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The Benefits of a Splash Pad

When a hot summer day hits, is there anything more fun and refreshing than playing in the water? Throughout communities across North America, splash pads are becoming an increasingly popular alternative for traditional outdoor aquatic centres like swimming pools and wading pools. They are typically located at municipal parks, water parks, and resorts, but they can be found almost anywhere. The growing demand for splash pads is not surprising, as there are several significant benefits associated including cost savings, accessibility, flexibility and more!

 

NO LIFEGUARDS REQUIRED

A major advantage of splash pads is that lifeguards are not required. This is a big savings and allows smaller communities to install a splash pad in place of a pool to help cut back on running costs.

 

ATTRACT THE COMMUNITY

One of the largest advantages of a splash pad is their visual appearance. Even a limited number of water features can help draw people from the community to parks and pools alike. With endless options for water features and interactive toys splash pads can be a simple attraction for anything from a community pool to a campground or park. Splash pads can also be an effective way to attract members of the community to public areas such as public parks or community centers.

 

ACCESSIBILITY

With the way splash pads are designed there is no additional accommodations or equipment required for accessibility. With a pool, costly lifts or large ramps are required to meet accessibility standards, though with splash pads being on grade there are no issues getting onto the pad. Along with access to the pads, because users are not submerged it is much easier for someone in a wheelchair to enjoy the splash pad.

 

COMMUNITY

In most cases, communities do not charge admission for splash pads, as this is a good way to give back to the people of the community. A splash pad is an easy way to provide somewhere to cool off without the costs of building a pool. Splash pads are also highly appealing to small children and toddlers who are too small to touch the bottom of a pool.

 

FLEXIBILITY

Splash pads can be made in any shape or size desirable, and this allows for endless flexibility for locations where splash pads can be built. Splash pads can be added to existing developed areas where there would be no room for a pool. Many splash pads do not recirculate which means the mechanical equipment required can typically fit into a small cabinet.  This allows for a splash pad to be built basically anywhere as no underground tanks or mechanical rooms are required.

 

LOW MAINTENANCE

Since the majority of splash pads do not recirculate the water used in the system, there is minimal maintenance needed for the pad. In this situation, chemicals are not used for the water, and an operator on staff is not required as the system only needs to be checked periodically. 

 

SAFETY

Since the primary target of splash pads are children, safety is obviously a big concern and this is where a splash pad really shows advantage over a wading pool. Splash pads do not have any standing water, which eliminates any worry for those who are too small to swim, allowing them to enjoy a splash pad all on their own.

 

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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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Role & Importance of COR™

Over the years, workplace fatality and injury statistics have demanded safer workplaces for its workers, and the construction industry is no exception. Statistics from the Workers Compensation Boards of Canada consistently places Construction in the top 5 of the most dangerous industries in Canada.

 

The silver lining is that more and more construction companies are committed to their workers safety and are pursuing the direction that health and safety will not be optional or extra, but rather integral to the company’s operations.

 

The aspiration for safer workplaces combined with the need for safety programming has been identified in the standards set out by COR™. Beginning in Alberta, COR™ has become a nationally-recognized measure of superior safety performance. Currently there are 168 companies across Ontario who have achieved this certification and almost 1,000 others who are in the process.

 

By participating in the COR™  program and being awarded certification, companies can demonstrate that their health and safety program has been developed, implemented, and evaluated on an annual basis through comprehensive internal and external audits. Intrinsic to the audit process are site visits and interviews with workers. The safety program must be a living, breathing entity within the company where both management and workers have a role in developing programming.

 

Each one of the 19 Ontario COR™ elements (see below) aims to ensure policies and procedures are in place to manage safety by planning work to minimize personal injury, establishing systems for early detection and COR™ rection of unsafe practices and conditions, and ensuring that they are maintained on an ongoing basis.

  1. Health & Safety Policy
  2. Hazard Assessments
  3. Safe Work Practices
  4. Safe Work Procedures
  5. Company Rules
  6. PPE
  7. Preventative Maintenance
  8. Training & Communication
  9. Workplace Inspections
  10. Investigating & Reporting
  11. Emergency Preparedness
  12. Statistics & ReCOR™ds
  13. Legislation
  14. Occupational Health
  15. First Aid
  16. JOHS Rep or Committee
  17. Workplace Violence
  18. Return to Work
  19. Management Review

SCOR™ing is also very strict, where any item set out in the legislation requires a sCOR™ e of 100% or the company would receive an automatic fail. A minimum of 65% is needed on each individual element, in addition to an overall average of at least 80% to pass to the audit.

 

While many aspects of the COR™ program requires companies to go above and beyond, many of the elements are based on requirements already set forth by Provincial safety standards.  Most companies should already have an Occupational Health & Safety Policy Statement as well as policies and programs regarding workplace violence and harassment, emergency procedures and return to work, that should be reviewed annually. There are also pre-existing obligations regarding training, workplace inspections, investigating and reporting incidents, first aid and worker representation in either the form of a joint occupational health and safety committee or safety representative.

 

The second element, Hazard Assessments, is often the most challenging as companies have to identify all of the potential hazards that exist within the company’s operations, and then jointly develop and implement ways to reduce the risk these hazards play. Effective implementation of this element lends itself nicely to the following two elements, Safe Work Practices and Safe Work Procedures, and is fundamentally intrinsic to all of the elements as it identifies how all of the requirements will fit each individual company, based on the work and structure of the organization.  

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

Obtaining COR™ certification can also play a role in the company’s bottom line. Because buyer’s of construction have adopted it as a measure of safety performance, it provides a competitive advantage over other construction companies that do not. The effects of just one incident on a site could be very bad news financially, socially and economically. Knowing that a company is willing to go through the process  to meet the industries established standards in safety can be the difference of getting jobs, or not.

 

COR™ certification can also open the doors to bid on more jobs. In today’s industry some of the top construction companies or certain sectors will not even allow a company to bid on a project if they are not COR™ certified.

 

COR™ certification can be an asset if you let it. It's a good way to establish your company in the industry that proves you care about safety in all aspects of your business. At the end of the day this safety standard is place to protect the company’s most valuable assets, all of its workers.

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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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Pool Finishes: Options & Considerations

When planning the construction or renovation of your pool, whether commercial or residential, one of the many decisions you will need to make is the pool finish. There are several options available to both commercial and residential pools, there are also many factors to consider when choosing a finish. Cost is usually the first thing on everyone’s mind, when making any purchase. However, there are many other considerations that will often times outweigh the initial cost. The intended use of the pool is an important factor to consider when determining the finish of a pool. Residential pools, which have a lower use, can get away with one of the more budget-friendly options, as there is less wear and tear. A low-cost finish will save some money upfront however, repairs and refinishing will be required much sooner than some of the longer lasting, high-end finishes.          

 

TILE FINISH

Tile has been used as a pool finish for years and is known to be the most durable finish. When applied correctly, a tiled finish can last for decades before requiring any replacement. Tile offers the pool owner a wide variety of colour options and design possibilities. Due to the preparation and labour required for installation, this high quality finish option comes at a higher initial cost. However, over time it will pay for itself, through the savings on repairs and replacements.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • Durability & Longevity: A tiled finish will last decades if applied correctly, and compensate for the higher upfront costs.
  • Easy to Repair: If there is an issue with isolated delamination of tile, it is very easy to replace small areas of tile and match to the existing, without having to re-finish the entire pool.

DISADVANTAGES

  • High Upfront Cost: Correctly installing tile, comes with heavy labour including; the preparation of the subsurface, laying the tile and grouting the tile.
  • Deterioration of Grout: Though tile has a very long life span, the grout will deteriorate much quicker. Over time grout will begin to wear out of the joints and discolour. Normally, grout will be required to be replaced much sooner than the tile. 

PLASTER FINISH

Plaster is one of the most prominent pool finishes around, and has been used for several years; a quicker install than products like tile is the main reason for its popularity. Plaster is shot onto the pool walls, similar to gunite, and then toweled to give it a smooth consistent finish. A plaster finish does require some sort of tile border at the waterline as the waves against the plaster will cause it to deteriorate quickly.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • Cost & Durability: Even with the high level of durability a plaster finish offers,  the cost is relatively low.
  • Aesthetically Pleasing: Plaster provides a very nice finish which is smooth and able to form to any shape or design.

DISADVANTAGES:

  • Pool chemistry can very quickly deteriorate a plaster finish if not properly maintained; low pH in the water is a big concern and requires experienced supervision.
  • With age, pool plaster will start to delaminate and cause sections of the plaster to pop off, having to re-plaster a pool is very costly.

PAINT FINISH

Painting a pool is a very inexpensive method of finishing any pool, and is typically used in a commercial application for community or public pools. Though painting a pool is an economical and quick finish option, over several years the paint will chip and need to be repainted. A parge coat is required before painting to ensure all honeycombing of the concrete is filled, leaving the floor and walls smooth.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • Low Cost & Project Schedule: The cost of the material and labour required to complete the work is extremely low and can be completed quickly.
  • Low Risk of Damage: Since paint is applied to a cementations backing, there are no concerns about damaging or puncturing the finish from items in the pool.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Frequency of Repairs: A paint finish will need to be refinished every 3 to 5 years, requiring the existing paint to be blasted off before repainting.
  • Imprefections: If the subsurface of the pool is not done perfectly any imperfections such as honeycombing or rough parging will show through and can cause injuries to swimmers.

VINYL LINER FINISH

Traditionally Vinyl liners have been a typical residential pool finish, due to the relatively low cost and quick installation. Liners can and have been used for commercial applications however, due to the low durability of a liner it is not very common. Vinyl liners can be used in both stainless steel and concrete pools.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • Low Cost: In comparison to other finishes, liners can be an economical alternative. The liner itself is relatively inexpensive, in comparison, and installation labour is a significantly lower cost.
  • Creates a Water Tight Tank: This benefit can be an efficient solution, saving time and money, to a deteriorating concrete pool, which has started to leak. 

DISADVANTAGES

  • Deterioration: Vinyl liners are more susceptible to deterioration caused by harmful UV light and poor water chemistry, resulting in the liner needing to be replaced sooner.
  • Easy to Damage: Vinyl liners can very easily be damaged from foreign objects, such as tree branches or toys falling into the pool. Punctures in the liner will result in water getting behind the liner, causing the pool to leak and the liner to bubble out.
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Health Inspections: Does Your Facility Comply?

Health inspections are actually my favorite part of my job. Not only because the project is nearing completion, but for the sense of accomplishment when the Health Inspector comes to the facility, inspects all code requirements, and provides us with a “PASS” to open to the facility to the public.

 

Having years of experience in construction and participating in hundreds of health Inspections, I hear a lot of the, “Why do they have all these rules?”, “We will never be able to satisfy them”. My response to these comments is simple; Let’s do what the regulations asks for and we will get the outcome we want. It does help that we have been through lots of these inspections and can be prepared for them, but just being aware of the code requirements gives anyone the ability to be successful.

 

Here are a few common and very important items that the Health Inspector will look for when they inspect any facility. This is just a portion of the requirements that are listed in Regulation 565 of the Health Protection and Promotions Act for Ontario.  

 

EMERGENCY PHONE

Do you have an emergency telephone installed and in working order? Are there instructions for your staff or patrons for when an emergency call is made? If any emergency occurs within the pool area and 911 needs to be called, anyone in the pool area may pick up the emergency phone to make the call. When making that call, the 911 operator will ask questions that will need to be answered promptly. Having the emergency instructions with the facility information posted is required so that person is able to relay this information to the 911 operator.

 

SAFETY SIGNS

Are all the required safety signs posted? The regulated safety signs are to ensure that your patrons know the rules of the pool, where the emergency phone is and remind them to shower before entering the pool. They also identify for the staff how many bathers can be in the pool at one time. The signs have to legible and posted at all times.

 

SAFETY EQUIPMENT

Is the required safety equipment accessible for the patrons and staff in the pool? The health regulation lists the required safety equipment that you need on hand in case of any emergencies. These items should be maintained and checked to ensure they are in working order on a regular basis. You would never want to be in an emergency situation without the proper gear.

 

POOL CHEMISTRY LOGS

Are your pool chemistry logs up-to-date? Is your pool chemistry within the proper parameters? Recording your pool chemistry every 2 hours can feel exhausting especially if you don’t have a machine to handle those recordings for you. It is something that the Health Inspector will expect to see being completed. The inspector will also look for the daily and monthly checks that are required for the main drain covers and GFCI’s. Always have these records accessible. Pool chemistry can change very quickly and cause your pool to be unbalanced. Unbalanced chemistry in your pool can cause harmful bacteria and infections, and needs to be adjusted as soon as the readings are taken. Ensuring you have a test kit and a stock of chemicals on hand at all times. If the chemistry needs to be adjusted it can be done promptly.

 

A Health Inspector is not only ensuring that your pool complies with the rules that have been set out by this governing body, but they also ensure that the Owner and the Operator of the pool understand the codes and will follow them during operation of the pool. While the pool is in operation the patrons that are using these swimming pools do so with confidence that the individuals running those facilities are complying with the municipal codes and understand how to do so. The Health Department along with the Health Regulations will ensure this. For the Owners safety as well as the patrons.

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Our Journey to COR

 

Acapulco Pools started its Certificate of Recognition (COR) journey just about three years ago when the certification began gaining momentum in Ontario. I have had the pleasure to be part of this journey every step of the way and was absolutely thrilled to receive the news that we had achieved this standard of safety excellence in Canada. Our team’s hard work, blood, sweat, and tears had finally paid off.


This feat has certainly come with its challenges, but anything worthwhile pursuing is never easy. Our first hurdle was making the differentiation between OH&S legislation and COR, and having employees truly understand why we were pursuing this. It was easy once we positioned it this way: we were the leaders in the aquatic industry and it was only natural to also be leaders in safety. When you see our worldwide aquatic facilities, it is clear that Acapulco Pools employees take pride in their work, so we wanted safety to be embedded in everything we do.
 

 

We quickly learned that to get genuine buy in from employees, their input is integral. For this reason, all of our Safe Work Practices and Safe Work Procedures were developed by different trades alongside management, and reviewed by our Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committee. It was important for us to use our most valuable resources, our workers, to ensure that they had a safety program that works for them.

Another key element to our success has been investing in our employees and affording adequate resources to reach the goals we set out on an annual basis. It was a major turning point when we decided to go digital and provide all of our crew leads with tablets so that they could complete their paperwork on an app that could be reviewed in real-time. This largely increased reporting and communication from the field to the office, as well as overall organization of our safety program framework. 

 

 

We have invested in other ways such as holding annual start-up meetings and other informational events; sending all of our crew leads for supervisor training and ensuring that specialized training and new hire programs are carried out as needed. Our employee recognition program focuses on our safety goals and has been effective in increasing employee morale and our safety culture.
 
During this time I was also undergoing my own personal safety journey as I had only worked in construction for a couple of years. My first instinct was to read as much of the safety and construction literature that I could find. I even enrolled into the local college’s safety diploma course, but at the end of the day my most significant learning was from our project management team and field crew who were happy to share their experiences and insight. Each and every employee at Acapulco Pools should be proud of this achievement.  
 

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