I love what landscape architects do. It’s a profession dedicated to making the world a more welcoming, sustainable and beautiful place. I admire the fact that landscape architects have formal educations and are accredited, something I wish was true of the pool and spa industry. In many ways, landscape architecture has a lot in common with the world of water. We’re all in the business of making people happy through experiences that are a direct result of our product and/or service; and for the most part, as two industries combined, we do a pretty good job at delivering it.
Water in the landscape — whether it’s contained in a swimming pool, spa, fountain, pond, waterfall, stream, waterpark or birdbath — is almost always a significant, happiness-inducing design element, if not the most important feature in a given space. That’s probably why most landscape architects I’ve known include some form of water in a majority of their designs.
Given the integral relationship between aquatics and the landscape, one might think there’s an equally symbiotic existence between landscape architects and aquatic professionals. Sadly, through my many years of experience, and comments from colleagues, that’s just not the case. Time and time again, there seems to be a broad disconnect between landscape architects and aquatic professionals. It’s a chasm that manifests in all sorts of ways that unfortunately puts the customer in the position of having to put up with the co-industry discourse, and I really wish that could change.
The Blue Void
Often, when a landscape experience has been designed for someone, there’s a concept rendering with a blue spot labeled “swimming pool” or “pool.” The size, shape and location are usually figured out and that’s it. Ultimately, that means someone at some point needs to be brought in to transform that blue void in the plan into a fully designed, engineered and constructed vessel for holding water.
That wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that there are significant engineering details that need to be considered in the process that will impact the design. It’s usually when the project is already being built that the aquatic professional is brought into the process, and that can be too late. This can lead to a spectrum of problems ranging from a lack of space for plumbing runs, to discovering that the pool as planned is completely unbuildable. Wouldn’t it make sense to bring the aquatic professional into the process much earlier? That way, all parties could avoid the discourse that occurs when the water vessel creation and the engineering are not fully considered as part of the plan from the start.
Taking the Time to Collaborate
As creators of experiences that evoke happiness, it’s imperative that we know what we don’t know and take the time to collaborate, problem solve and integrate ideas, giving all involved a better understanding of what items need to be addressed. As a result, expectations, budgets, building specs and teamwork turn the blue void into a point of customer satisfaction.
Unfortunately, there’s an even deeper resistance keeping us from what we all know should be done, one that’s not solved by simply engaging the services of a specialist at an earlier stage in the design process. I’m talking about a cultural or even a psychological disconnect that sometimes exists between landscape architects and aquatic professionals.
Each of us are experts in our own right and need to work together. It makes me cringe to think about the expensive problems that lie ahead for customers when the proper experts are brought in too late or their knowledge is not integrated into the project — especially when these problems could’ve been avoided. Quality experts address a specific area of a project. And when you’re investing in the long-term success of the work, they can make life easier because they completely eliminate problems long before they occur.
Crossing the Divide
Fortunately, there’s a far more upbeat side to this discussion and something I always keep in mind. Not only do we work to eliminate risks, we always are here to maximize opportunities. I’m extremely proud of the fact that SRK Pool Services has built a reputation for creating systems that support the highest possible level of water quality. We go far beyond acceptable standards and instead achieve water that is so beautiful it has an experiential impact on the landscape environment and an emotional impact on the people who experience it.
In situations where we’re empowered to be the aquatic professional, everyone is happy. The water becomes a point of pride, and it’s amazing how quickly concerns about cost fade when the clients experience their water for the first time. People fall in love with the experience, and that doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a coordinated, synergistic effort that touches every aspect of aquatic design and construction — and when it’s done right, everyone looks like a genius in the eyes of the customer.
There’s literally everything to gain and nothing to lose by engaging people who have made careers out of understanding how to turn all things aquatic into an art form. Absolute perfection might be a theoretical impossibility, but with the right focus and the best people driving the process, you can come surprisingly close.
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Meet Steve Kenny
Steve Kenny is an aquatic designer, builder, and service technician with more than 25 years of experience. Based in Long Island, New York, he specializes in designing, building, and maintaining commercial and residential pools and spas that feature the highest possible water quality.
He is a passionate advocate of creating a new class of aquatic professionals devoted to the science, methods, and art of ensuring pristine water conditions. Steve was formally trained in the culinary arts and has a passion for fine dining. He is an accomplished photographer and sailing enthusiast. He is also a passionate advocate of the benefits of hydrotherapy.
A devoted family man, Steve lives in East Hampton with his bride of 20 years and their three children.