th floor of a building. It could even be partially overhanging the side of the building, similar to the pool at the Joule Hotel. These types of pools require additional design consideration and will need to be encased and waterproofed. Should the pool ever leak, the water needs to be drained appropriately, rather than leak down to the floor below.

These are just a handful of choices that need to be made when considering the design of indoor and outdoor pools. As you may be thinking, there is a lot of liability involved in the design process of a swimming pool. It is always a good idea to get an experienced team of aquatic professionals behind you to help make these decisions. Learn more about Counsilman-Hunsaker by checking out our Portfolio of work!

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.