James Atlas, an 18-year veteran of the swimming pool industry, is the owner and co-principal of Platinum Poolcare Ltd., a residential swimming pool construction, renovation and maintenance company with service to several commercial aquatic properties including the Bulls, Bears and White Sox training facilities.
Platinum Poolcare Owner James Atlas came to the pool industry after three years of options trading after college, cashing in his chips to work with father Ronald Atlas, owner of Paragon Pools, a commercial pool construction and design company. An entrepreneur at heart, Atlas quickly started up an off–shoot company, Fountain Technologies, through which he designed and constructed water features for luxury residential and commercial properties.
When his brother took over that company, Atlas founded Pool Watch, a management company servicing recreational pools with lifeguard staffing, facility openings, closings and general maintenance. He sold Fountain Technologies and Pool Watch in 1994 and 1995.
Looking to broaden his skill set in the pool servicing industry, Atlas went back to his family pool business, working as a project estimator for multi-million-dollar waterparks, competition pools, high-rise pools, and other large-scale projects.
After a few years, Atlas began receiving consistent inquiries from residential property owners interested in pool construction and servicing. With his father’s blessing, Atlas took the reigns on those new accounts and formed a new company called Platinum Aquatech.
Again looking to go off on his own, Atlas teamed up with Terry Smith, owner of Poolcare Aquatech, another partner company with Ronald Atlas which focused on the service and maintenance. The two companies merged, with Terry and James owning a fifty-fifty share in 2007, effectively becoming Platinum Poolcare Aquatech, Ltd.
Platinum Poolcare Aquatech, Ltd., founded in 2007, and resulting from a merger of Platinum Aquatech, Ltd. (luxury swimming pool construction) and Poolcare Aquatech, Ltd.(service, repairs, renovations of swimming pools and spas), specializes in all aspects of pool design, construction and renovation with added focus on specialty aquatic features such as waterfalls, lazy rivers, rock water applications, statuary and other luxury waterscape amenities. The company also provides installation and maintenance services for its customers.
Platinum Poolcare has raised the standards of excellence in residential and commercial pools, spa and waterscape design and construction. We have a combined half-century of experience in building, servicing, maintaining, and renovating award-winning and nationally-recognized gunite pools throughout the greater Chicago area and other Midwest states.
Based in Wheeling, Ill., the company’s headquarters spans 10,000 square-feet of warehouse and office space with 46 trucks, 130 employees during peak season, and one of the industry’s largest onsite replacement parts inventory for quick fixes.
Platinum Poolcare has repeatedly graced the cover of various industry magazines, and has earned hundreds of awards for its designs. The company belongs to the prestigious, invitation-only Aquatech Society for professional pool builders.
Hot Tub Safety 101: Chemical Storage, Spa Covers, Rails and Steps
from hot tub warehouse
Over few weeks we will be running a blog mini-series, Hot Tub Safety 101. Each post we will be covering a different aspect of making sure you are not only enjoying your spa to its fullest potential but being as safe as possible while doing it.
In this segment we will be discussing keeping the area around your spa safe for all who are near it. This includes ways to make sure you are storing your spa chemicals properly, the importance of spa covers, and considering rails and steps as an added precaution.
Hot Tub Chemical Storage
As with any other chemicals or cleaning additives, hot tub chemicals can be dangerous if they are not stored and used appropriately. First of all, chemicals should always be stored out of the reach of children, and always make sure that the lids are securely fastened. Spa Chemicals should be stored in a cool, dry place that is well ventilated and not in direct sunlight. It is important to ensure that the chemicals stay dry and no moisture is able to get in, this also applies to hot tub supplies such as aromatherapy crystals, like Spazazz.
Chemicals should never be mixed together prior to adding them to your spa water. Some people prefer to dissolve chemicals individually in a clean bucket of water and then add them to the spa one bucket of water at a time. This method can help prevent having chemical granules settle on your acrylic surface which may cause scratching of your hot tub shell.
As with all chemicals, hot tub chemicals can be dangerous if not used responsibly.
Hot Tub Covers are a very important element of hot tub safety, keeping your spa securely covered anytime it is not in use is important to keeping small children and pets out of danger. Spa Covers should fit very securely and be locked to prevent children from being able to remove them or slip under them. If needed it may be a good idea to consider additional tie down straps for your spa cover to make sure it is as safe and secure as possible.
Hot Tub Steps and Spa Rails
The area around your hot tub can easily become wet and slippery when in use so it is a very good idea to have steps with a non-slip surface and a safety rail for bathers to hold onto when entering and exiting your spa.
If you have shorter or elderly guests they will also appreciate these spa accessories as it will make it much easier for them to access the hot tub comfortably and safely.
Your hot tub is all about enjoyment and relaxation, having the piece of mind that the area around your hot tub is safe for those you love will add to both!
Swimming Pool Stain Removal
Several conditions can lead to unsightly and embarrassing pool stains, including acidic water, alkaline water, leaves, algae, or metal objects left in the pool. But because stains can occur as a result of a combination of factors, it's often a challenge to pinpoint the exact cause of the stain.
Stains in swimming pools are like stains in clothing. With the proper procedure, most stains, even the ugliest ones, can be removed. Since some pool stains are permanent, however, there is no guarantee that you will be satisfied with the final outcome when you try to remove them. For this reason, a topical stain test kit is recommended before beginning any stain reduction procedure.
A topical test kit takes the guesswork out of stain removal. This will help prevent you from attempting a potentially costly pool stain reduction procedure that does not provide satisfactory results. Before using your stain test kit, test your pool water and ensure that it is properly balanced. This will help you determine which stain removal product you need and exactly how much stain remover to use.
Also, if your pool is less than one year old, or is still covered by a manufacturer's warranty, you should check with the manufacturer before attempting to remove any stains. The warranty may cover the removal of pool stains, and it is important that the pool builder agrees with the stain removal procedure you follow to prevent having the remainder of your warranty voided.
During the stain reduction process, all pool heaters must be bypassed. The process will create an acidic environment and could damage the heating system. Most stain removal treatments are not recommended for older pools with copper plumbing, so be sure to consult a specialist if this describes your swimming pool.
Finally, it is possible for an old leak to resurface during a pool stain removal procedure. This is typically caused by removing scale that is currently plugging a small leak in the plumbing or pool equipment. In the unlikely event that this occurs, you will need to locate and fix the leak. The only way to prevent this from occurring is to not attempt to remove the stain.
Do-it-yourself stain removal products are usually an effective way to get rid of pool stains, and they are certainly easier and cheaper than draining and acid-washing your pool. Just be sure your water is balanced, use a topical stain test kit, and follow the directions on your stain removers carefully.
Dream Jobs: Man gets job testing water slides at water parks around the world
There are dream jobs and then there are dream jobs. One young man just found his and according to a report by WWMT News, on April 26, he beat out 2000 other applicants for the chance to test water slides all over the world.
What could be better than landing a job as water slide tester? Getting paid $34,000 a year to do it makes this one of the all-time best jobs ever. Seb Smith, 22 is the lucky man who just landed this incredible opportunity.
Water parks have become highly popular since their inception in the late 40s and early 50s, particularly in summer months and in warm climates. So popular are these amusement parks that most "dry" amusement parks have incorporated water-based rides into their arsenals to attract customers.
The U.S. has the largest percentage of waterparks in the world. With thousands across the country and more being built each year, Seb should be a very busy boy and that's only here in the U.S.
Check out this video from Therapaws from the U.K. Canine Hydrotherapy can have significant benefit in aiding your dogs healing and recovery rate after surgery or injury, increasing the chances of a successful return to full fitness and improved quality of life for dogs suffering with degenerative conditions.
From Therapaws website, which can be viewed here :
Welcome to Therapaws, Canine Hydrotherapy Rehabilitation Centre that is conveniently located in Bracknell Berkshire. At Therapwas we have a Canine Hydrotherapist in the pool with your dog at all times. Our mission is to offer a unique service to our clients and referring vets. Above all we will work hard to ensure all our clients are made as comfortable as possible. We make every effort to create a relaxed, enjoyable environment so that we create a sense of trust from both the dog and their owner.
Because Canine hydrotherapy at Therapaws is a form of rehabilitation, your dog may only receive this treatment with a signed referral form from your veterinary surgeon. In order for us to contact your vet for approval to swim please complete our form by Clicking here to download the client registration form. Remember to sign and date the form and return it to us either in person, fax, email or post.
It is important for us to receive information from your vets so that we can put together a tailor-made treatment plan for rehabilitation. In addition to your vet we also work closely with an ACPAC Category A Physiotherapist and the Galen Therapy Centre who also advise on swimming rehabilitation plans and land exercises.
A Natural First
Courtesy of Jesse Dutra, Aqua Magazine
Natural swimming pools – those that use biological processes to treat water instead of standard sanitization – have been growing in popularity for more than two decades in Europe and elsewhere around the world. Now, these unusual pools have finally landed on U.S. soil. In this special project profile, Massachusetts landscape designer and pool builder Jesse Dutra describes the first natural swimming pool installed in the U.S. using a proprietary system developed by Munich, Germany's BioNova.
In an age where it seems that everything's been done before, it's not often you have the opportunity to be the first at something. Nonetheless, that was exactly the case for the project featured here.
It's what's known as a Natural Swimming Pool (NSP), a concept developed and popularized in Europe by the visionary firm BioNova, which has been successfully designing and promoting these pools for 25 years throughout much of Europe. The firm now has operations the world over, including a North American division based in New Jersey.
Like many landscape designers and pool builders, I've become interested in working with "sustainable environments," and a few years back decided to become a BioNova partner. That effort recently paid off with this beautiful project on Nantucket Island, Mass., the first pool built in the U.S. using the BioNova system.
A Fresh Approach
An NSP utilizes biological processes that exist in natural bodies of water to maintain water quality. Basically, you set up a constructed wetlands area, which BioNova calls a "Regeneration Zone." This zone consists of plant material combined with layers of gravel and sand, fitted with an under-drain system. Here, beneficial microorganisms form that in turn process nitrogen- and phosphate-based compounds to prevent algae blooms and also prevent the development of colonies of harmful pathogens. In essence, the regeneration zone acts as a large biological filtering system, which returns treated water to the pool. (BioNova precisely specifies the system design using different configurations based on the physical proximity of the Regeneration Zone to the swimming area and other parameters. It's extremely important to follow their specs to the letter in order to assure safe and appealing water.)
Although a completely separate system, the circular stone-clad spa is visually linked to the pool and regeneration zone via a small stream. (Photos courtesy of Jesse Dutra)
The dark interior color of the pool provides a beautifully reflective surface accentuating the surrounding views.
To biologists, as well as builders of natural ponds, the science of biological water treatment is well established, but in the U.S. it's remained obscure to swimming pool builders. BioNova has garnered a considerable level of press coverage at home and abroad, including past coverage in AQUA, and it's fair to say this first pool in the U.S. has been greeted with a high-level of anticipation. For our part going into the project, we certainly knew it was crucial we make this installation something special as a showcase and in a sense, an ambassador for this type of treatment concept in this country.
Backing up a bit, it's worth noting this approach first took hold in Germany, a nation famous for the most stringent water-quality standards found anywhere on the planet both for pools and public water utilities. In that rigorous regulatory setting, there are now literally thousands of these systems in Germany and other European countries, including a number of massive, high-use commercial and public facilities. To the best of my knowledge, these systems are virtually algae-free and have a perfect record in terms of bather health. Approximately 20 percent of all new pool installations in Germany are NSPs.
To be clear, the first NSPs installed in North America are located in Canada, and there are now a handful of others either in planning or under construction in the U.S., including another our firm is just completing and another we are currently designing. The first-ever U.S. commercial NSP is currently being planned for a facility in Minneapolis by BioNova's North American and Global Head Offices and will no doubt be the subject of great public attention when it's completed this fall.
It's true this concept has been slow in gaining a foothold in the U.S. market despite its success elsewhere and growing consumer desires in this country for chlorine-free swimming and bathing, as well as for ecologically-sustainable environments.
The dramatic stonework is softened by the use of plantings that create a visual weave with the plantings in the regeneration zone, creating an inviting and tranquil setting.
The water does have a very slight green tint to it, and if you hold it in a glass up to a light, you can see small particulate in the water. That aesthetic concern and fears of waterborne diseases have made the concept a tough sell to Americans who, despite their reservations about chlorine and other manufactured chemical compounds, are accustomed to the "scorched earth" mentality when it comes to treating water.
One of the big advantages of this type of water treatment, and one of the reasons I'm so enthusiastic about it, is the very fact that it doesn't kill all microorganisms. Medical science teaches us that our bodies contain and are covered with all sorts of beneficial microorganism that perform a variety of healthy functions. In sanitized water, all of those life forms are stripped from your skin and have to redevelop after you dry off.
It's been hypothesized that this is one possible reason some people become more susceptible to illness after swimming in sanitized water. In that sense, naturally-treated water is arguably healthier precisely because it doesn't kill everything it touches.
But the fact remains that, from a chemical treatment standpoint, these systems do represent an entirely different type of approach and many consumers and professionals alike, despite the benefits, have remained skeptical.
That's a mentality I'd love to change. Fortunately, these clients were willing to give it a try.
A Green Scene
I had been working for these clients for some time doing landscaping on their property and we have enjoyed a fruitful relationship for the past few years. For a long time, they had expressed interest in a swimming pool but hadn't decided to go forward.
The "better half" of the homeowning couple was chair of the board of sustainability on the island, and she wound up making a majority of the decisions on the pool. Even with their "green" mindset, the NSP concept was a tough sell, in this case simply because it's the first one in the U.S. They were interested in the concept and after a great deal of discussion and research, including calls to English speaking BioNova customers in Australia, France and Germany, they decided to move forward.
Ultimately, they liked the idea of no chlorine and the aesthetics of the pool combined with the pond-like setting of the regeneration zone.
The property is typical of many in the area, very open to adjoining views of the surrounding landscape, which includes protected wetlands found throughout the island. There's a lovely grove of Poplar trees that would eventually serve as a visual backdrop for the pool, as well as a stand of Tupelo trees that abut a nearby cranberry bog.
Although very much a swimming pool, the design includes a number of organic elements that lend the work a naturalistic feeling. (Photos courtesy of Jesse Dutra)
This pool is known as a BioNova Type 5, basically one where the Regeneration Zone is separate from the pool. There is a small section of Regeneration Zone that I located inside the pool at one end where you can swim up to a seating area and touch the plants. My thought was that would've made it a Type 4, but the founder of the company, Rainer Grafinger, said that the area directly in contact with the pool section was so small that it didn't alter the Type 5 classification.
(For detailed information about NSPs and their differing configurations you can visit BioNova's website at www.bionovanaturalpools.com.)
Working with the clients was a perpetual process where the design kept moving and changing as we went along. We came up with the footprint of the pool and the Regeneration Zone, but many of the hardscape features kept evolving. For example, we set several feet of stone coping to let them consider the look before we did the actual installation. Those kinds of discussions continued right up to the final stages of the project.
The pool itself is freeform, 60 feet long and approximately 30 feet wide — 1,600 square feet with about 40 percent devoted to the Regeneration Zone. Aesthetically it has a naturalistic feel, but still looks very much like a pool rather than a pond.
The pool is set up on two levels to the pool from the Regeneration Zone. It has a modified arced vanishing edge where water flows from the pool and creates a waterfall effect as it flows into the Regeneration Zone, which in a sense functions as an oversized catch basin. The edge treatment on the dam wall is unusual in that it has stones set at intervals that function as a stepping path across the pool, while allowing water to flow between the stones.
The Regeneration Zone is not only central to the treatment concept, but it also plays a major aesthetic role. It's a graduated wetland with a number of beautiful plantings typically found at the water's edge in this region, including irises, cardinal flower, hostas, rose mallow, cattails, sedges and a host of different things you would find in the surrounding wetlands areas.
The Regeneration Zone has graduated depths and slopes to dry land in a beach-like effect where the plantings fuse into the surrounding landscape. A small wood deck extends into the zone, giving the clients a beautiful place to enjoy the plantings and water at close proximity.
The pool itself is in many respects typical of large, freeform custom vessels we see all the time. The pool, spa and stream are all made in shotcrete and use typical pool pumps, heating, lights and control equipment. It is in every real sense a swimming pool, not a pond made for swimming. It has a graduated depth ranging from three and a half to six feet. It has a number of benches and a set of wedding-cake style steps the fan out into the shallow end.
The pool is finished in Pebble Fina finish from Pebble Technology. We chose the dark color to essentially mask the color of the water, which as mentioned above does have a subtle green tint to it. Although the water clarity is outstanding, with a light-colored finish you might notice it. As it is, you cannot visually discern the water from what you'd find in a typical swimming pool. Besides, the dark finish only made sense given the pool was intended to be somewhat natural in appearance.
(We've noticed some slight variations in water clarity, which is expected with this type of treatment. As a BioNova partner, I've traveled to Europe and seen pools with white bottoms and to my eyes, the water in these systems always looks inviting, so it's all in how you perceive it. That's why it's crucial to establish realistic client expectations early on so they know what to expect.)
The pool includes an in-floor cleaning system to help prevent the build-up of biofilm, which can form with these systems and make surfaces slippery. It has a bottom drain, which is not necessary on these pools, but in this case we needed it to work with the in-floor cleaning system. And when the clients heat the pool, they can reverse the flow and circulate warm water from the bottom up.
The circulation system also includes a special BioNova tank filter that contains a proprietary geo-mesh or "fleece" that filters particulate down to a size that supports water clarity but also allows microorganisms to flow through the entire system.
The stone we used throughout the project is native to the area, typically called New England Field Stone, both flat and in boulder form. It was originally deposited by glacial activity during the Ice Age, and it is very, very dense. The decks, coping and the vanishing edge, which includes a massive sunning stone, are all finished using this wonderfully durable material, which has beautifully subtle earth tones.
In all, the project includes upwards of 200 tons of the material.
When combined with the surrounding landscaping and the bucolic setting of Nantucket Island, the pool looks perfectly at home. Best of all, the clients love it and are now beaming with pride that they have the first of these pools ever built in the U.S.
In late August last year, BioNova conducted its first-ever construction-training program in North America. For five days, partners from across the U.S., Canada and Europe gathered in Boston for the program, which featured a trip to Nantucket to visit this pool.
We had a wonderful day examining and basically celebrating the project, no small point of pride for me personally, my crews and especially the clients, who were awarded a plaque commemorating the fact that theirs was the first of its kind in the U.S. All new BioNova pools are issued a Certificate of Authenticity – and theirs was serial number USA00001.
As it stands, these pools will likely never replace traditional pools, but with more and more people looking for healthy and sustainable alternatives, my hope is that in this great country of ours, they're here to stay.
Perfecting Placement: Shotcrete Application Basics, from Aqua Magazine
By Bill Drakeley
Builder/designer Bill Drakeley is passionate about concrete and has devoted his career to the pursuit of creating the finest pool shells possible. A recognized authority in the shotcrete placement process, Drakeley has made it his mission to share what he knows about concrete science and application in an effort to help ensure a future defined by fewer structural failures and ultimately improve the industry's performance and reputation.
Concrete is the construction material used most by humankind — wood, stone, brick, asphalt and glass don't even come close. In a sense, our world is made out of concrete and I am among those who believe the very best way to apply it, without question, is by way of the shotcrete process.
The reason that shotcrete, both dry and wet (both versions of the "pneumatically applied" process) are superior to other forms of properly mixed concrete application boils down to one word — velocity.
When you shoot concrete onto a form or the earth at 300 to 400 feet per second, it compacts and becomes dense. The problem is, most people, even those in the pool and spa industry who use shotcrete on a regular basis, often don't understand the basics of installation, beginning with proper velocity.
That starts with an air compressor with enough air volume (CFM) to deliver the required material at the desired speed. Unfortunately, most companies I've come in contact with use compressors that are undersized, delivering, say, 185 cubic feet per minute — not nearly enough capacity to drive the wet mix properly into place. (More on compressor size below.)
That's just one common mistake that compromises the end product. Beyond that most basic issue, there are a number of specific measures before, during and after the application process that must be scrupulously observed; otherwise, you'll wind up with an inferior product that doesn't provide the structural integrity necessary to create a watertight pool vessel. The ACI has always stated that structural concrete built for water retainage or a water environment needs to have a minimum compressive value of 4,000 PSI (ACI-318, ACI-350).
With that in mind, let's dive right into the basics of making the most of pneumatically-placed concrete.
Proper shotcrete placement requires everyone, from the pump operator to the nozzleman, to know his role.
PRIOR TO PLACEMENT
To begin, you must be certain the substrates receiving the concrete are rigid and non-vibrating. That means your forms must not move during application and the soil has to be competent enough to provide a solid support. Your steel and form installations should be built to structural specifications based on the soil conditions and set up to withstand the impact of the concrete as it's shot into place.
One of the ironies here is that by using compressors that don't deliver adequate velocity, forms don't need to be as rigid to prevent movement. That's what one might call a fool's paradise, because as stated above, it's material velocity that produces reliable compaction. (Velocity = compaction, compaction = density, density = strength, strength = water tightness.)
Beyond that rigidity of the substrate, there are a number of other pre-placement issues, all of which, if not observed, will result in inadequate structural integrity.
• The excavation site should be free of standing water. You should have a layer of stone in the bottom of the pool to ensure control of subsurface water movement.
• Steel should be raised 2 to 3 inches above the floor and away from the sides. The American Concrete Institute specifies a minimum 2-inch coverage around any concrete encapsulated reinforcement.
• Freestanding walls require support mechanisms so there is no vibration. These walls should be secured and fastened properly.
• All plumbing lines should be mounted firmly in place if they are to be part of vertical wall. Otherwise, run plumbing in the floor stone to avoid vibration during the shoot, and make sure the plumbing is pressure-tested. (Consider the difference in hassle and cost of correcting a plumbing problem before the concrete is installed versus afterwards.)
• All of these preparations should be inspected and verified prior to the shoot.
What happens if you get these basic measures wrong? If you have movement of a pipe or a piece of steel, you'll leave a shadow or gap in the concrete which increases porosity and permeability. This can also lead to cracking.
In that scenario, even if the shotcrete applicator has done everything correctly, delivering concrete that measures 4,000 psi on a compression test, the flawed preparation results in an unsound structure, which in turn leads to surface failures or water loss.
Bottom line: Proper substrate, plumbing and steel preparation are essential to create a reliable concrete shell, no exceptions!
After placement, the success of the project depends on crucial details including "cutting" the interior structures to their exact specified shapes and wetting the concrete as it cures.
DURING THE SHOOT
Let's assume everything is right prior to the shoot, all verified and built to spec, the substrate is dry, free of debris, etc. Unsurprisingly, the application process also comes with an important checklist.
• First, be sure you have the proper equipment for the shoot. As mentioned at the outset of this discussion, undersized compressors represent one of the most common mistakes. Be sure the unit you're using can deliver that all-important (and newly recommended) 250 CFM minimum for wet (shotcrete), or 700 CFM for dry (gunite). You can never really have too big a unit, because to compensate, you'll merely have to either step back or turn down output. Inadequate CFM is always, always the problem! In addition, you have to be sure the pump for wet mix or gun for dry mix respectively have the capacity or ability for the shot process.
• Equipment setup is crucial in that you want it as close to the shoot as possible. When you close the gap between the pump and where the material comes out of the nozzle, everything works better and more efficiently. In the pool industry we're doing small-line pumping, meaning we're working with 2-inch hoses, pumping or gunning between 8 and 10 cubic yards of concrete per hour. When you are forced to shoot for distances of more than 100 feet, you have to account for the loss of velocity that takes place due to the friction inside the hose, as well as diminishing air pressure and changes to the concrete mix that occur over long distances.
When the wet mix concrete is pumped a long distance and the heat from friction builds, the composition of the concrete changes in that the liquids, fines and cream begin to migrate to the interior surface of the pipe while the aggregates stay in the center. When you have that separation of material, the aggregate may not be properly coated by cement paste, which means you're not delivering a mix design to the nozzle that can be properly placed.
• When shooting, shoot everything. What I mean by that is never start hand-packing large volumes of material. This does not mean finishers can't hand-compact and work into place material at guide wires with finishing tools. Again, the velocity is critical in that it is necessary to compact the material and fully coat the aggregate. When you start placing shovels full of material by hand, the process is no longer monolithic. Do not, under any circumstance, use rebound in steps, walls, benches, floors or anywhere else. When you hand-pack, you are no longer using pneumatically-placed concrete. You'll get weep holes, seams, separations and all sorts of points of weakness in the material.
• The distance between the nozzle and the substrate should be no farther than 6 feet, always at a 90-degree angle to the receiving surface.
• Always start in the corners or the radius first. It reduces trapped rebound, which is generated to a greater degree when first applying the material to the substrate.
Shooting in layers: I'm a proponent of full-thickness shooting, meaning you don't build up the walls and floor in layers. The concern is that the material won't stand up beyond a certain thickness. When shooting steps or other structures that are more than 12 inches thick, we will use a layering technique. For walls and floors up to 12 inches, we use a full-thickness shooting technique. Layered shooting is absolutely acceptable as long as each previous layer has been properly prepped to receive new materials.
• Air temperature can be an issue. According to ACI, you should be shooting between approximately 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You can bypass those parameters with mix chemistry in the form of either retarding agents or accelerants. Personally, I'm not a big proponent of admixtures for the pool industry in a local short travel shoot because in most cases simplicity of mix design is better understood with most pool crews.
• Thieves of strength: In order to achieve desired strength, you must avoid the "thieves" that will reduce strength. First, do not add extra water to the mix for the sake of speeding up the placing process. Doing so will result in shrinkage cracks and other failures. Next, when the concrete mix truck arrives, start shooting right away. You always want to use the material within 90 minutes from when the truck was loaded or 45 minutes from when your material is placed in the dry-mix gun to maintain proper moisture content. Next, you need proper ratio of cement, aggregate and water. A typical ratio is four to one aggregate to cement. If you decrease the binder/Portland to save money, you're cheating the end product because you're not properly coating the aggregate with cement paste.
• Orchestration: The process of applying either shotcrete, dry or wet, should be carefully choreographed. A typical crew consists of the nozzleman (the most important member of the team), along with the pump operator or gun operator, hose tenders and finishers. Everyone needs to know their job and be aware of what's going on as the work progresses. The best crews anticipate what's happening and make appropriate adjustments for each other.
• Once you've finished shooting, a thorough cleaning of the equipment is critical. All hoses and the nozzle need to be free of any residual material. This is essential for proper function at the next shoot.
• Setting up for curing is the next step and of extreme importance. The concept is simple enough. You have to make sure the surface stays wet as the concrete cures to prevent the evaporation of mix water. The idea is to allow the water in the mix to hydrate all the cement particles. The more particles you hydrate, the more strength you gain. Those chemical reactions generate heat, which promotes evaporation of the mix water. Therefore you want to keep the exterior temperature cool, which in turn reduces evaporation and leaves more water available for the hydration process – all of which leads to a stronger end product.
Contrary to what some people think, you're not adding water to the surface with the idea that it's penetrating into the concrete. If that's happening, the concrete is no good to begin with. You're curing to minimize temperature gain, which in turn minimizes evaporation and maximizes strength.
The surface should remain wet for the first seven days minimum. You can use misters, soaker hoses, sprinklers or even wet burlap if you're in an area with water restrictions. However you do it, the concrete must be wetted for at least seven days.
ELEVATING THE GAME
If you follow the above measures with each and every project, your results will be far superior to the majority of concrete pool structures now being built. In my years studying pneumatically placed concrete and teaching people in our industry how to do it correctly, I've found numerous examples where every basic step I've outlined here has been compromised to some degree or another.
The result is an inferior end product usually of low compressive strength, all of which leads me to a final point.
Over the past few years I've stirred up more than my share of controversy saying that waterproofing agents should not be necessary. The reason I say that is if you initially (design the mix and shoot to) achieve 4,000 psi concrete, the shell is well on its way to becoming water tight without any additional membranes, coating or penetrating sealers. Unfortunately, the vast majority of projects don't meet that standard and waterproofing becomes a necessary prophylactic measure.
I'm not an opponent of waterproofing per se, but rather a proponent of quality concrete. When these fundamentals are followed, we create structures that will endure the test of time. Miss those marks and you've stacked the deck in favor of failure.
Consider this final thought: In the end it doesn't cost more to do the job right, it only requires that you embrace a set of basic and necessary steps. Doing so will ultimately save money and heartaches down the line.
There's simply no downside to doing the job correctly. I'll go so far as to argue that as professionals we have what amounts to a moral obligation to follow guidelines set forth by ACI/ASA and give our clients the best possible concrete structures (yes, a shell that does indeed hold water), each and every time you fire up the equipment.
Wet v. Dry
Many in our industry believe that either wet shotcrete or dry shotcrete is superior to the other. That's simply not true — both methods can produce quality concrete if used correctly. The difference is that each method can be better for certain types of applications or certain regions of the country.
Our firm uses wet mix shotcrete because we work in high-volume applications most of the time, not only building large swimming pools but also doing work in highway and subway tunnels. Wet mix is better suited for those applications. Dry on the other hand is better suited for smaller applications when you're starting and stopping more frequently. Dry or wet are equally suited for the swimming pool industry.
So, the difference is really like the hammer and the screwdriver, it depends on the application. But for the record, both wet mix and dry mix are the best methods of concrete application, no ifs, ands or buts about it.
In shotcrete, there's no such thing as a cold joint. You can stop shooting and come back a year later and if the surface and surround are properly prepared you can resume shooting and still come away with a monolithic structure.
We use a method called Saturated Surface Dry (SSD), which simply means that after you've roughened a receiving surface, cleaned out the pores and the surface is free of loose material, it is then wetted or dampened as a condition of the substrate which helps ensure good bondability.
For many of our commercial projects, the vessels are so large that they require multiple days to shoot. Using the SSD procedure, we create what are known as construction joints, which in effect disappear completely once you resume shooting. It's not a so-called cold joint, control joint or expansion joint, these "joints" don't exist in shotcrete construction.
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Xenobiotic Danger in Recreational Water
By Robert Lowry, Aqua Magazine
What in the world is a "xenobiotic," and why should I be worried about it?
No, it isn't some new kind of disease, bacteria, parasite or organism. It is a term that is used as a catch-all for a number of things. Xeno is Greek for "foreign" and "biotic" is from "bios," which means "life," but also means "biologically active."
Common xenobiotics we encounter daily include household products such as window, countertop and floor cleaners; dishwashing and laundry compounds; and heavy-duty potent chemicals such as degreasers, drain cleaners and oven cleaners. They also include pharmaceutically-active compounds and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Drugs, both legal and illegal, are also considered to be xenobiotics also.
There are many concerns when it comes to providing high-quality drinking water: scarce water sources, droughts, expanding population and well closings. You can add xenobiotics to the list as well. As xenobiotics go down the drain and through the sewer system, septic tanks do not destroy these chemical wastes, resulting in local pollution.
While drinking water quality has gotten better over the past few decades, the lack of fresh, uncontaminated source water has caused municipalities to consider and implement water-recycling practices. It may be easier to remove the contaminants from household wastewater and recycle it rather than removing contaminants from industrial or agricultural polluted source or ground water. However, recycling water poses another question in terms of the xenobiotics present in water and how they may build over time, an idea which plays a large role in the world of recreational water.
Take perchlorate, for example. An example of both a xenobiotic and an endocrine disruptor, perchlorate is the primary ingredient of solid rocket propellant and in munitions beginning since the 1950s. Perchlorate is also used in the production of explosives and fireworks — it adds the blue color to firework displays.
For disposal, perchlorate is often dissolved in water and poured on the ground. It breaks down very slowly in the environment, but it moves quickly through underground and surface water. Wastes from the manufacture and improper disposal of chemicals that contain perchlorate are increasingly discovered in soil and water. Traces of perchlorate have been found in groundwater in virtually every state in the U.S. It has been detected in many rivers and low levels have been found in some lettuce samples and milk.
How does it affect the body? First, perchlorate interferes with iodide uptake into the thyroid gland. Because iodide is an essential component of thyroid hormones, perchlorate disrupts the function of the thyroid. The thyroid helps to regulate metabolism. In children, the thyroid also plays a major role in proper development. Impairment of thyroid function in expectant mothers may impact the fetus and newborn and result in effects including changes in behavior, delayed development and decreased learning capability. Changes in thyroid hormone levels may also result in thyroid gland tumors.
Although the range of health effects for these xenobiotics is broad, all of these compounds are foreign to the living organism in which the health effect is observed, making them xenobiotic.
Prescription medications are formulated to be highly soluble and not readily degradable in the human digestive system. These properties make them persistent in water and not readily degraded by sunlight. Pharmaceutical residuals appear in urine and sweat as a product of their use and subsequent excretion. Other prescription preparations such as topical ointments and lotions for dermal conditions are easily shed into the water upon immersion.
More importantly, these medications appear in sewage in water. When scientists recently tested sewage in Australia for the top 50 different prescription medications, all 50 drugs were present. And after testing streams in 30 states, a study published by the U.S. Geological Survey in March 2002 found trace amounts of everyday products such as soap and prescription drugs in 80 percent of the water sources sampled. Streams showed 95 different chemicals from antibiotics to fragrances.
The bottom line: If municipalities are going to recycle sewage and mix it with source water to meet demands, they have to consider the monitoring and treatment of xenobiotics as well.
The ultimate recycling of water is a commercial recreational water facility (a public swimming pool, spa or hot tub). The water is sometimes used for years before draining or significant dilution.
A study done by J. Alan Beech in 1981 found the amount of pollution per person who enters a pool is 200 mL (milliliters) of sweat and 50 mL of urine. No reliable studies have been done on which to base the amount of urine voided in the water by swimmers. Warren and Ridgeway from Water Research Laboratory, Marlow, England estimated it to be 25-50 mL per swimmer in 1978. Beech estimated it to be much higher for children under 10 years of age. He adopted a value of 50 mL per swimmer.
Kuno from C. C. Thomas in Springfield, IL, reported that an active swimmer in water at 24° C (75°F), when the air temperature was 38° C (100° F) lost approximately 1 liter (1.06 quart) of sweat per hour. For his calculation he assumed 10 percent of the volume or 100 mL/hr. The average time spent in the pool is two hours. The EPA estimates that child swimmers aged 5-9 years spend three hours in pools at a time, teenagers spend six hours and adults one hour. Beech used an average of two hours which produced 200 mL of sweat.
We know drugs appear in sewage. Therefore, it is not a quantum leap to understand that drugs, household cleaners and personal care preparations are present in recreational water.
Of primary concern is the potential for adverse health effects. Drug residual concentrations reported in sewage to date are an order of magnitude (two or more times) below those at which an effective therapeutic dose would result from ingesting the water. [That is in sewage, not in recycled, recreational water that may be years old. The concentrations will be much higher in old recreational water.]
Multiple drugs in the water raises the possibility of drug interactions that may cause health effects not otherwise observed.
Then there is the idea of continuous, multiple or repeated exposure to low levels of these drugs — swimming every day in a drug soup may have untold consequences. It could take one or many exposures over months or years for any symptoms or adverse health effects to appear. This could make finding xenobiotics in recreational water as the culprit nearly impossible. Doctors may not even be able to diagnose the problem, much less the cause.
Imagine if you will, what might be in swimming pool, spa, hot tub, whirlpool, waterslide, waterpark, lazy river or other recreational water. How much and what might be in the water of a recreational facility that has a daily bather load of 9,000 people and has used the same water for 100 days? What about the spa that has 25 people in it all day long and the water is a month old?
If you swallow some pool water, are you ingesting some or all of the commonly prescribed drugs? It is estimated that 25 to 30 percent of all people over the age of 18 years have tried illegal drugs; you may be ingesting some pot, cocaine, heroin, methadone, crack or other drugs. You could be getting extra hormones, amino acids, vitamins or minerals. You could even be getting some extra caffeine or nicotine.
Xenobiotic material has been in the water since the very first pool was ever built. We have just recently been able to analyze it, and we are just now talking about it. And unfortunately, there are no easy tests for xenobiotics or drugs, as they are insignificant on a total dissolved solids test.
We also do not know what any common water sanitizers will do to xenobiotics. They may destroy them. They may do nothing to them. They may chlorinate them, brominate them or oxidize them to unknown byproducts that may be harmful or harmless.
At present for recreational water, the only defense we have against xenobiotics is draining. One draining method used in England and Europe is to drain 30 liters (about 8 gallons) of water per bather per day. This may also reduce the need to superchlorinate.
One recommendation is to use water from an approved potable municipal water treatment facility. This water must meet the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Some 100+ known contaminants are below the level determined safe and it has been tested. Do not use ground water, well water or surface water in a recreational water facility unless the water has been tested by the local health authority and approved for drinking. There is no way of knowing what is in that water without extensive and expensive testing.
As I mentioned earlier, xenobiotics is a hot topic in drinking water right now, meaning it'll naturally trickle down to the pool industry. It won't be long before recreational water comes under scrutiny — will you be ready when your customers start asking about it?
Fire provides a dramatic effect for any environment. Add fire coming out of a water feature, or in a swimming pool environment, and you've got the ultimate "wow" factor for your outdoor living space. Check out this video which illustrates this unique feature.
Creating Privacy In Your Yard
by RACHEL LAURENDEAU, from My Home Improvement on APRIL 9, 2013
It's easy to add privacy to your yard or deck while beautifying your landscape. We all use our yards differently from swimming and sunbathing to grilling and entertaining but one thing is certain, it's nice to have some privacy while enjoying your space.
• Plan your landscaping and hardscaping strategically. Although it might seem logical to build a deck right off the house, if your yard offers an area with more natural privacy such as large trees or a berm, consider building your patio or deck in this location.
• Privacy screens are excellent and attractive ways to block off one or more sides of your deck. By planting climbing vines at the base of the screen or trellis, it will blend into the garden and can provide more greenery, flowers and even lovely scents. Simple screens can be built as a DIY home improvement project or your can ask your deck builder to custom build one to match the deck.
• Natural screens offer a more organic look while providing privacy. There are a number of different ways to achieve this:
o Large pots can be filled with quick growing ornamental grasses, bamboo or even small shrubs such as pyramidal cedars and lined up along the edge of your deck. If you want something more permanent than pots, you could put in a narrow garden bed along the edge of the deck and fill it with these same types of plants.
o Plant shrubs to create a hedge. There are a number of fast-growing shrubs that can be selected to offer privacy and interesting leaf color/texture or beautiful blooms to attract butterflies and birds. Talk to the pros at your local garden center to find out which species would be best suited to your area and specific growing conditions.
o For a larger scale and longer-term commitment, plant trees in your yard. Trees have the added bonus of creating shade and attracting wildlife to your yard and there are a number of excellent species that grow quickly.
• Build structures for privacy. If you are looking for more seclusion than privacy screening can offer, you may want to consider talking to your deck builder about constructing a gazebo, porch or a pergola. The pergola could be draped in vines or you can have drapery made of beautiful, weather-resistant fabrics.
Following these simple tips can help you create the privacy that you crave in your yard while enhancing the look of your landscaping. Now, get out and enjoy the beautiful outdoor space that you've created!
New Energy Star Standards Set for Pool Pumps
With an energy efficient pool pump, a typical pool owner could save $160 per year in energy costs.
The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency have set new Energy Star criteria for pool pumps, giving pool-owning American shoppers better information to use before making an important purchase. Energy Star-rated pool pumps will use at least 30% less energy, on average, than the typical model on the market today. Some will use 72% less. The estimated cost savings from operating an efficient pool pump is $160 per year, meaning a typical consumer will recoup the greater cost of purchase within fewer than three years; after that, the savings from saved energy is like found money.
The United States has more than 5 million in-ground pools, and another 150,000 are built annually. If all pool pumps in the U.S. met the new specification, the energy saved would be equivalent to removing 140,000 vehicles from the road.
One seemingly simple innovation incorporated into Energy Star-rated pumps is variable speed, since conventional pumps typically operate at the highest speed, even during times, such as during filtration, when half speed is sufficient. Slower speeds also mean quieter operation.
Now, it's up to manufacturers to submit products for approval, so that consumers can take advantage of the new labeling program. For more information, visit energystar.gov.