Friday, December 30, 2011

Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center - From HOK

Although the aquatic element to this rendering is limited, the scope and audacity of the design concept of the entire project is breathtaking and certainly worth featuring on our blog. Special thanks to HOK for posting this on their blog in July of this year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Is Evidence-Based Design Merely Common Sense Design? (Originally provided by HKS, 1/4/11)

Although specific to health care design, Debajyoti Pati mentions a few design considerations endemic to all design efforts, including our own in a sub-field specific to aquatics.  Debajyoti asks, a simple question, “did common sense prevail?” This a valid, and penetrating query that all designers must ask themselves and one that is ingrained in our design philosophy specifically concerning the mechanical filtration and sanitation systems of pools, spas, and water features.  Moreover, Debajyoti sensibly points out that although many designs are seemingly “no-brainers” they are often wrought with serious and costly challenges that can have a powerfully deleterious effect on a preconceived GMP already submitted to the client.  The full blog post from Debajyoti can be found on the HKS blog at:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

WATG Shangri-La's Villingili Resort and Spa

We are very impressed with the unique nature of this design as well as its successful implementation.  One element of particular note is the vanishing edge design detail featured on the aquatic elements of this project.  This detail, while expensive to construct, provides a seamless transition absent of decking and enclosures from the pool to the limitless expanse of the surrounding scenery.  For this resort, it was a great decision to allow the pool to highlight ambiance of the surrounding locale, elegant and understated. Nice work WATG, and congrats on your award.

Shangri-La Villingili Resort and Spa, Maldives

Commentary on WATG World Travel and Tourism Council Summit

Mike Seyle of WATG drafted this articulate, erudite synopsis of his experience at the WTTC Summit specific to the trajectory of global resort development in the years ahead.  This mood is not merely anecdotal for Marriott Hotels & Resorts has announced plans for 50 additional resorts and hotels to add to their myriad of brands between now and 2015.  In our opinion the most salient point conferred on the reader in Mr. Seyle’s post is the fact that technology, while useful, will never replace the need to conduct business face-to-face in the years ahead.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Structural Engineering and Soil (Geotechnical) Reports

When constructing a new hotel it is typical for the architect to order a soils report with the request for specific recommendations for the building foundation design.  Borings are done, the results are studied, and a report is issued to the architect.  Very rare is the project that addresses the pool/spa. 
An effective swimming pool design consultant collaborates with the architect to ask for specific borings directly in the proposed pool area as well as to have the soils engineer make specific recommendations for the construction of the pool. 
What is worse, typically the pool is built by the “lowest bid” pool contractor that has never seen the soils report and usually ends up building a pool shell off of a “standard model plan” from a structural engineer that is often of insufficient strength for the conditions of that job site.  Consequently, the soil either heaves or collapses causing the pool to shift and crack. 
At Aqua Design International we hear of pool failures derived from poor collaboration with the architect, soils engineer, structural engineer and swimming pool consultant on a monthly basis.  We have found in many cases that simple design coordination could have saved the owner as well as the design team an astonishing amount of money, hardship, and embarrassment.  Collaborating with the architect, soils engineer, and structural engineer is merely one of many reasons to hire a competent swimming pool design consultant.  Failure to do so usually results in a gap in design and coordination that is often poorly filled with the limited expertise of a local, residential pool contractor. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why Hospitality Development and Management Company’s hire Aqua Design – Part 3

Your pool consultant should be your advocate to ensure that the pool contractor is submitting the specified commercial grade project equipment and has accurate shop drawings.  We are reminded of several projects where we discovered the pool contractor had substituted the pool and spa handicap lift for an inferior product that was not ADA compliant.  As a result the owners were faced with purchasing a true ADA compliant lift and literally throwing away what was supplied by the pool contractor.
A good pool consultant can pay for himself many times over.  Think of your next project.  Envision actually discussing ahead of time what is important to YOU as well as the brand standard of the property and seeing this reflected in a complete set of construction documents.  When your GC goes out into that market with a fully coordinated set of plans, he can give you a legitimate competitive bid from several commercial pool contractors.  We can assure you the money you can save on the pool bids will be greater than our fee to design the project.
We have worked with many brands over the years; including Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, JW Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Omni, Westin, Sheraton, Aman Resorts, and nearly every limited service brand existing.  We can offer you accurate information and detailed construction drawings that will conform to your standards.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why Hospitality Development and Management Company’s hire Aqua Design – Part 2

From the start of the design process you should have a pool consultant coordinate with a number of other professional disciplines during the construction documentation phase of that project.  This should include:
1)   Coordination with the soils engineer and the aquatic consultant to design the proper pool and spa structure for the bearing pressure and conditions on that site.  This can dramatically change the structural steel and concrete specification from one job site to the next.
2)   Coordination with the electrical engineer to show the proper circuits and panel schedule for the pump motors, chemistry controllers, heater, and underwater light circuits.
3)   Coordination with the mechanical engineer to show the proper connection for the gas supply to the heaters, backwash from the equipment room, and make-up water to fill the pool.
4)   Coordination with the civil engineer to show how the deck will drain as well as the continuation of backwash lines to take the waste water off-site.
5)   Coordination with the architect for access into the pool area, enclosure requirements, and ADA access compliance.
When this is coordinated between the pool consultant and the architect the owner can expect to have their expectations met.   As good as the plan can be, given the right coordination, you should also rely on the pool consultant for construction administration. Look out for Part 3 of Why Hospitality Management Company’s hire Aqua Design tomorrow.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why Hospitality Development and Management Company’s hire Aqua Design – Part 1

This most important reason to have a relationship with a talented aquatic consultant is to ensure you get what you want.  This comment should have a deep and multi-faceted meaning to any hospitality management company.  The history of pool construction in this market has been driven by design/build principals for as long as we can remember.
In years past the architect would typically show a rectangle on his site plan with an arrow pointed to the pool and a note describing “pool by others.”   This portion of the project would be negotiated with a GC with the contractor left to go solicit pricing from a pool builder in that geographic area.  Of course, no information would be provided on the plans to tell the pool builder what he was supposed to bid.  The GC would obtain prices; in some cases from several residential pool builders in the area and would usually award the pool to the low bidder. 
What always remained lost in this scenario is the owner’s expectation.  With no program and no detailed construction drawing, many times the owner would end up with a sub-standard project.  Worse in many cases the pool is not even built to a commercial standard of construction adhering to the brand standards of the property, state & local health codes, county & municipal building codes as well as federal ADA guidelines.  The owner realizes well after the project is completed that they ended up with residential grade equipment and residential grade construction.  Subsequently the property owner is often burdened by staggering renovation costs well before they should expect it to show up in their budget.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of Why Hospitality Management Company’s hire Aqua Design tomorrow.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hydrostatic Relief Valve: Why It’s Important

All pools must be drained at some point in their life. Sometimes it is for the purpose of resurfacing the interior finish, sometimes it is simply because the calcium hardness or total dissolved solids have reached 1000ppm or 2000ppm, respectively. Sometimes because of harsh winters the pools are emptied for winterization. Regardless of why the pool needs to be emptied it is important to remember that in some areas the only thing preventing the hydrostatic pressure of a high water table from literally popping the entire pool out of the ground is the equal, reciprocal pressure of the water in the pool itself.  In other words, when the pool is empty there is often a risk of groundwater pushing the entire pool shell out of the ground.
There is a simple remedy and it’s an inexpensive part ($50-$80) appropriately called a hydrostatic relief valve placed in the sump of the main drain. Frustratingly such a simple part is often overlooked in the design and construction of many pools.  The part allows for the water table to flood into the pool and relieve pressure, as opposed to forcing the pool out of the ground. Granted, groundwater may have some minerals unfriendly to the interior surface of a pool, but is far preferable to the total destruction of the pool itself. Many years ago we at Aqua Design International saw the 75 meter (246 foot) municipal pool in Ardmore, Oklahoma popped 3 feet out of the ground because of a failure to include a simple, inexpensive hydrostatic relief valve in the design of the pool. While not widespread this phenomenon is depressingly familiar and unnecessarily recurring.  Check back with us for brief, related read on the importance of structural engineering and geotechnical evaluation as part of responsible aquatic consulting. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Floor Inlets Need Tile

Often in the construction of limited service and resort properties (as well as competition pools) either a poor aquatic consultant is hired, or the decision is made to design the swimming pools using a local pool contractor in a design-build capacity. One small -though significant- design consideration often ignored is the area around the floor inlet of the pool. 
The floor inlet system, coupled with wall inlets, is where the filtered and chemically treated water is returned to the pool.  Because of this, the water being ejected from the floor inlet has an unusually high concentration of acidic products being shot across the interior surface of the pool floor.  Such products are usually an acid to control the pH of the pool water as well as a halogen sanitation chemical like chlorine or bromine. The problem is simple: When water with a high acidic concentration is shot across the floor of the pool horrible discoloration of the interior surface is guaranteed (plaster, Pebble Tec, etc…).  Such products ravage the interior surface of the pool whenever the circulation system is operating.  A thoughtful, knowledgeable aquatics consultant should have the wherewithal to design the floor inlet system with 2”x2” tiles matching the interior surface of the pool surrounding the floor inlet to eliminate the risk of significant discoloration to the pool floor.  A simple design consideration such as this has a negligible cost, but will invariably save the pool owner/operator a minimum of $10,000 in interior resurfacing costs resulting from a poor floor inlet system design.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Aqua Design commissions Casino Del Sol Hotel, see the laminar flow water features in action

CO² as Swimming Pool pH Control for Resorts and Limited Service Hotels

Carbon Dioxide is a popular product used to lower pH in swimming pools in conjunction with an active disinfectant that is either calcium hypochlorite, or preferable sodium hypochlorite.  The CO² regulator can only be used with a chemistry controller that –at a minimum- measures and regulates the pH and oxidation reduction potential (ORP) of the water and opens and closes a solenoid valve regulating the release of CO² into the pressure-side of the circulation system (after the heater).

When CO² is mixed with water a mild acid –carbonic acid- is produced thus reducing pH.  It’s best to run a by-pass line off the pressure-side of the filtration system after the filter thus allowing the operator to regulate the amount of flow, while simultaneously creating an excellent contact chamber (in the by-pass line) for the carbonic acid to dilute in solution prior to being ejected into the pool.  At Aqua Design International we believe CO² is a particularly attractive pH control tool to use on resorts as well as limited service hotel applications for two reasons. First, there is no need to store muriatic acid, or sulfuric acid; all that is needed is a tank (50-400lbs) that is either exchanged or filled with CO² when needed. Second, the cost of CO² is an astonishingly economical 35 cents per pound.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Shangri La

Although not quite reaching epic proportions of a Himilayan Utopia, this project by our friends over at WATG  is a great juxtaposition of current technology and the roots of the locations heritage. Here is a snippet of what WATG says about the project (More about the Shangri-La Villigini resort and spa by WATG here):

The Shangri-La Maldives Resort & Spa captures the spirit of the site; is modern in reflecting current technology yet exhibiting continuity with the heritage of the past; and responds to the tropical climate and landscape character of the region by promoting positive indoor and outdoor experiences.

As pool architects, rarely do we have to make judgement calls between using the latest technology and staying within the “continuity (and) heritage of the past”. We are lucky enough (or unlucky enough) that the magic of our efficient and well laid out equipment rooms are not on display for the world to see, the skill of our craft comes through in maintaining the proper water chemistry for years to come, and having the right size filters for the job. Don’t get me wrong, our pools are masterpieces, but much of the real work is hidden in just the right amount of concrete to support the hundreds of tons of water in our pools.

I digress...

Despite the epic name bestowed on this resort, after seeing what WATG did with it, we could be persuaded to hold our next office retreat there. This is not a cookie cutter resort, but one that seems to fit it’s surroundings, heritage, and the challenge to create separate spaces where guests feel like they are the only ones staying there.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Great Architects Twitter List

We have been featuring Architects that both produce good work, and share it with others through their blogs and websites. Many of these people have been hand picked because of the quality of their work, while others because of the great content they share about others. You can find the list of these architects by going to our twitter account and looking at our lists.
From this list, we have created a to gather all the articles, videos, and pictures that people on that list have shared, and put it all in one place. We hope it is a resource for Architects to see what is happening in our industry. Here is the link to the Great Architects

If you would like to be added to this, just let us know at @Aqua_Design_Int 

It is all about the water

Open any travel and lodging magazine and you will find images of incredible swimming pools and water features. Luxury and Resort brand advertising today understands the power of these images. As an avid international traveler I too am captivated by the allure of inviting and inspiring pools. My imagination transports me to the chaise lounge at the edge of this refreshing pool to the relaxation and enjoyment it represents.

Marketing a resort property is enhanced with superior images of the pools, spas, and water features. These images are the most powerful a brand can offer for no other amenity is more effective at capturing the ethos of the vacation experience than the aquatic element.  Allow your customer to envision their experience at your resort.

Aqua Design International works with many talented architects and landscape architects to bring these visions to reality. Our team understands the complexity of hydraulic design, mechanical filtration, and chemical treatment systems that complete these visions.  Our mission is to produce detailed and complete construction document packages fully coordinated with the architect’s plans.

Our goal is a finished product that sparkles and invites the guest. Our team understands the water must be perfectly clean and sanitary. Aqua Design understands all the design of the mechanical filtration and sanitation systems must be easy to maintain while providing the high quality water demanded in the hospitality sector.

Our design firm, Aqua Design International is excited to be at the forefront of resort hotel marketing efforts.  Our team offers professional consulting for resort, full, and focused service swimming pools, spas, and water features.  We understand our role to the design community is to provide the most professional aquatic consultation available worldwide.

Aqua Design is always thrilled to find examples of our work in major travel industry publications and on the websites of major global hospitality brands.  Our team is inspired when we work with talented architects.  Contact us for additional information regarding our design firm. You will find us at