Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Aqua Design International has come into agreement with the Salim Group out of Irvine, California to design the aquatic elements of the first Hilton property in the Republic of Chad, the Hilton N'Djamena. We're thankful and excited about the opportunity to collaborate with the Salim Group and to have yet another Hilton property in our resume!

Friday, February 17, 2012

WATG in Shanghai...Echos of an Aqua Design Trip

It's obvious that I am not yet over a recent head cold that's making the rounds through the Aqua Design office when I am unabashedly co-opting great blog posts from WATG in lieu of challenging my fragile imaginative qualities to produce a blog post of substance and style.  That being said, Ryan Langlois' post concerning his recent trip to Shanghai with Zia Hansen left a smile and fond memory in the mind of Aqua Design Intl. President Dave Acklin. In 2010 Dave took a whirlwind trip through Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei with the help of the Department of Commerce. While in Shanghai Dave decided the best way to absorb all that the city had to offer was from the side-car of a vintage, 1940's BMW motorcycle. Thanks to the company Shanghai Sideways his dream became a reality.  Without further ado, the blog post from WATG:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

ACI Certified Nozzleman: All Commercial Pools Require One

Good morning fair readers. As we collectively emerge from our wistful slumbers, shake the sleep from our eyes and wonder aloud to no one in particular why there is glitter on the left side of our face I bring to you an unpleasant Wednesday photo detailing the importance of requiring an ACI Certified Nozzleman from your swimming pool contractor on all commercial projects. In this image we illustrate the results associated with poor craftsmanship used in a shotcrete application technique.  When not using a nozzleman that carries a certification from the American Concrete Institute there is a likelihood that air cavities will be created in the pool shell significantly weakening the structural integrity of the pool. The results can be catastrophic and prohibitively expensive in and of themselves, independent of the construction delays created through such poor craftsmanship.
In this example the pool contractor did not follow the written specification provided by Aqua Design International (or the permitted structural engineering for that matter) to employ an ACI Cert. Nozzelman when "shooting" the structure of the pool for this hotel and casino.  Because of this effort to cut corners and reduce construction costs on the part of the pool contractor the project had to be delayed to allow for enough time to tear out the entire pool, and re-shoot the shotcrete shell subsequently delaying the hotel opening for over two months.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Town of Oro Valley Selects Aqua Design & Swaim & Associates

Aqua Design International is pleased to announce that in collaboration with Swaim & Associates we were awarded the contract for the Town of Oro Valley Aquatic Center Enhancement project. The project is to include a new six lane by 75' warm-up pool as well as a new splash pad, in addition to a renovation and reconfiguration of an existing 50 meter pool. A special thanks to Swaim & Associates for including Aqua Design on their team as well as BWS for their efforts.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hospitality Sector: A Value Proposition, Part 3

Value Proposition: Sustainable Design
There are a number of sustainable energy practices available to the hospitality sector specific to aquatics that can help achieve LEED-Gold and LEED-Silver ratings. Such design practices include designing pools and spas with variable frequency drives (VFD), employing high efficiency heaters as well as designing flat-plate and evacuated tube solar thermal systems.  These systems function not only to augment the high efficiency pool and spa heater but also to provide hot water for the hotel laundry, kitchen, and bathrooms.
Incorporating a simple VFD into the swimming pool design allows the hotel operator to reduce the RPM of the circulation pump along a linear curve of flow reduction while taking advantage of an electricity use reduction along an exponential curve. In layman’s terms, the operator can reduce the RPM’s by half while simultaneously reducing electricity use by 87.5%.
Additionally, using a high-efficiency condensing, or noncondensing, hydronic water heater for the pool and spa achieves an efficiency rating of 98%, which is well above the accepted “high efficiency” standard of 88% in today’s marketplace. Moreover, the client can achieve installation cost reduction because the exhaust flume construction of a hydronic water heater is Sch. 80 PVC as opposed to costly stainless steel power vent applications.
Last, employing photovoltaic (PV) solar panels is common for the creation of electricity for residential and commercial use; however, few architects are aware that a PV solar array produces less than 14% of the energy as a flat plate/evacuated tube solar thermal configuration. The solar thermal energy collection method allows the hotel operator to augment the gas and electric costs associated with heating not only the pool and spa but also the hot water used in hotel kitchens and bathrooms as well as the re-heat required in central HVAC units. With a useful life between 20 and 25 years coupled with a multitude of state and federal tax incentives a hotel/resort owner can realize a 500-800% ROI over a 15-year period. It is clear that increasingly consumers are demanding sustainable practices in the hospitality sector. Moreover, the energy savings, LEED Certification, and marketing cache generated from these design/renovation practices substantially improve the hotel brand’s positioning in the marketplace while achieving long-term, sustainable operating savings.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hospitality Sector: A Value Proposition, Part Two

Value Proposition: No More “Design Build” (aka: low bidder)
Value is not defined merely as the cheapest product or service.  The need for cost conscious design and construction from limited service to luxury resort applications is a necessary, often paramount consideration for any architectural professional. Unfortunately, the design as well as construction of the aquatic elements is left in the hands of a local swimming pool contractor, often a residential pool contractor with no knowledge of local, state, and federal commercial codes governing construction.
Because a plan set often does not include an effective design for the aquatic elements as well as their mechanical filtration and sanitation systems the entire project falls to the “low bidder” who will not only fail to recognize applicable code restrictions but also will submit inferior and noncompliant equipment.  Subsequently the general contractor and architect receive these plans who will -of course- approve the swimming pool submittals.  Approval of the submittal documents is done despite being incomplete and highlighting inferior products because the architect and general contractor possess little insight or training regarding what constitutes an inferior swimming pool product, or a design riddled with liabilities. Employing a professional firm not only to design the aquatic element but also to permit the project as well as review submittals throughout the construction administration process.  This will ensure the client receives NSF Certified commercially rated equipment, an ADA compliant pathway, deck design, and lift specifications as well as mechanical filtration design compliant with ANSI/ASME regulations.
To put it more succinctly, if the pool and spa on the property is not a complete part of the design plan set it is impossible to realize the client’s expectations.  Because the plan set and specifications fail to illustrate the client’s expectations it is impossible to relay expectations to the contractors bidding the project.  An aquatic consultant who will act as the client’s advocate through the design and construction of the property ensures the realization of the client’s expectations. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hospitality Sector: A Value Proposition, Part One

Value Proposition: No More Gaps in Coordination (aka: “pool by others” on plan sets)
Our first value proposition is specific to a knowledge and coordination gap usually missing in an Architect and Landscape Architect’s scope of work.  This is specific to the aesthetic nature of aquatic design as well as the highly technical coordination and design of mechanical filtration and sanitation systems; in addition to local, state, and federal code compliance.  Execution is achieved in collaboration with the Architect, Landscape Architect, MEP Consultant, Structural Engineer, Civil Engineer, and Risk Management Professionals either procured in the private sector, or through (brand name) own internal design team.
Typically the architect does not provided adequate space for the swimming pool, spa, or water feature equipment.  Moreover, the electrical engineer fails to provide a sufficient panel design and one-line diagram and the mechanical engineer fails to include a gas line to the pool/spa heater. In some cases the basic layout of the pool does not meet even the most rudimentary local health code requirements. The exacerbation of the aforementioned concerns includes a wholesale lack of information regarding deck drainage, safety signage, ADA access, emergency exits, hand rails, ladders, etc…  Retaining an effective, knowledgeable aquatics consultant on the architectural design team will effectively ameliorate these concerns and ensure that there are never gaps in the design, permitting, and construction of a hotel, regardless of size.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hotel Branding by Design from WATG

Dear reader (dare I say readers?), we apologize for the absence, some of our staff took some much deserved time off and meandered off to the tropics a la Lord Jim.  That being said, I would like to attach a link to a fascinating blog post from WATG's Howard Wolff detailing the role of design in brand positioning in the hospitality sector, coupled with an intriguing chart detailing the occupancies, ADR, and RevPAR of properties design by WATG and those of a control group.  This is interesting from Aqua Design's perspective because we firmly believe design of the swimming pools, spas, and water features of anything from focused service, to full service, and ultimately luxury properties can vastly improve the same figures when a balance of functionality, quality, and impact of design coalesce for the benefit of the client.

Branding by Design

Design is a critical aspect of any brand's positioning.
I recently had the honor of presenting some insights on the subject at the Cornell Brand Management Roundtable, hosted by Professor Chekitan Dev, PH.D. and The Center for Hospitality Research.
When it comes to branding hotels and resorts, both art and science are involved. Under the category of art comes stunning photography, which is one way to showcase a property and communicate its "wow" factor.
The science comes from understanding the elements of good design – functionality, quality, and impact.
Where functionality can be assessed (Is the building well designed for its purpose?) andquality can be evaluated (Will the building and materials last?), impact (Does the building lift people's spirits?) is harder to measure ... but that doesn't mean it can't be done.
Using a tool called DQI (Design Quality Indicator) to gauge the impact of 99 design-related variables, Hyatt administered a questionnaire to 2,000 guests and employees at 24 of their hotels. They were able to correlate high DQI scores with strong guest and employee satisfaction as well as with individual properties' RevPAR index.
In a longitudinal study conducted over 20 years, WATG engaged Smith Travel Research to examine the effect of design on a property's top and bottom line by comparing 27 hotels that the firm designed in four separate geographic areas against competitive sets in the same markets managed by the same operators. The WATG hotels outperformed the control group in occupancy, ADR and RevPAR.
These studies, coupled with owner/operator interviews as well as comments from guests and employees, provide quantifiable evidence that good design adds value. And it can do so in three measureable areas:
- Asset value: higher valuation as well as lower operating and maintenance costs;
- Quality of environment: improved productivity and better guest experience; and
- Brand identity: recognition, visibility and media exposure.
A summary of the entire proceedings, called "Fresh Thinking Outside the Box," can be obtained from Cornell for free in exchange for your email address here.