Category Archives: Regulation

Depth Markers and Warning Signs

Depth makers and warning signs are one of the most important aspects of pool design. Depth markers and warning signs allow swimmers on the pool deck, as well as swimmers inside the pool, to know water depth. Knowing if the water is of a safe depth is critical information for swimmers looking to dive in.
In the United States, every state has its own health code with a standard approach on depth markers and warning signs, and how they should be placed in and around the pool. With that being said, Counsilman-Hunsaker implements its own standard when it comes to the layout of depth markers and warning signs on our pool designs. This standard is one that complies with all state health codes in the country, as well as the Model Aquatic Health Code.

Counsilman-Hunsaker’s standard states that all depth markers and warning signs on the deck shall be either slip-resistant tile or epoxy paint. It is expected that pool decks will end up getting wet, and wet tile can be very slippery. The slip-resistant tile and epoxy paint helps to prevent swimmers from taking a spill on the pool deck.
These deck markings should also be in contrasting color to all surrounding field tile. If the deck markings are the same color as the field tile, they can become camouflaged and overlooked. To keep this from happening, we have the contrasting color specification so the water depth number is clearly visible to all swimmers.
Every state has its own spacing requirements as far as depth markers and warning signs go, though the majority require both to be placed every 25 feet. Some states require that depth markers only need to be placed at the shallowest and deepest points and at every break in slope, while there are more stringent state codes that require the depth markers to be placed at the shallowest, deepest, every break in slope, and at every two feet of change in water depth. To keep all 50 states satisfied, we follow the most stringent codes when placing our depth markers. Depth markers are placed every 25 feet, at the shallowest and deepest water depth, at every break in slope, and at every two-foot change in water depth. Warning signs are also placed every 25 feet from the five-foot break to the shallowest point of the pool. The only thing left for us to do is adjust the placement from 25 feet to 20 feet depending on the local state code for the state we are working in.
As for the “No Diving” warning signs, 49 states require them to be placed from the five-foot break back to the shallowest water depth of the pool. New York is the only state that requires the warning signs to be placed from the eight-foot water depth back to the shallowest water depth.
Being aware of the various restrictions associated with depth markers and warning signs is vital to ensuring the safety of pool-goers everywhere.

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Expansion and Contraction in PVC Pool Piping

In the commercial swimming pool industry, the overwhelming choice for pool piping material selection is Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). The use of such materials can provide security, as it is non-corrosive, and if installed properly, some would say this pipe material can provide an almost infinite life span. But, in comparison to other pipe material selections, such as cast-iron, ductile iron, steel and concrete, PVC has a much higher coefficient of thermal expansion. This coefficient considers the amount of expansion or contraction that will occur due to the temperature range your pipe will endure and the length of pipe you are calculating. Thus, the design and installation of PVC pipe must consider how to accommodate such changes in pipe length.
For pools located in areas with seasonal temperature changes that utilize long runs of straight pipe sections, consideration should be given to accommodating expansion and contraction of the pipe. The ASTM Standard 2774 Underground Installation of Thermoplastic Pressure Piping, contains specific information on the topic of expansion and contraction in pool piping. A science-based formula for determining the expected change in pipe length due to expansion and contraction is:

By knowing the amount of expansion or contraction that will occur in your piping system, you can adjust the design as needed. These accommodations can range from changes in vertical or horizontal direction of your piping system, to the use of mechanical expansion and contraction joints. Changes in pipe direction using expansion loops, offsets and bends are ways to accommodate the expected changes in pipe length within your system. Considering that pool piping systems often have changes in direction due to the inclusion of supply inlets, main drains and feature supplies, the design and installation of the underground pool piping system naturally accommodates expansion and contraction. However, there are times when pipe runs become quite lengthy without changes in direction, and considerations for the inclusion of an expansion loop or mechanical joint will be needed.

Mechanical expansion joints come in many different types. Their primary purpose is to provide a means of flexibility in the piping network for expansion and contraction. They often work by allowing the pipe to slide into or out of itself like a piston. Installation of mechanical expansion joints for underground piping is critical. If the mechanical expansion joints, along with the materials used for backfill around the joints, are not properly installed, the effectiveness can be compromised. For example, backfill materials can make their way into the mechanical joint and hamper pipe movement. If backfill materials are a concern, it is recommended to boot the joint for protection.

In most installations, the straight pipe runs are not excessive enough or the design of the piping network will already include many bends or turns in the pipe. However, for those occasions where environmental factors result in expansion and contraction of pool piping, or straight pipe runs 100 feet or more exist, the design and installation must have allowances for the changes in pipe length that will occur. Without these provisions, the underground piping will be susceptible to potential damage, which will result in leaks to your pool piping system.

Starting Blocks and Water Depth: Is Your Pool Safe?

When it comes to the world of competitive swimming, there are stringent guidelines that everyone involved in the pool design process must take into consideration. This is especially true for water depths beneath starting blocks.

Starting blocks are raised platforms typically mounted on the pool deck at the end of competitive swimming lanes. In most installations, the height of the starting block platform above the water surface is less than 29 ½” above the water surface. Swimmers mount the blocks and push off from a crouched position, using the force from their lower bodies to launch into the pool. We’ve seen many technological advancements for modern day starting blocks, with the most recent changes being the addition of rear footrests and side handles, which can have an impact on a swimmer’s overall performance.

Because swimmers are diving with a lot of force, it is crucial to ensure that the water beneath the starting blocks, as well as a portion of the pool length ahead of the swimmer, is deep enough that swimmers will not injure themselves. Diving into water that is too shallow can result in devastating injuries.

Credit: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

If a swimmer hits their head on the bottom of the pool, a massive amount of force is transferred to the spine. This force can sometimes collapse the vertebrae that encircle the spinal cord, potentially leading to paralysis or worse. For this reason, it is important for an appropriate water depth to be maintained at the ends of pools where swimmers are diving into the water. In addition to this safety concern, sufficient water depth beneath a starting block can provide a swimmer with the best opportunity to maximize the performance of their start.

USA Swimming, the national governing body of competitive swimming in the United States, has its own set of racing start standards that vary based on swimmer experience and training. In pools with water depths less than 4’-0” at the starting end, all swimmers, regardless of skill level, must begin from within the water. In these instances, backstroke starting ledges are also not permitted. For pools that have water depths between 4’-0” and 6’-0”, a swimmer can utilize a starting block if they have been certified by a USA Swimming Coach. For water depths greater than 6’-0”, starting blocks are allowed for all swimmers, regardless of skill.

FINA, which serves as the international governing body of competitive swimming, has its own standards. The minimum depth at the pool’s end has to be 1.35 meters (about 4’-5”). But when it comes to all Olympic and World Championship events, pool depth must remain a minimum of two meters (about 6’-6”) throughout the entire field of play, with three meters (about 10’-0”) preferred.

It’s important to note that various industry organizations and jurisdictional health and safety departments all have their own defined standard, as well as several varieties of the standard based on different factors. For instance, some organizations have a defined range of water depth standards that are dependent upon the pool type or user. Others take it as a case-by-case basis, and vary the depth as appropriate. Additionally, there are local, state and municipal regulations that need to be considered. What is too shallow for one group may be sufficient for another.

At Counsilman-Hunsaker, we make things simple by recommending a minimum water depth requirement of 6’-0” (with 7’-0” preferred), that is to be maintained a minimum of five meters (16’-5”) from the end wall. This is a universal standard for all pools we work on, regardless of pool type or user, that ensures your pool will be competition-ready. These recommended water depths will also allow a swimmer to utilize a starting block with minimal risk to their health and wellbeing.

Swimmer safety is a top priority for Counsilman-Hunsaker. We take time to assess our systems and specifications to ensure we are designing pools that are not only functional and aesthetically-pleasing, but also keep swimmers safe and able to pursue aquatics for life. Be sure to follow us on social media for more aquatic design and operations information!

What does the ADA require for pool access?

According to the American Disabilities Act (ADA), every pool must have at least two means of ADA access. There are three main means of ADA access that can be considered for pool design:  a fixed pool lift, ramp entry and stair entry. Counsilman-Hunsaker’s standard approach to meeting ADA guidelines is to design our pools with two means of access.  The first means of access is a fixed pool lift on deck required by the Department of Justice.  With multiple pool lift manufacturers, there are many options available.

Our second option is to use a ramp entry. A ramp entry tends to take up a lot of valuable space in the pool. It requires a one to twelve slope and a five-foot landing zone at either a 24-inch or 30-inch water depth. It will also need to be 38 inches wide from handrail to handrail to allow for a wheelchair to pass through. Depending on the depth of the pool, the ramp could be as long as 47 feet. You can shorten this length by adding a switch back at the 18-inch or 24-inch deep landing zone. By doing this, the total width of the ramp could become 8’-4” or 9’-4” if you add a wing wall to separate the ramp from the rest of the pool. Depending on the venue of the pool being designed, a ramp entry might be a must, especially in therapeutic or rehabilitation centers, where most of the users will be in a wheelchair.handicap lift

On the other hand, an ADA stair entry, which is our third option, takes literally no space at all if the pool is already designed with stairs. To make them ADA-compliant, an additional handrail would be added to the stairs 24 inches off of one of the side handrails. Other than the pool lift, this is the easiest option to comply with the ADA since most pool are designed with a stair entry. Cost-wise, it is a lot less expensive to construct a stair entry than it is to construct a ramp entry.

With the options that we have available to meet the ADA requirements, Counsilman Hunsaker’s typical approach is the option of one lift and an ADA stair entry to meet the requirements. If we are designing a pool for a venue that is for rehabilitation or therapeutic uses, we would design the pool with a pool lift and an ADA ramp entry. By adding in a stair entry with ADA-spaced hand rails, we have covered all three means of access.


Diving – Top 10 attributes of a world-class venue

The design of a world-class diving venue requires understanding diving facility guidelines, diving competition rules, and the intricate interactions between divers and their environment.

First and foremost, a dive facility must meet the minimum standards of the competition taking place. For example, the overhead clearance above the diving boards and platforms must be at least that specified in the NFHS, NCAA, USA Swimming & Diving, and FINA diving regulations. This is typically five meters (16 feet, 5 inches) above the highest diving board or platform and is in place so that divers do not hit the ceiling structure. This is just one of numerous design considerations for an elite diving venue.

So, what additional attributes make a world-class diving facility? Here’s a top-10 list:

  1. SEPARATE DIVE POOL – This allows for swimming and diving training to take place simultaneously, as well as accommodate world-class diving events.
  2. 10-METER PLATFORM TOWER AND SPRINGBOARDS –Platform diving competition takes place at 10 meters, though 1-, 3-, 5-, and 7.5-meter heights are also typically provided for training and warm-ups.
  3. DARK-COLORED BOTTOM – It is recommended by USA Diving that the bottom of the dive pool be a dark color — typically dark blue or black — and the walls white.
  4. SPARGERS AND WATER-SURFACE AGITATORS – Spargers (air-bubbling systems) are utilized for diving practice. Water-surface agitators are used during competition to break up the reflection of the ceiling or sky.
  5. SPA AND/OR SHOWERS – A desired feature at all major diving facilities, a spa allows divers to relax their muscles before or after dives.
  6. LARGE STAIR SYSTEM – All world-class diving pools have a large stair system for easy egress out of the pool after a dive.
  7. DIVING HARNESS/SPOTTING RIG – In elite facilities, there may be two diving harnesses and spotting rigs — mounted over one springboard and one platform.
  8. DRY-LAND TRAINING ROOM – For high-level diving, a separate dry-land training room should be provided and equipped with dry-land springboards and pits, a trampoline and digital video recording capability.
  9. SPECTATOR SEATING AND JUDGE VIEWING – Some meets are held using only temporary seating, while large world-class diving events have recently been staged with temporary pools in front of 10,000 or more seats.
  10. LIGHTING AND TV CONSIDERATIONS – During major competitions, lighting levels should be close to 200 foot-candles. Practice lighting can be less, but still needs to be in the 75-to-100-foot-candle range.

Examples of World-Class Diving Venues

The following examples show three world-class diving venues. The University of Tennessee is an indoor facility. The St. Peters Rec-Plex is also an indoor facility, but a municipal diving center. Stanford University is an outdoor diving venue.

The University of Tennessee’s Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center isTennessee, Univ of (1) a complex capable of hosting NCAA Championships, the Southeastern Conference, and national and international events. The center offers seating for 1,800 spectators with a spacious deck area to comfortably accommodate up to 2,000 additional individuals during meets. This 72,000 sq. ft. state-of-the art swimming and diving facility is highlighted by an eight lane 50-meter by 25-yard competition pool and a separate diving pool with 1, 3, 5, 7½, and 10-meter platform diving.

The City of St. Peters, Missouri, Rec-Plex is IMG_6008a world-class aquatic complex constructed for its nationally recognized aquatics program and to host special aquatic events. The Rec-Plex hosted the Olympic Festival in 1994 and the Olympic Diving Trials in 2004. This state-of-the-art natatorium includes a diving tower with 1, 3, 5, 7½, and 10-meter platform diving and a whirlpool spa.

As one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, Stanford University is not only recognized for academic excellence but also outstanding programs in athletics and aquatics. Since 1920, the university has collected countless national awards and trophieProfessional Diving tower nights, turning out some of history’s finest Olympic aquatic athletes. In 2001, Stanford built a world-class venue for the school’s highly-acclaimed aquatics program. The high-tech facility consists of four separate outdoor pools including:

  • 8,200 sq. ft. stretch 25-meter competition pool with diving boards and bulkhead
  • 13,850 sq. ft. 50-meter by 25-meter by 3-meter training pool with bulkhead
  • 4,600 sq. ft. diving pool with a 3-centerline tower and four springboards
  • 50-meter recreation pool
  • Two whirlpool spas (72 sq. ft. and 130.5 sq. ft.)