Friday, September 6, 2013

Aqua design international disaster

An aqua design group's - international disaster waiting to happen.

Experience and Training

An aqua design group's international failure at providing competent plans, nearly caused a castastrophic project failure.  This firm (that is really a landscape architecture firm) did not inherently possess the skills or knowledge to design aquatic facilities.  A review of their plans, associated construction details and project specifications bore this out.  

A qualified pool builder builder would have to significantly modify the aqua design group's substandard plans to meet the building codes, industry standards and acceptable trade practices.  

This would mean that the project could not be built for the cost projections provided by the international aqua design group.  The property owner would be hit with change orders and cost over-runs, just to make the project code compliant.

Plan review reveals deficiencies

While reviewing an international aqua design group's plans, I happened upon many deficiencies that could have been catastrophic, even deadly.  The Arizona based landscape architecture firm that promotes itself as "international aquatic designers and planners" had designed a perimeter overflow pool and underground equipment room for a high profile client.

Personnel Safety

The underground room lacked the required "confined space" ventilation, required by OSHA, to allow personnel to occupy the below ground vault.  The access ladder, light switches and lighting were also not OSHA compliant.

Electrocution Danger

The equipment room did not have any drainage or sump pumps to protect the room from flooding.  The international aqua design group even specified that the equipment was to be mounted directly on the floor!  And, NO GFCI protection was specified for these components.

In the event of a leak or faulty plumbing, the electrical equipment room would have flooded.  The water would have equalized with the water in the vessels.

Electrical and mechanical equipment would have become submerged.  This would not have only destroyed the equipment, but could potentially electrocute someone climbing into a flooded room.

Lack of Equipment Ventilation

Electric motors, pool pumps, heaters and other pool equipment require cool air to maintain the proper operating temperatures.  Without any provisions for cool air, the equipment will operate inefficiently, experience shortened lifespans and eventual overheating.

Auto-Fill Design

Contrary to acceptable trade standards and practices, the auto-fill line was designed to inject the fill water into the gutter of the pool.  The placement of the fill line in such a manner would have cause water to spray out of the gutter, creating a lot of noise and visual distraction.

Lack of Surge Tank

Though tight on space, the site was sufficient to allow a properly sized and built surge tank.  Instead, the international aqua designer chose to utilize the gutters as the surge tank.  Such a design would flood the gutters from bathers displacement or wave action - rendering the gutters ineffective.

Lack of Hydraulic Calculations

No hydraulic calculations, line velocity specifications or other design criteria were provided with the plans.  The line velocities at the suction inlets (drains) were not compliant with the codes.  The selection of pipe sizes appeared arbitrary.

After performing hydraulic calculations, it was determined that the international aqua design firm's pipe specifications were grossly undersized for the specified pumps.

No Protection against flooding

The equipment room was not provided with an absolute failsafe method of preventing flooding.  Inexpensive techniques are available to prevent flooding or back siphoning of the return lines, in the event of a check valve failure.  These devices were simple ignored.

Lack of Serviceability

The equipment room was not provided with a means to service the equipment without draining the pool!  Because the plans omitted shut off valves on every pipe, the pool would have to be drained to perform routine maintenance such as cleaning filters, repairing pumps or cleaning pump strainer baskets.  A waste of precious water, chemicals, labor and money!

Maintenance & Cleaning

Provisions needed to be made to allow for vacuuming of the various vessels.  Usually international aqua designs include dedicated vacuum ports in every vessel, that function as "central vacuuming" systems.  These are critical for overflow pools that lack skimmers.

Generic Mail Order Structural Engineering

To add insult to their work product, the aqua design failed to provide site specific structural engineering.  The engineering was not sufficient to withstand the soil and site conditions present.

The aqua design firm simply purchased some engineering from a catalog and forwarded them to the client.  This was a violation of the California Building Code (CBC) and the International Building Code (the nationwide building code).

Lack of Proper Licensing

Adding a final insult, the international aqua design firm was located out of state, and was not licensed to design or build projects in California.  The were not California licensed engineers, architects or contractors and therefore are prohibited from designing projects in the state. 

Landscaping firms that have turned into aqua design groups, hardly  possess the qualifications to properly design and build swimming pools - let alone resorts or public facilities.

Accreditation and Certification

There is only ONE accredited program (IACET) for the training and education of swimming pool designers - and that is from the Society of Watershape Designers.  To date only 35 individuals have completed the rigorous course of study to become SWD Certified.

Hiring an SWD Certified Designer ensures that your project is designed with your safety and best interests in mind!

Contact the Author:
Paolo Benedetti, BS, SWD Certified 
Aquatic Technology Pool and Spa 
phone: 408-776-8220. 
Visit his website at: 
All Contents © Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, 2013. 
All rights reserved.

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To contact the author, Paolo Benedetti of Aquatic Technology pool and Spa, email him at: or call 408-776-8220.
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