Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, "Creating Water as Art."™

Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, "Creating Water as Art."™
Pools as an art form - the way it should be!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

How do HIGHER design cost save me money?

Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa
Paolo Benedetti

Hiring an qualified aquatic architect or aquatic designer can save the client money over the cost of the project. But you ask, "how can it be, that if I spend more on consultants and designers up front of my project, I can save even more later?"

There are many answers...

First of all, many architects & landscape architects have great vision & creativity. Yet, because they lack practical construction experience, they don't get the details "quite right." They insist on drawing cross sections (that might work, but may not be practical, energy efficient, or may have high recurring operating or maintenance expenses).

Case in point... a client asked the Landscape Architect to design a water feature for the front entry of their new estate. 3 walls of varying heights, intersect with shallow reflecting pools. 1 singular spout, would spill water off of each of the walls & into the pools. While the concept was fine (a Legoretta inspired design - though the Landscape Architect would not admit it), the ensuing cross sections were a nightmare. The homeowner, not knowing any different, insisted that the drawings go out "to bid, as is."

The Landscape Architect had designed a fountain, with 12" of water BENEATH a fiberglass grate, and a few inches above it. The grating was to have a layer of tumbled pebbles spread across it. This fountain was to be hundreds of square feet in size.

The Landscape Architect went on to explain, how he needed to maintain 12" of water below the grate to allow for "water in transit." I asked him what did he mean by "water in transit?" He explained that a quantity of water needed to be kept in reserve, to allow for the proper circulation & operation of the fountains. "AND," he proudly exclaimed, "we've done it this way before & it works wonderfully."

I almost broke out in laughter... here he has proposed the design for a fountain that required all but 20 or 30 gallons per minute, and he in intent on storing 100 times that much - and hidden under a bunch of rocks & fiberglass grating.

When I asked how the fountain was to be maintained, they all looked at me like I was from another planet.

"What do you mean?" asked the Landscape Architect.

"Who is going to remove 1000 pounds of rocks, lift out a few hundred pounds of fiberglass grating, vacuum the dirt from the floor, replace the grating, wash & clean all of the rocks, & replace the fiberglass grating and the 1000+ pounds of rocks, just to keep the area under the grate free of dirt, algae and bacterial growth? And this has to occur as frequently as, say every few months?," I replied. "And, I might add, this is not going to occur for free."

The Landscape Architect just looked at me with that "deer in the headlights look."

I politely, reminded them that I was on the design team, and that water features, pools & spas are my area of expertise. "This is exactly why within a year, 90% of all fountains & water features are filled with dirt & planted with pansies!," I stated, "No one ever thinks about the on-going maintenance, the maintenance process, and how the fountain is actually going to function & stay clean - beyond the day it is filled with water & everyone goes AHHH, OOOOH, AHHHH, before the clients eventually says OOOPS!."

There were a lot of questions to be asked: "Who is responsible for paying for this on-going maintenance program & cleaning? Who is going to be responsible for adding water when the client's are traveling? Or going out into a storm, to remove excess water before it floods the surrounding landscaping? How are you going to prevent the falling water from splashing on the surrounding masonry & plaster walls (creating unsightly white calcium deposits & mineral stains)? How is the water going to stay clean & clear? Are there any lights? High voltage or low voltage? How do you intend to keep requisite 18" of water ABOVE high voltage light fixtures?"

The Landscape Architect was "bent out of shape," that this lowly "pool builder" had the audacity to speak out in a team meeting (in front of the client), about his design. I didn't say that his design was flawed - OH, though it was! I merely stated that improvements would make it a lot more user friendly & appealing (by controlling algae & slime), improve the cost effectiveness of on-going operation & maintenance, and most importantly maintain the intended purpose AND the integrity of HIS DESIGN!

In my re-design, I removed the grating, mortared the pebbles & cobbles directly to the floor, and increased the volume of water above the rocks to 8". With the net water depth at 8", a standard pool vacuum head & hose can function correctly without "sucking air." The floors' surface can be vacuumed without sucking rocks into the vacuum head and the rocks will remain permanently in place. There is now no need to move hundreds of pounds of rocks, every time the fountain needs to be cleaned!

Multiple skimmers will now draw in the 99.9% of the debris that enter a vessel from the atmosphere and environment (hey, the debris doesn't permeate through the walls, now does it!?). Deepened drain sumps in the floor will prevent air ingestion from vortexing - due to the shallow depths. A balancing pipe between the drain sumps will keep the water equalized between the pools, as the vessels that comprise this fountain vary in size. An auto-fill device and a built-in over-flow line will maintain the optimum water level for proper skimming action. Filtration & chemical injection systems will keep the water clear, clean, algae & bacteria free. And, through it all, I was able to maintain a shallow depth, that will still be safe for the clients' young family.

Best of all, I was able to maintain the Landscape Architect's intended design, with only very slight modifications. Through it all, he "never got it."

I don't think that the client ever "got it" either ...though the cost of the fountain increased by $30,000, I had kept the fountain from turning into a planter. And, that the reoccurring maintenance expenses on this fountain has been reduced by thousands of dollars annually...hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of the property.

The client and Landscape Architect both missed the fact. That I did possess the skills & experience necessary, to not only identify major design & operational flaws, but that the solutions will save the client hundreds of thousands of dollars. Additionally, I was able to maintain the intended visual effect and client's demand for safety. The net result will ensure that this design element will remain in place for years to come! I was able to guarantee the integrity of the Landscape Architect's design!

This is the definition of VALUE ENGINEERING. Spend a little more money now, to save a lot more money in the future!

Though I bit my tongue, I really wanted to say my piece to the Landscape Architect. First, I am much more that a mere lowly "pool builder." My resume alone, is 4 pages longer than anyone in my field. I guarantee you that I have studied more fountains, pools, hydraulic & construction design details that any architect. I am college educated, and the 1000's of hours of post graduate studies in the field of design, construction, material sciences, and aquatics alone, would have earned me a couple of PhD's (if there was such a degree).

Most importantly, weren't we all in that room together as a team, to deliver the best possible design for the client? Regardless of who's ego takes the credit....

I saw the "ego clash" coming, when I mentioned that his design had a Legoretta inspiration & he got upset. So, I am supposed to apologize for being educated enough to recognize his inspiration, whether a conscience influence or not, yet am publicly chastised for it? His design was as Legoretta as it gets.... straight walls, intersecting pools of water, with a singular spout of water of falling water. I can quote a dozen Legoretta projects with this design element, as far back as the 1960's.

But the Landscape Architect got me... he kept faxing & emailing pool designs, redesigns, and "his ideas" for the pool to the client. " I kept asking myself, "what the hell am I even here for, if this guy is going to keep railroading the design??"

Now, before all of the pool details & engineering has been completed, he's sent "his" flat plan of the landscape out to his usual menagerie of landscape contractors... and has instructed them to "bid" the pool as a part of their overall scope of work.

We know where this is going..... it is already half way down the yellow brick road, with the entire population of Munchkin land in tow.


Paolo Benedetti - Aquatic Artist
"Creating water as art."™
Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa