WaterShapes

The web site for all professionals and consumers who've made or want to make water a part of their lives

Subtle at the Surface

The procession started more than 20 years ago, when those who apply interior finishes to pools, spas and other watershapes began looking beyond white plaster:  First came the colored plasters, then pebbles and colored aggregates and, more recently, the polished aggregates.  Now, says Kirk Chapman, more new materials and the advent of hybrid approaches are carrying surface specialists to new possibilities limited only by their imaginations.
The procession started more than 20 years ago, when those who apply interior finishes to pools, spas and other watershapes began looking beyond white plaster: First came the colored plasters, then pebbles and colored aggregates and, more recently, the polished aggregates. Now, says Kirk Chapman, more new materials and the advent of hybrid approaches are carrying surface specialists to new possibilities limited only by their imaginations.
By Kirk Chapman

Back in 1987 and particularly in California and Florida, the surfacing industry found itself in the middle of an unfortunate wave of plaster failures.  Some people blamed the material, others blamed application techniques – and traces of the debate continue to this day.

The situation was truly desperate in some areas, so much so that it drove many plasterers to seek new materials and techniques – anything to escape the cycle of negativity.  Our firm in San Diego, for example, moved early and became the first in our county to apply exposed-aggregate finishes.  Today, more than 80% of

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Making Models Super

The project was massive:  Four sets of spectacular model homes for a gated community set in the rolling hills above Newport Beach, Calif. – designed by three different landscape architects and each featuring its own creative use of water.  By the time he left the site, says pool builder Kent Hart, he had installed more than 20 vessels of various types, shapes and sizes at the One Ford Road development – and found unique challenges in executing the architects’ divergent visions.
The project was massive: Four sets of spectacular model homes for a gated community set in the rolling hills above Newport Beach, Calif. – designed by three different landscape architects and each featuring its own creative use of water. By the time he left the site, says pool builder Kent Hart, he had installed more than 20 vessels of various types, shapes and sizes at the One Ford Road development – and found unique challenges in executing the architects’ divergent visions.
By Ken Hart

Not every upscale pool contractor has to be working with his or her own designs to be successful in building beautiful pools.  Our company, for instance, has established its reputation by excelling at making the ideas of others come to life.

Examples of this can be found in the work we did at One Ford Road, a development where we were asked to follow through on designs prepared by three of Southern California’s best-known landscape architects.  We’ve found here and elsewhere that when you work with highly creative people (including those who designed the pools, spas and waterfeatures pictured on these pages), the process can be truly rewarding, exciting and even

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Material Issues

200111BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Lately I’ve been finding myself in what seems like a fairly unique position:  On the one hand, I work as a design consultant for architects and as a designer for high-end customers; on the other, I work as a builder executing the designs that customers and their architects choose.

In this dual capacity, I’ve been able to gather a tremendous amount of input from construction clients and transfer it in one form or another as a consultant.  I also have had the opportunity of seeing how decisions made in the design process play out during the construction process.  

Seeing both sides has led me to certain conclusions, chief among them

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Woven Beauty

The customer wanted it all:  a large pool and spa made with natural materials; a fully-equipped outdoor entertainment area; a place to keep cool while lounging in the sunshine – all woven seamlessly into a work of watershaping art that took full advantage of a marvelously scenic location.  Here’s a look at how designer/builder David Tisherman pulled all of the details into their dramatic final form.
The customer wanted it all: a large pool and spa made with natural materials; a fully-equipped outdoor entertainment area; a place to keep cool while lounging in the sunshine – all woven seamlessly into a work of watershaping art that took full advantage of a marvelously scenic location. Here’s a look at how designer/builder David Tisherman pulled all of the details into their dramatic final form.
By David Tisherman

This project is all about making connections – connections between the inside of a home and the outdoors; between surrounding wide-open spaces and an intimate backyard; between the colors of the hillsides and the materials used in crafting the watershape; between the clients’ desire for recreation and their passion for beauty; and between the beauty of nature and the modern, sculptural lines of the design.

If you’ve followed my “Details” column in WaterShapes in recent months, you’ve seen many of the components that have been incorporated into this particular

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Necks, Heads and Shoulders

200110DT0By David Tisherman

I’m amazed at how few watershapers keep the size and shape of the average body in mind or consider the science of ergonomics when they design projects for their clients.  Just think about how much more we can do to increase their comfort and enjoyment by doing so, particularly when it comes to custom concrete spas.

Take a look at the average spa attached to the typical pool:  On a great many of them, you’ll see a cantilevered deck around the edges.  

From the perspective of

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Filling the Energy Gap

To homeowners, swimming pools have always represented fun and relaxation.  But they also can mean overwhelming energy bills, especially when heating cold water with fossil-fuel heaters is required.  As energy efficiency and conservation reclaim prominence in our national consciousness, inventor and manufacturer Mark Urban sees a brave, new world – one in which pools become a resource, not an energy drain.
To homeowners, swimming pools have always represented fun and relaxation. But they also can mean overwhelming energy bills, especially when heating cold water with fossil-fuel heaters is required. As energy efficiency and conservation reclaim prominence in our national consciousness, inventor and manufacturer Mark Urban sees a brave, new world – one in which pools become a resource, not an energy drain.
By Mark Urban

Everyone is concerned these days about electricity, gasoline and natural gas and all other forms of energy.  What is amazing is that, despite this surge in interest, very few people have considered ways in which swimming pools can be built to reduce the energy required to heat them – and by substantial amounts.

This dearth of energy consciousness has nothing to do with the manufacturers of heating equipment.  It’s fair to say that most heater manufacturers – whether they pursue combustion heating with fossil fuel, compression heating with heat pumps or passive heating with radiant solar, absorbent solar panels or solar covers – all have optimized their own products and made them remarkably energy-efficient.

The same is true of recirculation systems:  Pumps of all kinds are optimized to very high efficiencies, and the pool and spa industry has made positive improvements in acknowledging the necessities of hydraulic efficiency (although it’s fair to say we

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Stretching Out the Hand-Off

200109DT0By David Tisherman

As with every other step along the path of true quality in watershape construction, a good start-up is critical – a key transitional step requiring supervision, teamwork and passion for the work.

This is the point where a watershaper’s vision becomes reality, where construction becomes maintenance and where the clients’ dream is finally realized.  It’s another important detail, and getting it right requires complete trust and wide-open lines of communication among builder, service technician and homeowner.

That puts a premium on finding the best possible person in your area to take on the responsibility.  In my case, I consider myself very fortunate to work with a

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Precision on Deck

Today’s consumers are keen on a number of watershape ‘looks’ that call for unusually high degrees of precision in design and execution – with full-perimeter overflows riding high on many lists.  The construction challenge in these projects will always be substantial, but the hydraulic puzzle may find its solution in a prefabricated flow-over system that promises to bring the wet-edge look to more and more mainstream builders, projects and clients.
Today’s consumers are keen on a number of watershape ‘looks’ that call for unusually high degrees of precision in design and execution – with full-perimeter overflows riding high on many lists. The construction challenge in these projects will always be substantial, but the hydraulic puzzle may find its solution in a prefabricated flow-over system that promises to bring the wet-edge look to more and more mainstream builders, projects and clients.
By Doug Ruthenberg

The consumer’s appetite for beautiful water and creative watershape design has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years – and expectations, it seems, are rising right along with the hunger for exceptional details and impressions.  

Perimeter-overflow pools and basins are what an increasing number of consumers are after these days, and there’s special interest in what are called “wet-edge applications,” where the water rises to deck level and flows into a channel slot at the back edge of the coping.  It’s an amazing look – and harder to

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Thermal Potential

200107DT0By David Tisherman

Some details seem simpler than they really are.  A case in point is the one I’ll describe this time – a detail I call a thermal ledge.

In one sense, it’s really just a large a big bench located a few inches below the water’s surface, but in terms of what it is structurally and what it does to increase enjoyment of a pool, it’s something truly special.

The ledge pictured here is visually interesting in the way its stone surface picks up the rockwork used throughout the deck and the barbecue area and within the pool itself.  As important, it provides the homeowners and their guests

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Competition Without Compromise

Seeking to take a giant step to the forefront of aquatic sports in the United States, the city of Mesa, Ariz., has commissioned the design and construction of a monumental indoor swim center to be built in observance of the strictest international competitive standards.  Here’s a look at what’s been involved in realizing the city’s ambition, as seen from the perspective of the pool architecture and engineering firm that was asked to join the design team.
Seeking to take a giant step to the forefront of aquatic sports in the United States, the city of Mesa, Ariz., has commissioned the design and construction of a monumental indoor swim center to be built in observance of the strictest international competitive standards. Here’s a look at what’s been involved in realizing the city’s ambition, as seen from the perspective of the pool architecture and engineering firm that was asked to join the design team.
By William Rowley & Patricia Soto

When it’s completed sometime in mid-2002, the Mesa Indoor Aquatic Center will be among the premier U.S. facilities for competitive swimming, diving, water polo, synchronized swimming and synchronized diving.  Once it’s up and running, MIAC will be the country’s largest indoor competitive swimming facility owned and operated by a municipality; just as certainly, it will also act for years to come as host to countless world-class aquatic competitions.  

A project like this

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Sculpted for Fun

It’s easy for watershapers to get wrapped up in the beauty and creativity involved in design and construction of their projects – and he’s no exception, says fabricated-rock specialist Richard Winget.  But that doesn’t mean swimming pools can’t be fun.  That in mind, he takes us on a survey of user-friendly rock features that make his pools work for the young and young at heart while getting high marks for their remarkably ‘natural’ looks.
It’s easy for watershapers to get wrapped up in the beauty and creativity involved in design and construction of their projects – and he’s no exception, says fabricated-rock specialist Richard Winget. But that doesn’t mean swimming pools can’t be fun. That in mind, he takes us on a survey of user-friendly rock features that make his pools work for the young and young at heart while getting high marks for their remarkably ‘natural’ looks.
By Richard Winget

It’s something we in the business overlook all too often:  Swimming pools, kids and summertime go together.

That’s why pools have been so enduringly popular, even at a time when watershapers seem to be focusing more than ever before on principles of design and how their work can be artfully integrated into the landscape.  

I came to building pools from an extensive background in building man-made rocks for theme parks, which has colored my perspective on the way my pools are used.  I’ve also been swimming in backyard pools since I was a kid, and I’ve built all sorts of rockwork designs for all sorts of

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#12: Equipment Room

3-19 farley video artBy Mike Farley

For the most part, the equipment sets that power pool and spa systems are placed outdoors in spaces near their watershapes.  Maybe that’s behind a gate along the side of the house, or behind some shrubs or a wall in a corner of the yard.  Wherever they go, these equipment clusters should be positioned so that the noise made by various motors and pumps isn’t so pronounced that it

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Picture Perfect

b_400_400_16777215_00_images_archart_200104TishermanF_200104DT0.jpgBy David Tisherman

In February 1999, the cover photo on the premiere issue of WaterShapes showed a steel cage for a subgrade piling being lowered into the ground.  That image was taken from a feature article by designer/builder David Tisherman, the first of many that he has contributed to the magazine.  In that article and in another that followed in April 1999, he detailed the design and construction of an elaborate residential swimming pool project that he

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