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Aquatic Trends: Pool Accessories

Technology continues to advance in the commercial and residential pool markets, as there are always new products, technologies, and design methods being introduced. Some of the design options and products that will be discussed are not necessarily new to the industry, but thanks to new technologies and innovations, they continue to make an impression on clients who realize they need to have them in their aquatic facilities.

 

Further, as many of these items become more refined and more clients buy them, costs have come down over the years, allowing more designers/builders to incorporate them in any new and/or renovation projects.

 

CLIMBING WALLS

One of the hottest features of late is climbing walls. These apparatus are increasingly being added to existing pools, as well as included on many new pool installations. They are a relatively new option for pools even though people have been climbing on artificial rock walls for years. It was not until recently that designers started placing these climbing walls along the edge of the pool.

 

These products provide another option for bathers to enjoy the pool, while getting in some exercise as well. There are a few manufacturers offering these products, which are available in several colours, as well as clear panel configurations, and in heights of up to 3.6 m (12 ft). The required minimum water depth is typically 2.4 m for a 3.6-m (12-ft) wall. Shorter walls are available for shallower pools. Climbing walls should always be installed according to manufacturer recommendations.

 

TANNING LEDGES

Tanning ledges are also becoming quite popular, as they expand the use of the pool. Typically, these areas have 305 mm (12 in.) of water or less, which makes them perfect for setting up a lounge chair or a place where bathers can simply lay in the shallow water to soak up the sun.

 

They are also great for young children and the family dog. They are commonly found on today’s prefabricated fibreglass pool options, and can be easily incorporated into concrete pool designs. In fact, most concrete pools can be easily renovated to include a tanning ledge and many clients are now doing this.

 

LIGHT-EMITTING DIODE (LED) LIGHTING

LED lighting technology has become much more affordable and refined in the last five years and, in fact, is now the standard. The colour and operational options available are quite expansive, including the ability to control the lights using a smartphone app.

 

There are also removable battery-powered options available that are good for smaller pool applications. LED lights last longer than incandescent bulbs and will save an aquatic facility on hydro costs.

 

FIRE BOWLS 

Fire bowls are now more affordable than in the past and are being included in new construction designs more than ever. Fire features are available in a wide range of configurations and work well to enhance the pool’s surrounding environment. They make for an exhilarating bathing experience, especially when swimming at night.

 

MOVABLE FLOORS

Movable floor systems are not necessarily new, but are still gaining traction in new residential and commercial construction projects. These floors allow program offerings at aquatic facilities to be much more flexible as the pool depth can be adjusted accordingly.

For instance, programs for new parents and their tots are now possible, as the floor can be raised to any depth instead of the standard 1-m (3-ft) shallow end. Then, it can be moved back down to a 0.6-m (2-ft) depth for youngsters aged four to six who are learning to swim, but still want to be able to touch the floor and stand.

 

For residential applications, the same benefits apply, including the ability to fully raise the floor to eliminate the chance of anyone falling into the pool while the homeowner is away or when the pool is not being used. The pool floor can be raised to create more useable space as well.

 

BEACH ENTRY

Beach-entry pools are now the standard in commercial construction. This design comprises a sloped entry that allows accessibility for everyone, a necessity on public pools for several reasons. Having an accessibility lift is also an option; however, a beach entry allows someone in a wheelchair, the elderly, or small children to enter the pool effortlessly.

 

Similar to movable floors, beach-entry pools offer more options for young children learning to swim or those who just want to cool off on a hot summer day.

 

SPLASH PADS

Splash pads are all the rage, with new toys and accessories becoming available all the time. Municipalities and campgrounds—not to mention kids—love them as they provide a great option for people to cool off without the need for a lifeguard. As there is no standing water, the risk of drowning is essentially eliminated. However, parental supervision is still a must. With drain away and recirculation options available, splash pads can almost be installed anywhere.

 

A drain-away design typically makes use of low-flow water features at a location where low- to medium-usage is expected. Water simply drains into the municipal sewage system, or into an underground holding tank where it is used for grey water purposes, typically lawn watering, with an overflow to sanitary built into the system.

 

A recirculating system also uses an underground holding tank where water is pumped through the filtration and sanitizing system to the water features. The water then drains back into the holding tank to be circulated again all-season long.

 

AUTOMATIC POOL COVERS

Automatic pool covers are also gaining ground in the commercial and residential market. Similar to other products of late, these too can be controlled by the owner and/or facility manager via smartphone. This controllability is not only convenient, but also offers many safety and time-saving benefits.

 

There are some restrictions with respect to shapes, however. If the pool is a freeform design, it needs to be sunken down to allow the cover track to be installed above the top of the pool wall. Essentially, a freeform pool still has to have a rectangular cover, if it is automatic.

 

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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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Transform Your Facility into a Multi-Use Facility

Movable floors and bulkheads are becoming more common in aquatic facilities throughout North America. Although they offer similar benefits to an aquatic centre, there is a big difference between the two options.

 

MOVABLE FLOORS

Movable floors change the depth of the swimming pool water, while bulkheads act as a divider in the pool. Adding a movable floor and/or bulkhead will create endless opportunities for many different programs and activities within one body of water. Imagine the difference a movable floor or bulkhead could make in your swimming pool!

 

With a movable floor system the programming opportunities at your aquatic centre expand; traditionally you would need numerous bodies of water to offer these types of programming:

  • Swimming lessons (0.5M-1.2M)
  • Lane Swim (1.1M-1.35M)
  • Diving (3.0M-5.0M)
  • Synchronized Swimming (2.0M-3.0M)
  • Water Polo (1.8M minimum)
  • AquaFit (1.2M-1.5M)
  • Aqua Cycle (1.0M-1.2M)
  • Water Walking Programs (1.2M-1.5M)
  • Physical Rehabilitation (Beach entry or 0.5M-1.5M)
  • Competition Training (1.2M-1.5M)

 

The photo above shows the movable floor at the new Guildford Recreation Centre in Surrey, B.C where the water depth changes several times a day in order to accommodate various programs at the facility.

 

BULKHEADS

The addition of a bulkhead at your facility can allow you to accommodate many different programs and activities individually or simultaneously! Large, single activity pools can be divided easily to create separate swimming areas for:

  • Swimming lessons, fitness programs and other aquatic classes
  • Swimming competitions, water polo competitions and other sports events
  • Diving and synchronized swimming
  • Other special aquatic programs

 

The photo above shows the bulkhead installation in action at the Roosevelt Park Pool in Rapid City, South Dakota. The facility includes a 10-lane, 50M outdoor pool and when the Bulkhead is in the middle park position, the pool transforms into a 20-lane pool! This pool also features water polo courses for both men and women.

 

MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE

When choosing a movable floor or bulkhead manufacturer, it is important to consider the following:

  • What is the installation time and complexity of the bulkhead/movable floor?
  • Is the operation of the bulkhead/movable floor easy and user-friendly?
  • Are the maintenance and service costs low?
  • Are the metal parts made of non-corrosive 316 stainless steel or special bronze?
  • Does the bulkhead/movable floor offer an aesthetically pleasing appearance?

Movable floors and bulkheads offer the ultimate aquatic versatility for your facility. The addition of a movable floor to a swimming pool can make it simultaneously a deep diving pool, a child friendly shallow depth pool or a mid-depth pool for exercise and water games. The addition of a bulkhead can transform a large single activity pool into separate swimming areas for classes, sports events, or special activities. Installing a movable floor or bulkhead will increase water usage and maximize the swimming pools potential. One pool with unlimited possibilities!

 

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