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

Monday, November 3, 2008

When should I hire an Aquatic Designer?

Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa
Paolo Benedetti

When should I get an aquatic architect or swimming pool designer involved on my design team for the swimming pool at my new luxury high-end multi-million dollar estate?

EASY ANSWER: AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. This is for a number of reasons...

First & foremost, you want your project to be thoroughly thought through. The more time allowed for the design team to consult with one another, the increased likelihood that the actual construction will occur more efficiently.

Secondly, you want to be able to hire the best that you can afford. THE BEST in any industry or trade are always busy, regardless of the economy. The sooner you retain their services, the more apt you are to find their schedules available to you.

Next, the sooner you have your "dream team" together, the sooner they can begin assembling their collective thoughts. The Aquatic Designer will have a lot of the same questions that your architect has...

Budget - So they can try to design within your budget. No need designing something spectacular, to be way out of the client's budget. Some clients want "ART," and as such, have to be a little looser with the budget. There will be some R&D (Research & Development AND Rework & Demolition) in creating unusual & unique effects.

Lines of sight - what do you want to see & hear from various locations??

Where & how the various angles of the site & proposed structures work together.

Selecting compatible materials... visually to each other, compatible for the intended use, and the compatible lifespan/performance.

How the controls will interface seamlessly.... Doing this after the fact is never easy, nor seamless. It is best that all of the installers of the various control systems on the estate, start early to identify incompatibility issues. There are a myriad of systems to consider & it all depends on how seamless the client wants them to be [HVAC, Security, CCTV, Audio/Video, Lighting (interior, exterior, low voltage & High voltage), telephone, LAN/WAN, landscape controls (pool/spa functions, landscape lighting, fountains, etc.].

Future growth on the site - I call this the "DREAM STATE." If the client built out the estate exactly as they envision, regardless of the time frame, how would it finish? This is where the term "VALUE ENGINEERING," originates from. Plan ahead & spend a little more money now, to save a lot more money in the future. Example: A client desires additional buildings on the estate in the future. It is best to plan for those buildings now, by installing electrical, data, & phone conduits through the foundation, roughing in gas, sewer & water lines beyond the current construction, etc. This is value engineering - planning for growth. This is all so the client does not have to tear out portions of the current project (in todays dollars) to install the infrastructure needs for a future project. And repair the torn out sections with tomorrow's dollars.

ROI - How long will the client really be in this property? We can oftentimes be the voice of reason, when making decisions. However, sometimes there are particular facets that the client just must have for intrinsic reasons, or because they are pleasing to them. Equipment, material, & finish selections and installation practices can all be based upon these criteria. If the client is only going to own the residence for a few years, does it make sense to build to a 100 year standard? Sometimes, the answer is yes, because they want to build a legacy, create something that will stand the test of time.

Engineering - once the engineering has been completed, the design oftentimes has to be reworked (plumbing, electrical, design elevations, etc.) to allow for the structural elements (reinforcing steel & proper concrete thicknesses). The Aquatic Designer knows the engineers that specialize in swimming pools & speaks their "lingo." The Aquatic Designer will know how the layers of the pool will be built & how to plan for the various stages. This is critical when performing the structural engineering.

Schedule - the sooner the team is assembled, the more likely that the plans will be completed on time. Waiting until the house is under construction to begin the landscaping & pool designs is way too late. Oftentimes, getting involved at this point, we are left trying to shoehorn an elephant into a gopher hole. Sometimes the design has become way too complicated & intricate, without the input of someone who actually knows how to dig it, frame it, plumb it, & build it. Trying to get involved at this stage, involves a lot of reworking, realigning, and redrawing. The static loads of a swimming pool are incredible. Once they start bearing upon other structures, something in the design has to give.

Creative Collaboration - Many Aquatic Designers have an extensive background in architecture, art, color theory, spatial relationships, material science, as well as construction & "water." They can lend ideas to refine elements of the design, drawing on their experience with water, their world travels, and even experience on other design teams. It make sense to capitalize upon that experience - gained from working with International Renown Architects, Designers, and Experts that other people assembled for their projects?

Get an Aquatic Designer involved early on, so the project is as seamless as possible... after all isn't it the goal to have water elements that are part of the scene... belonging seamlessly to the architecture or landscape, as if something was missing if they were not there?

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