As a landscape architect I have always been fascinated in the presence of water (both in nature and in manmade features); from its reflective quality, to how it reacts to wind, gravity, responds to light and of course the many calming sounds it creates when it cascades over stone boulders or gracefully flows from an architectural scupper or sculpture. Each of these qualities are reminiscent of experiences from various times in my life whether as a child in the hot summer months at the city swimming pool or spending time on Wilson Lake with my grandfather trolling for Walleye or my first backpacking trip across Italy seeing firsthand the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome.
In my practice, I have generally associated water as another design tool, it’s an element that often would work its way into many of our designs. It wasn’t until 2010 that we found ourselves venturing into the pool industry. This was a big move for us as Landscape Architects, although well educated in many areas we really knew very little on how water is engineered in a swimming pool or water feature vessels.
So, we took the ‘plunge’ per se and invested in Genesis, going to trade shows, hiring other pool consultants, engaging with pool contractors and asking a lot of questions in order to educate ourselves on the importance of proper design, hydraulics and construction detailing. We wanted to know everything we could about swimming pools. Yet the one thing that kept surfacing in my mind was in the commercial industry we have health departments monitoring the submittal process for water quality whereas the residential market lacks any monitoring or checks and balances. It is fairly vague and not regulated.
I recognize the main reason our clients inquire about our design services is because of our creativity in envisioning a new swimming pool form within a larger planned outdoor living area although the idea of a family not being inquisitive about the water quality seemed quite strange. After all, this is a substance we subject our bodies to and often for long hours alongside with other bathers.
Therefore, I asked the question, why only chlorine, why salt, and what was the difference anyway? I had remembered a conversation with David Peterson with Watershape Consulting discussing this same topic and he had encouraged me to look further into the benefits of Ozone. At the time, I was still learning about pools yet seemed quite intrigued by the idea of using a technology that did not seem widely used in the Midwest, especially in Kansas City.
However, after several phone calls to other colleagues in the pool industry, I learned the use of Ozone was a growing trend in Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas. I had a new mission, so I booked a plane to San Luis Obispo to meet up with Clearwater Tech where I spent 3 days learning the benefits of Ozone in the pool environment. Coming back to Kansas City, I was encouraged that we finally had the opportunity when talking to our clients to ask what is important to them, other than aesthetical and general functionality of the pool.
We now were asking our clients if they desired to have clean and healthy water. What we learned is our clients were very pleased to learn there were options for sanitization, water clarity, and ultimately the idea of less overall chlorine in the water. The common theme; everyone complained about how chlorine damaged their expensive swimsuit, discolor their hair, or cause further complications with their kid’s skin allergies. We have continued to educate our clients of the sanitization options and found that most were very interested in investing in Ozone.
Fast forward to the present, amidst the current conundrum we find ourselves in with the ongoing COVID pandemic across the globe; and demand for a safe backyard swimming pool is growing.
In the past two months, our residential business has continued to increase whereas a fair amount of the individuals calling when asked about their interest has led to the topic of COVID and how it has made them aware of what is important with the health of their family. We currently have a captive audience, people are sitting at home looking outside to their backyards while browsing social media day-dreaming about how a new project could transform their family lifestyle.
What does this all mean, the way we live our lives has become a top priority in most conversations. After all we are spending most of our time in our homes and who knows when this routine may change. Families are thinking more broadly, their backyard is now their oasis vs. the inability to take vacations and therefore the required investment is valued higher than it used to be. They have freedom in their backyard that is safeguarded from anything that may interrupt the joy of spending quality time with family and friends.
In this issue, we are going to explore the benefits of water quality and what it means for our industry. It appears in the near future the industry will be asked to place as much emphasis on water quality as we have for years in design aesthetics. I guess there is always a silver lining!