Collaboration and Working as a Team
Pool Design article by Dave Penton
I have the unbelievable privilege of working with some very well-healed clientele in the Los Angeles area. At Fluid Dynamics we have built a following based on honesty, integrity, as well as a reputation for quality work.
One of the biggest eye-openers for me personally over the past number of years is just how these six and seven figure watershapes are birthed into this world.
For so many years I would look at the photos of the great masters within the pool industry. Guys like Skip Philips, David Tisherman, Randy Beard, Paolo Benedetti and Brian Van Bower always inspired my imagination - as well as heightened my hesitation to enter this realm of true high end pool construction. I used to think "How can these guys pull together all of these elements to create such beautiful works of art?" Over the years, as our firm has gotten more and more into this kind of work ourselves, I now have a much better understanding of what it takes to pull off a project of this caliber. It takes an entire team of artisans, of which we as pool builders happen to be a part of. On virtually all of these projects the other trades are not subcontracted by our firm - they are working directly for the General Contractor or the client. Take for example a recent project we completed up near the very top of the hill in Beverly Hills, Calif. We were actually brought in a bit late in the game (not un-common as I have learned). The rough excavation of the pool area had already been completed, and the structural caissons were already in place. Our challenge was to clean up the excavation, build the pool structures (there are three separate bodies of water), install the mechanical systems, and apply the interior finishes to each of the three bodies of water.
The teamwork got under way right from the very beginning. We would need to coordinate with structural engineering contractor who installed the caissons. We needed them to leave some of the structural grade beams un-poured so that we could install some of our plumbing lines through them.
Next , we proceeded to install all of the structural steel within the pool and two spas. Here again collaboration was critical. On very large structural pools such as this one - some of the plumbing installation needs to take place during the structural steel phase. With very large steel, it becomes increasingly difficult to install plumbing after the rebar is in place, so it is imperative that our plumbing crews work very closely with the structural steel subcontractor to assure that we get everything in place to assure we don’t run into problems later.
When the pool structural construction is completed and all of the curing protocols have been finalized, I find that the collaborative efforts really shift into high gear. As we are still onsite installing all of the mechanical infrastructure (plumbing lines, electrical lines, communication cabling etc.), it is critical to begin to work with the other trades present on the project to assure everything goes as smooth as possible. We often times install underground equipment vaults or buried surge tanks for our pools, and we need to assure that there are no landscaping or other restrictions like a large tree or a future pavilion, that will dictate where we can and cannot install these elements. This is also a time when we interface with the A/V contractors onsite to assure that we have the internet tie- ins that we need for our online based equipment controllers, as well as any integration with the existing home automation systems that the clients have requested. We also need to be sensitive within our allotted equipment locations to the needs of any of the other trades as well. It is very common to have landscape lighting controllers, irrigation controllers, A/V equipment, and even HVAC equipment sharing the space with our pool equipment. Coordination with these trades to help keep everyone's job as smooth as possible goes a long way to assuring a pleasant jobsite.
Once all of the mechanical systems have been worked out, it is time to focus on the finish work. At this point we are often not only brining in the various other contractors on a particular project, but this is also the time when the architects and designers re-engage with the project, in greater capacity. I have found that this is the part of the project when collaboration becomes critical. Time spent here is what I have found separates good projects from the truly great masterpieces we all admire in the glossy magazines. No matter how good the plans are for a project, there are ALWAYS unforeseen details that need to be figured out in the field. On the project seen here we had some tricky transitions where the vanishing edge wall and wet coping came together, especially where we had the raised wood deck. We had many meetings with the architect, the designer, the wood deck contractor, the metal fabricator, the coping installer, the tile installer, the waterproofing subcontractor, and myself as the pool builder. We had as many as 8 different people who had to communicate together over an area that covered less than 2 square feet of the entire project.
Additionally we had many meetings with our crews, the coping installer, and the pool deck installer to assure that all of the elevations were dead on the money! On this particular project there was absolutely no margin for error… if the coping stones did not line up with the deck pavers, the entire radial pattern would have been off, and the project would not be the true masterpiece that it is.
By learning to work together with a team of highly gifted professionals, it is possible to pull of truly great masterpieces. The "lone cowboy" approach may work on smaller less complicated projects, but I would argue that by working as a team where everyone has defined roles, and they are allowed to do what they do best - you wind up with an even better end result. Even less complicated projects can be transformed from good to great by learning to work as a team!