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Eliminating Barriers at Today's Aquatic Facilities

Public pools and spas bring people of all ages and abilities together and, therefore, are designed to be an inclusive space. Swimming, exercise, therapy, relaxation, and water play are all activities that can take place in a pool and/or spa and, thanks to innovative design features and access equipment, people of all abilities are able to participate in these activities in the same body of water.

 

To make an aquatic facility more accessible, it starts during the design phase. In fact, many provinces and states have made significant changes to building codes when it comes to addressing ease of access to public facilities. For instance, amendments to building codes in Ontario require barrier-free access to, and around, all public pools and some spas. That said, there are several ways to design/build or renovate an aquatic facility to make it more accessible.

 

RAMPS

Ramps are one of the most common and effective ways to make a pool more accessible. Pool ramps provide individuals in wheelchairs a safe way to enter/exit the pool while remaining seated. They also provide a gradual entry point equipped with railing support for patrons who may have other mobility constraints. Bathers of all ages and abilities can use these ramps as a method of ingress/egress from the pool.

 

BEACH ENTRY

Beach entry, also known as zero entry, is an increasingly popular pool design, especially when it comes to accessibility and overall esthetics. A beach entry provides a gradual slope from the deck into the pool, eliminating the need for steps and/or ladders. The design is similar to a ramp, but spans the entire width of the pool.

 

This design accommodates a wide range of patrons of all ages and abilities. Beach entries are typically integrated into leisure/lap pool combinations and provide a popular access point for the entire family.

 

TRANSFER WALLS

This pool design comprises a wall or curb along an accessible route to enable a bather to leave a mobility device and transfer onto the wall and then in the pool or spa. Transfer walls must have at least one grab bar; however in most cases there are two. This type of accessibility feature is common in spas.

 

BALLET RAILS

Ballet railings are installed along the walls of a pool and, in some cases, in the interior, to provide a hand grip for bathers to hold onto - similar to the railings used by ballet dancers. These railings provide additional support and security for bathers with mobility constraints; however, they are also commonly used for fitness and aerobics. In certain applications, ballet rails can be removed for storage when not in use.

 

MOVABLE FLOORS

Movable floors give aquatic facilities the ultimate versatility when it comes to accessibility. In fact, a number of public pools in Europe are equipped with these systems, while in North America movable floors are gaining similar traction and are now being incorporated into many aquatic facility designs.

 

Movable floors can be installed in new construction or retrofitted into existing facilities giving them the ability to offer a range of programming that could not be provided to patrons in the past. While not a lifting device, pools equipped with a movable floor can be set to multiple depths to accommodate the preferences and/or abilities of different patrons. Further, moving floors can also be built with a sloping functionality. This allows the movable floor to become a beach entry or offer a gradual depth change within the pool.

 

PLATFORM LIFTS

Platform lifts provide the same benefits and ease of entry as a ramp, but in a fraction of the space. These devices, which are typically a small movable floor, allow a patron to remain in their wheelchair or mobility device when entering the pool.

 

Capable of stopping at one or more depths within the pool, platform lifts have a greater weight capacity than an anchored or portable lift and are powered by either battery or water.

 

Similar to a ramp or beach entry, these are the only lifts that give the platform autonomy to enter the pool without assistance. These lifts are designed and built as part of the pool and are typically incorporated in the initial plans. Platform lifts are innovative in design and are increasing in popularity compared to older access equipment typically found in most aquatic facilities.

 

SPLASH PADS

Many people are familiar with splash pads, as they are often found at most public playgrounds and, in some cases, are also part of many aquatic facility designs. These areas have grown in popularity because of their zero-depth water play design. Not only are they safe, but they are universally accessible. Many aquatic facilities will incorporate either an indoor or outdoor splash pad or water play area into the plans.

 

Along with the barrier-free design of most splash pads, water play manufacturers are also creating a range of interactive features that are available in various sizes to accommodate patrons of all abilities.

 

Further, all ground space is flush with the concrete, which allows mobility devices to move over and around a splash pad without any difficulty.

 

ACCESS LIFTS

Access lifts provide an additional means of entry/exit with the ability to transfer a patron from the pool deck directly into the water without using a ramp or stairs. These lifts do not have to be incorporated into the design or construction of the pool, as they can be easily installed after the pool has been built.

 

There are many different manufacturers and models available, which makes it possible to use these types of pool lifts in most aquatic facilities whether new or existing.

 

Anchored Lifts

Anchored access lifts are installed into supports mounted around the pool perimeter. These lifts can be easily removed and stored if they are not being used. Most anchored pool access lifts are battery-powered and charged by simply plugging the unit into the wall.

 

Portable Lifts

Portable access lifts are similar to anchored lifts; however, they are on wheels and can be used anywhere around the pool as they are not limited by anchor locations in the pool deck. Although portable lifts can be used anywhere, they typically have a lower weight capacity.

 

Ceiling Lifts

These lifts are installed in the ceiling of an aquatic facility and are typically used when deck space is limited. They also have a larger lifting capacity than a portable or anchored lift. Powered by a battery-operated motor, a ceiling lift can transport patrons-once they are suspended-lateralling along a track system. They are also well-suited for intensive use, e.g. providing access to the pool for a large number of patrons that use wheelchairs. Further, ceiling lifts have a larger lifting capacity than a standard portable or anchored deck lift and are great for pools that have narrow decks which do not permit the installation of an access system.

 

 

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Indoor Pools To Get You Through Cold Weather

Summer may officially be over, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop swimming! In fact, swimming throughout the year can help you strengthen your swimming skills in preparation for summer water activities! No need to worry about weather conditions interfering with your aquatic programs in the fall or winter, indoor pools are open rain or shine…or snow! Here's a list of some of our favourite awesome indoor pools. 

 

FALLSVIEW INDOOR WATERPARK

Don’t let the cold weather get you down! Visit the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark in Niagara Falls and keep your family entertained for hours this winter! This 3 acre indoor waterpark is directly connected to the Sheraton on the Falls Hotel and features 16 water slides standing up to 6 stories high, a large wave pool, Jacuzzis, a tiny tots splash area and more! Children will have a blast splashing in the Beach House featuring a Tipping Bucket that dumps 1,000 gallons of water! The Tiny Tots splash park includes water streams, mushroom water pods, tot slides and much more. This water park is perfect for swimmers of all ages!

 

MIDCO AQUATIC CENTER

The MIDCO Aquatic Center is a 61,000 square foot recreational center featuring competition, recreation, and therapy pools as well as a spray park. The 50M competition pool hosts ten lanes and a competition diving area with four platforms. The therapy pool is 1,500 square foot and wheelchair accessible. The recreation pool is a multi-use pool that accommodates a variety of programming opportunities and includes a lazy river, water slide, recreation area, and splash area with play structure. With zero depth beach entry, and an ADA lift, the MIDCO Aquatic Center was designed and built to be fully accessible.

 

REGENT PARK AQUATIC CENTRE

This indoor aquatic facility, located in the heart of Regent Park in Toronto, Ontario features a lap pool, leisure pool, warm water pool, Tarzan rope, diving board and water slide! The first in Canada, the Regent Park has adopted the use of a universal change room. This was a choice made to establish equality, create a fully accessible experience for all patrons and enhance safety at the facility. With programs created to accommodate all ages (from preschoolers to seniors), the Regent Park Aquatic Centre is a great place for the community to spend time this winter!

 

DULLES SOUTH RECREATION & COMMUNITY CENTRE

This aquatic facility, comprised of a 50M lap pool and a leisure pool, offers features for swimmers of all ages. Patrons of the Dulles South Recreation & Community Center have use of diving stands, a lazy river, a 135-foot Aqua Blue water slide with an adjoining plunge pool, a hydrotherapy whirl pool, and a separate spa. Zero depth beach entry leads swimmers into the shallow area of the leisure pool which features an exciting Vortex play structure. Open all year long, this awesome indoor aquatic centre is the place to be this winter!

 

GUILDFORD RECREATION CENTRE

The impressive Guildford Recreation Centre in Surrey, British Columbia includes an exciting aquatic centre complete with modern features guaranteed to improve the experience of all swimmers! The state-of-the-art facility features an 8-lane, 50M FINA standard competition pool, a leisure pool complete with a lazy river, spray features and a toddler area, a family hot tub, and a water slide! This aquatic centre has the ability to offer a variety of programming. From aquacise classes to lifeguard courses and diving practices, The Guildford Recreation Centre is open to the public year round!

 

MITCHELL INDOOR AQUATIC CENTRE

Perfect for both recreation and competitive uses, the Mitchell Indoor Aquatic Center features a competition pool and a leisure pool. To be suitable for competitive swimming events, the competition pool is complete with diving boards, starting blocks, a basketball hoop, accessibility lift and a Colorado Timing System. The leisure pool contains warm-up lanes, two water slides, a vortex therapy pool, a fun zip line, play structures and spray features. The orange water slide plunge zone drops swimmers into the pool at the end of the water slide. Although it's the shorter of the two water slides, the drop adds some suspense before splashing into the water. The blue water slide is the longer of the two and its twists and turns take riders on an exciting ride outside the building. 

 

MOUNT PEARL SUMMIT CENTRE

The Mount Pearl Summit Centre includes aquatic areas and features suitable for all ages and purposes. The facility features a lap pool, fitness pool, whirl pool, water slide and an indoor splash pad with safety foam flooring. The main pool contains a touch sensor timing system for competitive swimming uses and underwater speakers to enhance the synchronize swimming experience! With all of these high-tech amenities, this indoor aquatic centre is guaranteed to provide entertainment for families throughout the whole year!

 

DR. ROBERT W. BROWNE AQUATIC CENTRE 

This state of the art aquatic centre located in Coldwater, Michigan includes an 8 lane competition pool and a separate warm water therapy pool with zero depth beach entry. There is no limit to the types of aquatic programming available at this community centre. The diving boards and starting blocks are perfect for those looking to practice their swimming techniques, competitions and lap swimming. The Badu jets, therapy railings, hydrotherapy bench and pool lift were included to offer rehabilitation and senior aquatic programs. Children will have a blast using the inflatable log, climbing wall, basketball nets and volleyball nets during a leisure swim! The Dr. Robert W. Browne Aquatic Centre really does have something to offer swimmers of all ages this winter!

 

CRESTON & DISTRICT COMMUNITY COMPLEX

The exciting indoor aquatic facility at the Creston & District Community Complex, located in Creston, British Columbia is a great place to go for a swim this winter! This 5-year old facility offers many modern and interactive amenities within the aquatic centre including a 5-lane, 25M lap pool with a diving stand, a 2,500 square foot leisure pool complete with a lazy river, bubble bench and a tot play area, and a 165 square foot swirl pool. The exciting spray features will keep children occupied for hours! Whether you are looking to get in a good lap swim, practice your swimming strokes, or just a relaxing leisure swim, this aquatic centre is the place to spend the winter and with a variety of features it’s perfect for the entire family.

 

RICHARDSON RECREATION & WELLNESS CENTRE

The Richardson Recreation and Wellness Centre in Swan Valley, Manitoba opened to the community in 2014. This awesome indoor aquatic centre combines features for recreation and leisure activities along with the necessary equipment for competition and lap swimming. For families looking to spend a Saturday afternoon at the pool, the facility offers a large leisure pool with a zero depth beach entrance, a swirl pool, water slide, lazy river, tot pool and various spray features. For the expert swimmers looking to continue to improve their swimming techniques, or for those in search of an alternative form of exercise throughout the winter this aquatic centre offers a 4-lane competition pool with starting blocks!

 

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The Basics of Variable Frequency Drives (VFD)

Over the past several years, the aquatic industry has become more innovative, introducing owners and operators to new technologies and advancements which ultimately create opportunities to improve safety, increase longevity of the facility, and even provide energy savings. One of the advancements the aquatic industry has been very enthusiastic about is Variable Frequency Drives (VFD's).

 

WHAT IS A VFD?

A VFD is essentially a power conversion device. VFD's convert basic fixed-frequency and line power to a variable frequency and variable-voltage output which is used to control the speed of induction motors or pumps. Most VFD's are simple to install and are user friendly, however they are quite sophisticated in relation to their hardware and software operation.

 

The basic function of a VFD in the aquatic industry is to provide substantial energy savings. This is accomplished by controlling the speed of a pump rather than controlling flow through use of a throttling valve. Essentially, when you reduce the speed of a pump, you create energy savings.  In addition to energy savings, the life of the impeller, bearing and seal is greatly improved which leads to longer lasting pumps.

 

BENEFITS OF USING A VFD

  • Saves money on energy consumption.
  • Maintenance costs are lower due to the lower operating speeds resulting in a longer life for bearings and motors.
  • A soft starter for the motor is no longer required.
  • Controlled ramp-up speed in a pool system can eliminate water hammer problems.
  • With a compact and modular design, VFD’s do not take up a lot of space.
  • Protect against system overloads, motor failures, motor and drive overheating, voltage disturbances, power surges, loss of phase, ground fault, overvoltage, over current, under voltage, external fault, over temperature, etc.
  • Minimize motor noise and heating with adjustable switching frequency modulation.

WHAT CAN'T A VFD DO?

  • Boost the output voltage significantly above the input voltage.
  • Increase the output power of the pump or motor.
  • Fix mechanical problems.

Variable Frequency Drives are a great addition to any pool equipment room whether it’s new or existing. Not only do they save owners and pool operators on the costs associated with high energy consumption, but they also increase the longevity of the pumps and motors. VFD’s are available in different sizes (HP) and voltage requirements.

 

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High In The Sky

In today's world swimming pools are all around us. Who doesn’t have a pool in their backyard or have a close neighbour with one? Friends and family gather around them, making wonderful memories every day. Fitness clubs have pools, community centres have pools, hotels have pools, and now high rises in the sky even have them. Building a residential or commercial pool on the ground level is a relatively easy task, but what are the challenges of building an elevated pool high in the sky?

 

CONSIDERATIONS

When building in a high rise structure, several considerations need to be taken into account during design. Keep in mind a 4 foot deep lap pool that is 75 feet long holds approximately 75,000 gallons of water. Water weighs 8.34 pounds per US gallon, equating to 625,500 pounds of water - and that’s just the weight of the water! Add in the weight of the concrete pool shell, reinforcing steel, interior finishes and mechanical items and it doesn’t take long for a small lap pool to weigh in excess of 900,000 pounds. That’s a lot of additional weight on a building structure or roof top. Structural engineers and architects have their work cut out for them to design and engineer a building structure that’s safe enough to hold all of this additional weight.

 

 

One other consideration when designing a swimming pool in an elevated structure is waterproofing and sealing of the structure. Nobody wants 75,000 gallons of water leaking out into a building and running down into the main lobby. Today’s swimming pools have cantilevered edges that hang out over the edge of buildings, windows in the walls, and in some cases glass bottoms. Providing a positive seal in extreme building conditions such as this can be a challenge. Engineers spend countless hours running calculations to provide 100% watertight designs.

 

Aside from the structural and waterproofing challenges outlined above during design, now there is the challenge of building it. Countless men and women climb story after story of stairs or ride construction elevators 10, 20, even 50 stories up to start construction of these wonderful and challenging pools high in the sky. Hundreds of cubic meters of concrete need to be pumped up, or craned up sometimes hundreds of feet to be poured in place. Thousands of pounds of structural reinforcing steel and mechanical equipment need to be hoisted in place by tower cranes and snaked through the building structure to be constructed in place. Every move in this elevated construction environment needs to have several hours or even days of planning. On the ground it's easy, back up the cement truck and start pouring. When you're 50 stories in the air, it’s a little more challenging. 

 

 

So the next time you visit a luxury hotel or you're at a resort on your next vacation check out the roof top swimming pool. Challenge yourself to swim out over the cantilevered edge and imagine the challenges of constructing that beautiful masterpiece.

 

Fun Fact: Some elevated swimming pools in high rise buildings are used to protect the building structure in event of a fire. Some of these pools have a connection so the fire department can quickly pump water out of the pool in the event of a building fire.

 

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10 Awesome Outdoor Pools To Visit

Now that we're half way through the first week of June, we can (finally) say goodbye to cold, wet weather! With temperatures on the rise, more of us are starting to leave our homes and look for ways to soak up the sun. One of the best and most popular ways to spend the summer is poolside. Swimming is the perfect way to cool off for many reasons. It's convenient and inexpensive and with most communities offering more than one public pool at a low cost per use, families of all income levels and in all areas of the community can gather at a local pool for some fun in the sun. Most swimming pools today, offer interactive fun in the form of spray features, water slides, diving boards and even climbing walls! These fun features are great additions that keep kids and adults alike busy, having a blast and refreshed all at the same time! Here is a list of 10 awesome outdoor pools to visit this summer.

 

FAIR GROUNDS AQUATIC PARK (STRATHROY, ONTARIO)

The Fair Grounds Aquatic Park in Strathroy, Ontario is the perfect place to spend a hot summer day with the family! This outdoor facility boasts exciting features for swimmers of all ages. The 6-lane lap pool is perfect for those looking to get some exercise or practice their swimming technique. The leisure pool, featuring a variety of spray features, is perfect for young children to splash around with their parents. For those looking to take it easy, the lazy river and hydrotherapy bench provide the perfect opportunity to sit back, relax, and cool off, all at the same time! Finally, the exciting 22 ft water slide will have you returning in no time!

 

HORACE MANN PARK (RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA)

The brand new Horace Mann Park in Rapid City, South Dakota, opened to the public in 2015, following a complete re-build. This exciting waterpark features an outdoor lap pool, complete with diving boards, a recreation pool, water slides, and a Vortex play structure that will have kids splashing the day away! Gather your family and head to the Horace Mann Park for some fun in the sun!

 

NELSON POOL (BURLINGTON, ONTARIO)

Following a complete renovation, the brand new Nelson Pool opened to the public in 2017. The newly renovated pool is complete with an eight-lane, 50M pool with an adjoining beach-entry leisure pool and an adjacent splash pad. The climbing wall and diving boards are extra perks, enhancing the overall experience at the pool. Ground sprays projecting water upwards and outwards, a giant tipping bucket and small animal spray features are only a few of the exciting spray features you can find at the new splash pad.

 

SCHULENBURG POOL (WAUSAU, WISCONSIN)

Throughout the summer season the Schulenburg Pool is a popular gathering spot for the local Wausau community. With designated lap and leisure areas, two water slides and a vibrant play structure, there's something fun for the whole family.  All areas of the swimming pool are fully accesible, allowing swimmers of all ages and physical abilities the opportunity to enjoy this community amenity. Shade structures are located around the permieter of the swimming pool, perfect for parents or swimmers looking to lounge in the shade. 

 

TOMLINSON AQUA PARK (KINGSTON, ONTARIO)

Located in Kingston, Ontario, the Tomlinson Aqua Park boasts a 25M lap pool complete with diving boards along with a leisure pool featuring fun spray features! When you visit this water park you will also find an exciting, 10M water slide, a lazy river, toddler pool, and zero-depth beach entry. There is no better way to beat the heat this summer than a day spent at the Tomlinson Aqua Park!

 

TIOGA MUNICIPAL POOL (TIOGA, NORTH DAKOTA)

Families of Tioga, North Dakota love spending their summers at the Tioga Municipal Pool! Renovated in 2015, this family-friendly swimming pool features a frog slide, water umbrella and tumble buckets - perfect for young swimmers! The the water slide, diving board and lap/leisure pool are a great space for older children and adults to refresh in the summer heat.

 

LAKESHORE SWIMMING POOL ASSOCIATION (KINGSTON, ONTARIO)

The Lakeshore Swimming Pool in Kingston, Ontario officially opened to the public in the summer of 2015! After mechanical room and pool tank renovations, the facility was completely transformed. When visiting this facility, you will find a refreshing lap/leisure pool complete with diving boards and a small water slide! The brand new concrete deck is the perfect place to soak up the sun. Spend this summer poolside at the Lakeshore Swimming Pool Association!

 

ROOSEVELT PARK (RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA)

The outdoor aquatic facility at Roosevelt Park in Rapid City, South Dakota, includes a 10-lane, 50M outdoor pool with a movable bulkhead. When the bulkhead is in the middle park position, the pool transforms into a 20-lane pool, making this facility perfect for those looking to touch up on their swimming technique, practice for competitions, or even just get in a good lap swim! The facility also includes water polo courses for both men and women, and starting platforms, making this the place to be for aquatic competitions of all kinds!

 

CARDSTON OUTDOOR POOL (CARDSTON, ALBERTA)

The Cardston Outdoor Pool in Cardston, Alberta is the ideal cool-off spot for children, adults and families! This swimming pool features a 25M lap pool, wading pool, toddler pool, spray features, diving board and zero depth beach entry, making this facility fully accessible to the entire community. The park also includes a lazy river, bubble bench and an exciting water slide – tons of fun for children of all ages!

 

CANYON AQUA PARK/THE CAP (CANYON, TEXAS)

Beat the heat at The CAP in Canyon, Texas! Enjoy concessions, shade, and over 10,000 square feet of water fun! The CAP is home to a 6-lane lap pool with two diving boards and a basketball goal. In addition to the lap pool, swimmers can splash around on a giant play structure and or the exciting splash pad, relax in the lazy river or enjoy a ride on the speed slides!

 

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Cast-In-Place Concrete Vs. Shotcrete: What's The Difference?

Today, the pool shell of a commercial swimming pool can be constructed in several ways. Two of the most commonly used methods are cast in place concrete and shotcrete. The major difference between the two is quite simply the method of placement. At the end of the day, both systems, with proper design and construction, will provide a rock solid pool shell which can last for more than 40 years.

 

CAST-IN-PLACE CONCRETE

Cast in place concrete construction can be a costly and very labour intensive process. This type of construction requires additional excavation to allow workers room to install an extensive forming system for both the inside and outside of the pool walls, which is used to contain the concrete and shape the pool structure. This working room behind the forming system requires backfilling when the concrete work is complete.

 

Once the formwork is in place, concrete is discharged from a ready-mix truck, and transferred to the work area by way of boom pump, line pump, buggy, or down the chute directly off the back of the truck. Next, concrete is placed on the ground or in the form work, and then must be vibrated for consolidation & compaction.

 

     
Cast in place concrete forming system.     Pouring cast in place concrete.

 

Advantages:

  • It’s the most common type of concrete construction.
  • Cast-in-place concrete will result in a strong and waterproof structure with compressive strengths of 4,000 to 5,000 psi.
  • When properly designed and constructed, cast in place concrete results in a relatively smooth surface that will require very little surface preparation for the use of epoxy-based pool paint, tile and plaster finishes.
  • Cast-in-place concrete results in the most uniform surfaces possible.

Disadvantages:

  • Over excavation is required to allow working area behind the forming system.
  • Very labour intensive to form the walls.
  • Backfilling of the formed walls is required.
  • It’s harder and much more complicated to form shapes.
  • Generally more expensive to construct in comparison to a shotcrete pool.

SHOTCRETE

The quality of a shotcrete pool can be comparable to a cast in place pool with one exception. Typically, they do not require extensive forming which often results in cost and time savings. Although the hardened properties of shotcrete are similar to conventional cast-in-place concrete, the nature of the placement process provides additional benefits, such as very fast erection, particularly on complex forms and shapes, including curved walls. Due to the speed of construction and the minimal equipment requirements, shotcrete is a very cost effective building method.

 

The shotcrete method utilizes concrete that is discharged from a ready-mix truck into a shotcrete pump and then pneumatically “shot” in place against a wood or earth form. To increase the velocity of the material which improves the control of the “shooting” process, accelerators and other admixtures can be added to the nozzle along with air under pressure. Because shotcrete is "shot" up against wood forms or earth, there is generally very little backfilling required.

 

 
Pool form ready for shotcrete.        Shotcrete being "shot" into place.

 

Advantages:

  • No over excavation required. As a result there is very little to no backfilling required.
  • The ability to build in very tight spaces and “free form” applications make it very simple to build pools of any shape.
  • Higher compressive strengths than cast-in-place concrete. Typical compressive strengths of shotcrete are in the 6,000 to 7,500 psi range
  • Lower construction costs.

Disadvantages:

  • There are fewer trained and skilled in the use of shotcrete than that of cast-in-place concrete.
  • The finished surface of shotcrete is rougher than a finished surface of a cast-in-place concrete pool. Additional surface preparation is required before the application of epoxy paint. As a result most shotcrete pools have a plaster finish.
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Bonding & Grounding: The Invisible Super Duo

Comparing James Bond to Pool Bonding may be farfetched, and when thinking about pools, these words would be near the bottom of the list of safety features people may think of. But, like a secret double agent, Pool Bonding acts like an invisible body guard, keeping unsuspecting swimmers safe from the hidden, evil Electrical Shock! And like any good super hero, a trusty side kick is needed, and that’s where “Grounding” comes in. Together, Bonding and Grounding form an invincible super duo, and act as one of the most important aspects to a safe swimming environment when designing and constructing a pool system, secretly keeping the people of the pool safe from the insidious dangers of Electrical Shock.

 

As mentioned, every Super Hero needs a side kick, and when guarding from harmful electrical currents, this case is no different. “Bonding” and Grounding” each have their own jobs, and each are needed to keep the pool area safe.

 

BONDING. POOL BONDING.

Bonding’s super power is an important one. It  joins all electrical pool components and metal components within five feet of the pool together to a thick copper wire, whether it's a mechanical item such as a recirculation pump, simple deck items such as a grab rail or stanchion post, or even unseen items like reinforcing rod encased within the pools concrete walls, forming a safety loop. This safety loop ensures all items have the same voltage, eliminating the possibility of voltages being transferred from the pool to a swimmer, instead containing them within the safety loop, and directing them back to a panel. If needed, a breaker on the panel will trip, dissipating the harmful current within the loop. 

 

GROUNDING, THE TRUSTY SIDEKICK

Grounding, the trusty, yet just as important sidekick, is also silently keeping the patrons of the pool safe, day after day. Grounding power acts in conjunction with Bonding, using the safety loop created by the bonding process, and adds a connection to the ground. This ground connection ensures that any harmful current within the loop is directed away from the swimmers and into the ground, where it dissipates and disappears harmlessly. 

 

A POWERFUL SUPER DUO

Bonding and Grounding, when properly implemented  into the design and construction of a pools system, will continue to act in conjunction with one another, forming one of the most powerful safety duo’s within the pools natatorium, keeping the evil Electrical Shock at bay. Next time you're in a pool, enjoying your swim, listen closely. If you hear a faint tune, it may just be the theme song to the undefeatable super duo of Bonding and Grounding, quietly and courageously continuing the never ending fight with Electrical Shock, keeping the people of the pool safe for years to come!

 

* This is a guest blog post written by Lee Battams, President of Aqua Plans Aquatic Consultants Inc. The knowledge and experience Lee displays on routine site visits have ensured his clients, including Acapulco Pools, remain confident in his abilities in aquatic design.

 

 

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What Sets Contractors Apart?

There are a lot of considerations when selecting a swimming pool contractor to build your pool. Whether the project is a high-end residential project or a multimillion dollar waterpark, it is important to be very diligent in selecting the builder to avoid delays, cost overruns, improper construction and lots of headaches. But what things should be considered?

 

WHAT DOES THEIR SAFETY RECORD LOOK LIKE?

The safety record of a company should be a primary consideration. A company with a poor safety record attracts a lot of attention (not the kind they want) and can really bog down a project. In fact, a project can be put on hold for an extended period if there are glaring safety infractions or heaven forbid a serious injury or fatality on the job site. Ask the proponent for a copy of their Health and Safety Policy, and safety record. If they don’t have one, or are unwilling to provide information, move on.

 

PRICE ISN'T EVERYTHING

Price, while always an important consideration is not everything. We frequently hear our clients say “…I wish we had gone with the more reputable builder. This job has become a nightmare…”  The saying “you get what you pay for” could not be truer. If the price seems too good to be true, it is. There is no such thing as an extraordinary $7 bottle of wine, and there is no such thing as an inexpensive Bugatti car. The two things are mutually exclusive. The Bugatti and a K-car will both take you to the store, but the Bugatti will take you to the store for decades (and look really good doing it!), and there is no comparing the quality of the two. The same is true in pools. You can choose a method and a builder that may appear to save you a little coin but suffer endless change orders and additions to the project. Or you can spend that little extra bit of money to hire a thorough and reputable builder and have peace of mind for years to come.   

 

DO THEY HAVE A STRONG FOUNDATION?

Like a strong building, a strong company needs a strong foundation. In the construction business, this foundation is in the form of knowledge that is both deep and wide, and can only be acquired from years of experience specific to the industry. A newer business just doesn’t have the history to be as knowledgeable as a well-established company that has been around for a long time. In the experienced company, there are senior people and younger members of the team. There is a combination of high energy and drive and a deep well of information that was developed over decades of practice. The thing about knowledge is that it is often applicable to a wide variety of applications that help experienced builders provide the best outcome for the client. Hydraulic concepts in pools and water management for example, are often applicable to electricity where Voltage equates to Feet of Head and current flow to velocity. Companies who have a deeper knowledge in their art have a broader understanding of the many things they may encounter in performing their work. Look for contractors who have a broad range of experience over a long period of time, senior people who have “been around the block” a couple of times and young energetic and well educated project people.

 

DO THEY HAVE INTERNAL SYSTEMS IN PLACE?

It is a great thing to have knowledge, but if it is held by a few individuals it often fails to crystalize in the positive outcome of your project. Good companies develop internal systems that reflect the Best Practices that have been developed out of the knowledge gained from experience. It is these companies who seek to establish a culture of quality and caring expressed in writing the form of standard operating procedures. Ask your potential contractor if they have internal systems in place to support quality assurance, delivery, and value added designs, longevity of the product, and so on. A company with systems is a company that cares about what they do, and who they do it for. Also ask if the company has a Mission Statement. The Mission Statement is the guiding philosophy of the company. A company without a mission is like a pilot without a map. Yes, the plane is flying…but the destination is dicey.  

 

WHAT IS THEIR EXPERIENCE LEVEL?

The Record of Experience speaks volumes about the knowledge base of the company. Obviously, the more pools a company has built, the more experience they have. But it is also important to look at the different types of pools that a company has built. Not all pool builders build all pools, and sometimes for good reason. For example, Company ABC may be an advocate for cast-in-place pools through their limited knowledge and experience; they know how to build them, but nothing else. Concrete pools are really good and are considered the gold standard in the industry, however, there are times when another type of pool is more appropriate than a concrete pool. If the pool is going on the top floor of a high rise, weight may be a limiting parameter. It is important to find a builder who has the experience to recognize and understand your options and what best suits your needs. Ask your potential builders for their list of projects (current and complete) and also for a list of references. If the record of experience is small or limited in scope, you may want to look a little deeper into the company. If the reference list seems small compared to the record of experience, it should raise a red flag! A good contractor doesn’t maintain a specific reference list…every single client should be a reference.

 

DO THEY USE THEIR OWN FORCES?

If the builder you are looking at using has a lot of subcontractors, it may be worth looking a little further. Dividing the scope into different trade subcontracts (mechanical subs, waterproofing, tile, concrete etc.) dilutes and displaces responsibility of the trades and of the general contractor. When something goes wrong, it’s nobody’s fault, and it’s everyone’s fault. A great deal of time is spent trying to figure out if the waterproofing contractor caused the leak, or if the tile contractor damaged the waterproofing. Or maybe the concrete contractor is at fault. It is best to source a contractor who self-performs the entire pool scope with their own forces from the excavation, to mechanical and electrical work, to tile setting and commissioning and training. When there is only one company performing the entire scope for the work, there is no opportunity to cast blame for problems to others. You only have one phone call to make. 

 

ARE THEY FINANCIALLY STABLE?

The financial stability of the company is also an important consideration. Are they able to completely bond a large project? Often tender documents ensure that this is the case, but private projects may overlook the need. What happens if things go wrong, or the contractor walks off the job or goes bankrupt? Who will finish the job? Who will pay for the work? Also, you want to be sure that the company you select is going to be around tomorrow and for years to come. Of course, there is never a guaranty but the best predictor of the future, is a record of the past. If the company has been building great pools for decades, they are likely to be around for a long time to come.

 

DO THEY HAVE A SERVICE DEPARTMENT?

Once the pool is built, you are away to the races. But what if something goes wrong with the pool after a few years? Who will close the pool for winter? It is always best of the company you choose to build the pool also has a service department who can deal with any problems and to perform regular maintenance. The service department of the company who built the pool is best equipped to service the pool since they will have an intimate knowledge of the pool from the construction phase. There are many “pool builders” out there who actually have no idea how to best operate a pool, and have no service department. It is best to steer clear of these builders. Once the project is complete, you never see them again. 

 

CAN THEY PERFORM?

Finally, schedule can be critical, especially for commercial projects. Liquidated damages can cripple a business that was counting on opening the pool in December, but it didn’t happen until the following May. There has been more than a few projects abandoned or sold for pennies on the dollar as poor performing contractors drove the owner into insolvency. No builder is perfect or immune to making mistakes…things happen. What sets the premium builder apart from others is how they react to the problems. The only way to know how different builders react is to speak with their past clients. Don’t accept a short list of “preferred references”. It is a lot of work to fully research your builder, but it will pay dividends many times over in the long run.

 

A well-constructed pool delivered on time and on budget will provide decades of enjoyment, or in the case of a commercial project, revenue generation. The best start to this positive outcome is to balance all of these considerations discussed, and make a good decision.

 

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Electrical Safety

Every year people die by electrocution, and some of these incidents are associated with pools. In fact, In September 2016, a young girl working as a lifeguard at a swimming pool in North Carolina lost her life when she was electrocuted as she entered the water. So let’s talk a little bit about this, and how we might reduce the risk of electrical injury associated with pools.

 

Electrical energy acts a lot like other sources of energy in that it moves (flows) from one area to another when there is a “potential difference” in the voltage of those areas. Like a waterfall plummeting from a high point to a low point, so does electricity from a higher voltage (a live wire or battery terminal for example) to a lower voltage (ground).  

 

Electricity generally speaking, needs a “conductor” to move or "flow" through. This flow of electricity is expressed in terms of Amperes or Amps. Some things are better conductors than others. Copper, aluminum and gold are excellent conductors and pass electricity, while things like the human body are less apt as conductors, but can certainly still pass electricity. Other substances like some (but not all) polymers and glass are insulators. Still others are classified as semiconductors (like doped / contaminated silicon). Uncontaminated water is actually an insulator when pure (distilled), but becomes sort of a semiconductor most of the time. In pools, it is usually a pretty fair conductor having been “contaminated” with minerals, chlorine and sometimes salt. The human body is a mediocre conductor, but also a poor insulator. Being that we are largely made up of contaminated water, electricity from a source will pass through our bodies on the way to ground…the lower voltage. On the way through it can interfere with nerve impulses including those activating the heart, and cause damage, seizure or in the worst case death by cardiac arrest.

 

So how can we make the seemingly unsuitable bed partners of pools and electricity less…shocking?

 

BONDING AND GROUNDING

Bonding refers to bringing all of the conductors around the pool (the reinforcing steel, handrails, light fixtures, pump cases etc.) to the same electrical potential by connecting them all together with a conductor (a ground wire). This eliminates the possibility of any potential difference between these various items; whatever voltage one item is at, the same voltage will be seen at all of the other items. But bonding alone does not render the items safe. You can’t get a shock between one item and another, but what if a stray voltage is energizing the bonding wire to some higher voltage? Then any of the items could give you a shock if your body is grounded (for example, being barefoot on the deck). To ensure the items are a zero volts, the bonded items have to be grounded. This simply involves running a wire from the bonded loop to the ground lug in the distribution panel.

 

KEEP ELECTRICAL ITEMS AWAY FROM THE POOL

It is never a good idea to have an electrically powered item near a swimming pool. Things like radios, blenders (for those summer margaritas) if dropped into the pool, can electrically charge the water and potentially shock bathers. Even if the device is away from the pool on the deck somewhere, someone who has recently been in the pool could drip water into the device and create a conductive path with the water from the device, through them to ground…not fun!

 

USE GFCI DEVICES AND BREAKERS

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupting (GFCI) devices work by comparing the current flow in the hot (supply) wire to the current flow in the neutral (return to ground) wire. In any circuit, the current flow should be the same in both ‘legs’.  If it isn’t, it means the current is going somewhere else - like through you! The GFCI device will trip to disconnect the power supply if there is a difference of 6mA (that’s 6/1000 Amps), and does so in a fraction of a second to protect us from being shocked. GFCI devices are a great way to protect people from any electrical device, but are particularly appropriate for things like underwater pool lights where electricity is so close to the water.

 

PERFORM REGULAR ELECTRICAL REVIEWS

It’s a fact of life on this planet of ours that things change, materials degrade, corrode, erode, oxidize and just plain wear out. Your electrical system is no exception. Electrical distribution boxes and the breakers within become corroded and fail. Plastic wire insulation dries out and cracks, ground points become corroded. Corrosion is exacerbated by exposure to salt water because of its electrolytic properties. Having a reputable electrical contractor visit the site periodically may flag some of these issues before they become a health and safety concern. In addition to a visual inspection, they can perform tests (like high voltage meggering) to assess the condition of various electrical insulators in the system.

 

Be safe, swim happy!

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Salt Water Chlorination: Is it the Right Option for your Facility?

Salt or no salt? That is the question! Or at least one of the most common questions being asked by pool owners and operators these days. Every pool owner has their own set of reasons for wanting salt or not wanting salt. There are many questions regarding the mechanical equipment at the facility, finishes of the pool, uses of the pool, local bylaws, (just to name a few) that must be answered before jumping to any decisions. Additionally, the owner must be aware of the many myths regarding salt water systems and chlorine systems alike before making any decisions. They must also understand that a salt water pool doesn’t mean you will be swimming in ocean water! Windows to the Universe team states that salt water pools typically have 3,000 to 6,000 ppm, while the ocean is about 35,000 ppm.

 

MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT

When changing a liquid chlorine sanitized pool over to a salt water system, or when building a pool destined to be salt water, the mechanical systems must be selected properly.  Everything from the pumps, filters and heaters must be designed and approved for use in a salt water pool.  If this is not done, manufacturers will not honour warranties, and there will be damaged equipment much prior to their normal lifetime.

 

POOL FINISHES

The finishes of the pool need to be considered when contemplating a salt water pool as certain finishes do not last as long under salt water conditions.  Liners, tile and plaster finishes all have their own issues when it comes to salt, so owners must investigate each option thoroughly and ensure whichever option is chosen is installed properly. As with any sanitation system, monitoring and proper balancing is also very crucial in the lifetime of the finishes. 

 

Fixtures such as hand rails, underwater lighting fixtures, and rope anchors need to be properly chosen when going with a salt water pool as they will corrode faster without being constructed of proper materials and properly maintained. The image above shows a hand rail in a salt water pool that is rusting due to the salt. Think of what salt use on our roads does to our vehicles and infrastructure during the winter months.  The same type of damage will happen to a pool that doesn’t have all of its components designed for salt water use.

 

POOL USE

Primary uses of the pool under consideration for salt water should also be considered.  A pool that is primarily for lap and competition swimming where there is high swimmer volume and high exertion may want to shy away from a salt system, as it will require much more monitoring of the chlorine levels to ensure they are in accepted ranges.  Yes I said chlorine.  Salt water pools still have chlorine in them.  They use a chlorine generator system involving a process called electrolysis to produce its own chlorine, rather than adding liquid chlorine directly to the water.  A therapy pool with low patron turnover may be a better candidate for salt water, as it will be easier to keep the pool balanced and may increase user comfort.

 

LOCAL BYLAWS

Local bylaws are another very important item to look into when considering salt water in your pool.  Especially for commercial pools, salt is typically not permitted to be the primary source of sanitation.  Most municipalities still require salt water pools to have a secondary sanitation system installed, typically liquid or tablet chlorination.  Furthermore, when draining the pool, salt (and chlorine) levels usually must be brought down to low levels in order to legally be dumped into the municipal sewage treatment system.  Always check local bylaws for your stipulations prior to draining your pool.

 

Pool owners need to ensure that they do as much homework on salt water chlorination as necessary to ensure that they have made an informed decision.  There are too many cases of owners not taking all of the necessary steps required to properly operate a salt water pool, and have a seemingly endless repair bill. As with any large expenditure, always ensure you are working with qualified pool designers and builders when constructing a new pool or doing a renovation, no matter what sanitation system you are going with. 

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