CAD specialist, Jeff Greene, 25, made a decision to dive head-long into the watershaping industry and is now developing a career supporting builders with architectural and technical renderings, even though he initially had little idea what building pools was all about.
By Jeff Greene
Sometimes you find opportunity in a place you never expected. That’s certainly been true for me and my experience in the pool industry. Although many members of our industry are second- or third-generation employees, I more or less stumbled into the industry. However, I quickly developed a passion for pools and pool design.
A few years ago, after finishing up my degree in chemical engineering, I found myself relocated to rural Iowa and looking for a job. I started out working for an environmental consulting firm doing a lot of field work. While this might appeal to many, I’ve always excelled in computer and technical work, so I really wanted a career where I could utilize those strengths. I was able to start learning AutoCAD and wanted to pursue a career based on those skills.
As luck would have it, I found a job with a custom concrete pool builder as a CAD designer. Although I didn’t know much about the pool industry at first, I quickly realized that I could use my experience with AutoCAD to develop more comprehensive pool designs.
DISCOVERING THE CRAFT
Starting out, I spent time in the field learning about all the major phases of building watershapes: excavation, steel, plumbing, shotcrete, equipment commissioning, interior finish applications, and startup. I was lucky to work under an incredible mentor with experience in both residential and commercial pool design including splash pads, large municipal pools, and waterparks. I quickly developed a passion for pools and the level of precision involved in pulling off some of these incredible builds.
I knew that the CAD drawings I was preparing could play a critical role in each project. Providing these designs for other trades allowed them to develop accurate scopes, budgets and construction schedules. This business is not all about building a pretty pool, even though that is certainly an important part of it. The principles of soils and geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, hydraulic design, water treatment, and more need to be included in the design.
I also enjoy seeing the end product and watching how much the clients enjoy having their new pool. One project I worked on included an outdoor kitchen, a pavilion, and a beautiful pool. It was for grandparents that planned to pass the home on to their kids. Now they have their grandchildren and kids from the neighborhood taking swim lessons in their own backyard. Each project provides interesting challenges to overcome, and in the end we create venues for valuable life experiences. Improving people’s quality of life is such a rewarding experience. All of this is very exciting, but it can also be a little daunting. Every day reminds me how much more I need, and want, to learn.
Overcoming technical challenges and learning how to build pools to high standards is so much of why this industry appeals to me. As an employee, I worked closely with an experienced service technician and a renovation project manager who gave me a tremendous amount of feedback. They’d provide suggestions to improve access to pump motors and filter cartridges during the design phase. We would also redesign certain installation details to prevent failures they had seen in the field. I learned that you can build pools that are beautiful when they’re completed, but they also have to be built correctly and easily serviceable.
ON MY OWN
I began to truly understand the importance of design in this industry thanks to the experiences in this role. However, I wanted to pursue more challenging custom residential designs. I became inspired and more ambitious, so I decided to strike out on my own. I took a big leap and started my company, Innovative Aquatic Designs, LLC, in June of 2021. This was right in the middle of the pandemic, and homeowners had already started to realize how important outdoor environments were for their families.
Due to increased demand, companies saw the value in the skillset I was developing. I saw an opportunity to work alongside a variety of builders and gain exposure to unique projects for different clients all across the country.
I continue to expand my skills to offer comprehensive design services that include conceptual designs, 3D equipment layouts, and construction drawings. I have recently added Sketchup into my workflow, which has allowed me to upgrade from 2D AutoCAD layouts to 3D renderings of equipment sets that can be accessed in the field and viewed from every angle. These renderings help plumbers better visualize equipment rooms, and they are definitely my favorite product to design. One plumber told me that my detailed renderings would allow him to easily install any equipment room.
I also provide design renderings using Pool Studio for some clients. It’s exciting to help builders and their clients visualize the final project. Pools are a significant investment, so getting clients on board with the design vision is a huge part of the process. Clients want to see the value of their investment before construction begins. I’m then able to transition to the construction drawing phase to ensure the success of the project from concept to completion.
The pool industry continues to face labor shortages due to the pandemic; there has never been a greater need to encourage and hire young professionals. The industry needs to reach out and let young engineers and designers know how satisfying it is to work in this field. For my generation, it certainly helps to see pools represented in social media. However, we need more self-promotion to attract people looking for career opportunities.
This industry has little representation at career fairs, and none of my undergraduate colleagues were aware that careers like this existed. There are so many great opportunities for the skilled trades, landscape architects, engineers, and more. Getting in front of students that are looking for a path forward will encourage them to consider an industry with incredible growth potential.
I also think the opportunities for professional education are what really captured my interest. When I first discovered this industry, I was exposed to a lot of impressive pools without understanding the complex details involved. I found the webinars provided by Watershape University, which were a free resource that allowed me to get started. Publications like WaterShapes and other industry resources also provided valuable information for me to continue learning. From there, I was able to hone in on my interests and find courses through Watershape University that allowed me to dive deeper into the technical details. I think that promoting the available resources for professional advancement in this industry will help to attract young talent.
The pool industry offers so many opportunities for those that find it. You can gain your own independence, continue to grow your expertise, and make a lasting impact on your customers. The communities we serve have never been more aware of our industry. Now is the time to take that exposure and promote these opportunities to the next generation of the pool industry so we can continue to succeed together.
Jeff Greene is founder and principal of Innovative Aquatic Designs, LLC in Ellicott City, MD. He is 25 years old.