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10 year logoBy Mark Holden

‘One of the longest-standing knocks against the pool and spa industry is that too many designers and builders rely too heavily on convention and seem disinclined to pursue new paths and ideas no matter how compelling they might be.’

That was the resounding note with which Mark Holden opened his Currents column in April 2009.  He continued:  ‘All too often, pool and spa professionals tend to keep on specifying and installing equipment they’ve used for years – even if it’s outmoded or is no longer the best available approach – because they feel comfortable with it and have a sense of its long-term reliability.’


‘In educating landscape architecture students about watershaping, however, one of my chief goals has been to open their eyes to the variety of technical solutions now available on the market.  . . .  My ambition in doing so is to help these students emerge from the educational process with their eyes wide open not just to what’s available, but also to anything new that might come along to replace current possibilities as their careers progress.’  


‘It was a bit before I entered the business, but there was a time when open-faced bronze pumps were the industry standard.  They’d only deliver about 75 gallons per minute at two horsepower, but for decades these rugged devices were basically the only option and could be found on almost every residential swimming pool.  At some point, however, manufacturers upped the ante and began making pumps with plastic components and closed-face impellers:  The fact that these pumps were much easier to work with and increased average flow rates to 120 gallons per minute with the same horsepower led, in time, to their wide adoption by the industry.’


‘Although these new pumps were warmly greeted and gained strong acceptance, the industry was characteristically slow to appreciate the full implications of their arrival.  To this day, in fact, there are pool professionals out there who try to shove that increased flow capability through the same, conventional inch-and-a-half pipe they’ve always used.’  


‘Where some of us apparently prefer to think of the industry’s technology as static, as an open-minded professional and instructor, I am sure the arc of progress will continue and that there’s value in watching what’s happening.  . . .  In other words, we work in a dynamic, evolving industry, and I don’t want anything to pass by unnoticed.’


‘[There are products out there that underscore] what I define as a crying need among designers to learn about and specify new watershape equipment rather than leave these choices to builders or subcontractors.  From my perspective as both instructor and project consultant, it’s exciting to think of a time when designers will no longer be at the mercy of installers who are likely to be slaves to convention and unlikely to share ambitious design visions.’


‘As I tell my students, the status quo just isn’t sufficient and they can’t afford, as professionals, to see their work compromised because those charged with installing their projects are rooted in outmoded approaches and can’t be bothered to keep up with technologies that better meet the designer’s needs.’  


‘For years now,’ Mark concluded, ‘I’ve said and written that design professionals must take control and that the best way to do so is to stay current with technology and specify pumps, filters, sanitizers, lighting systems and other project elements that will make the project turn out as intended.  To do less is to put designs at risk at a time when clients are demanding efficiency and safety at levels old-school approaches can’t deliver.  That’s not a risk any of us should be willing to take.’

At a time when technologies seem to be advancing all at once on so many fronts related to watershaping, are you open to the new products and technologies and approaches, or is it your preference to wait and see how the various products perform before applying them?  Please share your own insights and experiences by commenting below!


Mark Holden is a landscape architect, pool contractor and teacher who owns and operates Holdenwater, a design/build/consulting firm based in Fullerton, Calif., and is founder of Artistic Resources & Training, a school for watershape designers and builders.  He may be reached via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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