WaterShapes

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

Inside the NEC

199902JM0By Jim McNicol

The triennial publication of the National Electrical Code is an event of critical importance to any contractor or subcontractor performing electrical installations or repairs.  First published in 1897 and produced since 1911 by the National Fire Protection Association, the NEC is now enforced in all 50 states and also serves as the basis for codes in several foreign nations.

As has been the case with all editions published to date, the 1999 edition of the code is designed to ensure “the practical safeguarding of

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Bridging the Gaps

199902SR0By Stephanie Rose

Take a quick look at the area surrounding almost any pool, spa or waterfeature and you’re sure to see living proof that plants and man-made bodies of water go hand in hand.  No matter what form the greenery takes – grass, hedges, trees, shrubs, flowers, even cacti – the fact is that plant life is seen virtually everywhere decorative or recreational water is found.

For all of this close physical proximity, however, landscape designers and the installers of pools, spas, fountains and other watershapes have generally tended to operate in

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Finding the Cure

Pneumatically applied concrete – better known to all the world as ‘shotcrete’ or ‘gunite’ – is so pervasive in watershape construction and so structurally dependable in most cases that a great many builders forget one of the primary steps in its application:  proper curing.  The result, says consultant Curt Straub, is a rash of hairline cracking in plaster surfaces that might easily be avoided.
Pneumatically applied concrete – better known to all the world as ‘shotcrete’ or ‘gunite’ – is so pervasive in watershape construction and so structurally dependable in most cases that a great many builders forget one of the primary steps in its application: proper curing. The result, says consultant Curt Straub, is a rash of hairline cracking in plaster surfaces that might easily be avoided.
By Curt Straub

As a former shotcrete builder myself, I believe you can’t find a better method of building a pool, spa, pond or waterfeature of any type than by using pneumatically placed concrete, or “shotcrete.”  The method and the material offer the designer and builder great and often incredible design flexibility, and the resulting watershapes will last several lifetimes.

Given that the vast majority of watershapers around the world depend on shotcrete as their primary construction material, it only makes sense that we should know as much as possible about putting this amazing product to its best possible use.  Unfortunately, however, that’s not always the case.

There’s little argument that the process of shotcrete construction is laborious and demanding, that it requires a major logistical and physical effort and that fairly precise timing is necessary.  For all the focus it takes to apply it and shape it just so, however, I have observed a couple of critical steps many builders overlook in the press of getting the job done – the most important of them being the proper curing of the

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Defining Roles

199904SR0By Stephanie Rose

Before we dive into discussions of plantings or the various components of landscaping work, I think it’s important to define roles and talk about relationships among the trades involved in watershaping projects – in other words, to take a basic look at who does what.

We can all save time and money by knowing from the beginning of the job who is going to handle each phase and detail as well as who is qualified, trained or licensed to perform the various tasks needed to get the job done.  Planning this up front might even result in greater profits, and it definitely will make your job easier.

I know it’s the goal of this magazine to build a greater “watershaping community” where both landscape professionals and those who

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The Power of Your Mindset

199904BVB0By Brian Bower

Several years ago, at a time when I was still pretty wet behind the ears, a young, attractive woman invited me to join our local Chamber of Commerce and attend a meeting with her.

“Sure,” I said.  “I’ll give it a shot.”  I showed up for the event and met a bunch of banker types, and it seemed like everyone was a vice president of something or other.  I was just starting to get comfortable when the woman who had invited me explained that it was customary for new members to stand up and tell everyone about his or her business.

As luck would have it, I didn’t go first.  Another guy stood up before me and talked for a few minutes about his carpet-cleaning business – a trade he obviously found to be less than stimulating.  He spoke in a monotone voice and made carpet cleaning sound like, well, carpet cleaning.  Inspired by his lack of enthusiasm, I decided to

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Powerful Grounds

It’s often said that what you don’t know can hurt you – and that’s seldom truer than when the unknown in question has to do with the soil and geologic conditions that underlie watershapes.  On hillsides in particular but even on certain flatlands, say prominent engineering geologists Larry Parmelee and Larry Schick, accommodating the forces at work beneath the surface is critical for professionals working to maximize the integrity and longevity of their installations.
It’s often said that what you don’t know can hurt you – and that’s seldom truer than when the unknown in question has to do with the soil and geologic conditions that underlie watershapes. On hillsides in particular but even on certain flatlands, say prominent engineering geologists Larry Parmelee and Larry Schick, accommodating the forces at work beneath the surface is critical for professionals working to maximize the integrity and longevity of their installations.
By Larry Parmelee & Wayne Schick

If you’re in the business of digging holes, lining them with steel and concrete and then filling them with water, you need to know that the ground will support the structures.  That’s particularly true of hillside areas, but the same can be said of areas with high water tables, expansive soils or improperly compacted fill – to name just a few.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of distressed vessels, including pools and spas out of level, significant structural shell cracks and differential movement between the decking and the shell.  As we see it, part of the problem is that many pools are simply built with too low a structural tolerance for the stresses to which they

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Client Collaborations

199908BVB0By Brian Van Bower

One of the most critical moments in the life of any watershaper occurs when he or she meets prospective clients face to face for the first time.  This is when jobs are won or lost – and, more significant, the point at which watershaper and clients begin what can become a long and fruitful relationship.

I’ll state right up front that I do not approach my initial customer meetings with the idea of walking out with a signed contract and a check.  Instead, I go in trying to do what I can to help clients realize their dream of becoming owners of a quality watershape.  Whether I end up

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The Power in Partnering

199910CS0

Construction can be a tough business:  Even minor conflicts or disputes often lead to courtroom battles, and you can hardly blame people in the trades for thinking ‘potential lawsuit’ every time they sign a contract.  One way to avoid these lose/lose scenarios, says aquatic consultant Curt Straub, is to implement a simple, up-front agreement designed to foster cooperation among  designers, engineers, contractors and clients.

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Rendering a Visual Assist

At some point, designing most any watershape means committing the concept to paper.  A good bird’s-eye-view plot plan might be enough for imaginative clients who can translate a two-dimensional schematic into a vision of their yard’s potential, observes Clint West, but that’s asking a lot.  Instead – and where the budget makes it sensible – why not present your client with a full-color, three-dimensional rendering and use the power of the image to everyone’s benefit?
At some point, designing most any watershape means committing the concept to paper. A good bird’s-eye-view plot plan might be enough for imaginative clients who can translate a two-dimensional schematic into a vision of their yard’s potential, observes Clint West, but that’s asking a lot. Instead – and where the budget makes it sensible – why not present your client with a full-color, three-dimensional rendering and use the power of the image to everyone’s benefit?
By Clint West & Leah Canon

Long before the Bobcats show up, most watershape designers will have used some sort of two-dimensional artwork to excavate their customers’ imaginations.  Perhaps it starts with old photographs in a portfolio, but it almost always ends up with new drawings that encourage precise, detailed communication between designer and client in a way that can never be fully achieved with verbal descriptions or written proposals.

If done with appropriate detail and skill, a drawing gives designer and client the opportunity to explore the

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A Good Grounding

199912JM0By Jim McNicol

Through the years, the #1 question asked of me at seminars and trade shows has been:  “What’s the difference between bonding and grounding?”

I have wanted to do an answering article far some time, but I was concerned that its length would require it to be split into two pieces and that the every-other-month format of WaterShapes might make it difficult to maintain continuity of thought over a two-month span.  

I was pleased when our editor informed me that we would be going monthly for a while.  I figured I’d strike now, while the fingers are nimble and the magazine issues more

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Why Good Competition is Great

199912BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Not long ago, my friend and Genesis 3 co-founder David Tisherman was in Miami.  We took the opportunity to drive around and look at some of my jobs.  As we moved through the Coral Gables area, really enjoying that beautiful waterfront community, he said, “This is nice.  I’d really love to work around here.”

Now, in case you don’t know, Mr. Tisherman is one of the finest pool designers and builders anywhere.  My first reaction to his remark was, “Jeez, what would

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An Aerial Assist

The technology known as the Global Positioning System (GPS) originally was assembled to guide missiles in military operations, but watershaper Paolo Benedetti sees civilian use of this satellite-based navigation system as one of the next technological frontiers for high-end designers and contractors.  Here, he tells how he’s already put it to use – and how it helped him stave off an earth-bound disaster that was just waiting to occur.
The technology known as the Global Positioning System (GPS) originally was assembled to guide missiles in military operations, but watershaper Paolo Benedetti sees civilian use of this satellite-based navigation system as one of the next technological frontiers for high-end designers and contractors. Here, he tells how he’s already put it to use – and how it helped him stave off an earth-bound disaster that was just waiting to occur.
By Paolo Benedetti

This is a story about a job that didn’t happen – not yet, at any rate.  It all started when I was brought in to bid on a hillside swimming pool project and ended months later, with the dust still settling and the project scuttled for the moment.  And nobody could have been happier with that outcome than I was.

That fact that my client and I decided to pull back and wait is not so unusual, but given the fact that the decision was driven by advanced military navigation technology makes this one of the most unusual situations I’ve ever encountered.

The upshot

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Who Needs Litigation?

None of us like it, but the simple fact is that contractors of all sorts – watershapers included – are all too often hauled into court to defend their actions.  To aquatic consultant Curt Straub, this process of resolving conflicts in front of a judge is costly, painful – and almost completely avoidable.  Here, he offers a powerful alternative that can help designers, engineers and builders avoid the courtroom doors.
None of us like it, but the simple fact is that contractors of all sorts – watershapers included – are all too often hauled into court to defend their actions. To aquatic consultant Curt Straub, this process of resolving conflicts in front of a judge is costly, painful – and almost completely avoidable. Here, he offers a powerful alternative that can help designers, engineers and builders avoid the courtroom doors.
By Curt Straub

Most watershapers and their businesses have been (or at some point will be) exposed to some form of litigation.  We do indeed live in a litigious society, and if you have yet to experience this sad reality at close hand, just wait a while:  It’s the nature of the contracting business, and your turn almost certainly will come.

Doing battle in a courtroom has often been described as the world’s most expensive indoor sport, one about a half step away from hand-to-hand combat.  It’s stressful, costly in time and money, incredibly distracting and generally no fun at all.  In my own experience, litigation is the ultimate in misery and frustration:  Even when you win, you walk away feeling like you’ve been through some kind of meat grinder.

In an effort to stave off the costly, time-consuming, unpredictable and generally unsatisfying outcomes that all-too-often arise through the conventional judicial system, many companies have been turning in recent years to Alternative Dispute Resolution.  In fact, this trend has so much momentum and respect that Congress passed the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act and the President signed it into law in October 1998.  This legislation mandates that all federal courts must develop and implement ADR programs.

I’m not always in support of things our government does, but in this case, I believe strongly that ADR programs and other mediation strategies can help all of us lift the

Read more: Who Needs Litigation?

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