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Chatting with Pool Design Innovator – Noah Nehlich

Discussing his start in the pool industry and release of Vip3D 3.0. Product feedback from designer Kyle Franco.

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Today we're chatting with Noah Nehlich of Structure Studios and learning more about Vip3D 3.0

For the past decade Pool Studio has been a favorite design software for professionals in the pool industry. With the release of Vip3D 3.0 the software has evolved to move the future of Pool Design into an artform all it’s own. The new capabilities of the software make 3D renderings more realistic than ever before. Today we’re chatting with Noah Nehlich, the innovative genius and driving engine of Structure Studios – developers of Pool Studio, VizTerra, Vip3D, and YARD.

We wanted to give our readers the complete backstory about Nehlich and Structure Studios. In the course of our discussion we found out how he first got his start in the pool industry and talked about some of the amazing new features in Vip3D’s latest release. We also talked with one of the beta testers and top pool designers – Kyle Franco, to get his assessment about the new features in version 3.0.

Today, we're chatting with Noah Nehlich - Founder & President of Structure Studios
Today, we’re chatting with Noah Nehlich – Founder & President of Structure Studios

The Story Behind Noah Nehlich & Structure Studios

Noah Nehlich has certainly come a long way in his career. Twenty years ago he had aspirations of being a video game designer. He spent the majority of his time designing game levels and mods for popular computer games. The trajectory looked set for a career in Gaming. That was, until the day he happened to incorporate one of his brother-in-laws pool designs into a game level he had modifying. Nehlich had been inspired by the design (a geometric pool with fire bowls) and replicated it into a 3D model.

The rendering which would be considered rough by todays standards was pretty cutting edge at the time and utilized the Unreal Engine found in some of the most popular computer games of the day. When his brother-in-law saw the end result he was floored. Word began to quickly get around. Joe Vassallo (an industry veteran) who was with Paddock Pools at the time, had seen a demonstration and introduced Nehlich to Buzz Ghiz of Paramount.

Ghiz, (a legend in his own right in the pool industry) was impressed with the young man and the technology. Ghiz asked Nehlich to give a presentation of his 3D pool designs.

“I’m 19 years old and there I am… in a corporate boardroom, giving a presentation for the very first time in my life. But it’s going well, I mean, there were audible gasps in the room.”

Noah Nehlich – Structure Studios

From that point Nehlich’s path transitioned from Gaming Designer to Pool Designer. Nehlich had begun providing design services for a variety of diffent pool companies. He had put together some 3D Pool Packages and began functioning as a design consultant for pool builders across the country.

At first Nehlich offered 6 different pools with 3 variations each for $5,000. The design packages he offered sold quickly. Pool companies noticed that 3D renderings helped them dramatically shorten the sales cycle. Nehlich observed that while his product was very successful, his business model still wasn’t. He noticed that he still wasn’t making much profit as a Pool Designer. “The process simply took too long.” said Nehlich.

Nehlich knew that 3D rendering technology would streamline the sales process and change the pool industry.

Pivoting to Software Development

Nehlich knew that converting his design process into a software was the correct path towards establishing a much more profitable business model. It was at this point that he began working with a team of developers in order to help bring his vision for the product to life. Nehlich found a group of initial investors and began the arduous process of developing a software and bringing it to market.

Innovation comes with struggle

“The journey wasn’t without it’s struggles.” says Nehlich “It took four years and we went 10 times over our original projected budget for developing the software.”

Early investors threatened to walk numerous times, Nehlich explained. The stress of potential failure was something that he coped with daily during development. Still, he continued to throw everything he had at his idea. When down to his last $1.18 in his pocket, Nehlich found that he had exactly enough money left for a poor man’s feast at Taco Bell. He paused for a second and seemed to reflect on this for a moment during the course of our conversation.

With the software still left unfinished, Nehlich was some how able to convince investors to continue with the project. Investors agreed not to pull the plug, provided he was able to complete a sale. At the 11th hour, Nehlich had managed to sell Viking Pools a 3D Rendering package for $20,000. The cash infusion brought investor confidence back in Nehlich, enough to see the software project through to it’s fruition.

Fast foward to 2004 – Structure Studios was staring at 400 pre-orders valued at $2,000 each. First year revenue of $800,000 from a grass roots effort of showing off the product one builder at a time. “There were no crowd funding platforms like Kickstarter back in ’04, they simply didn’t exist yet.” said Nehlich.

Nehlich and his team had successfully managed to build enough confidence with early adopters to grow his software Pool Studio into a viable product and Structure Studios into a thriving company.

Pool Studio would revolutionize the industry by giving designers the tools they needed to produce sophisticated 3D renderings.
Pool Studio would revolutionize the industry by giving designers the tools they needed to produce sophisticated 3D renderings.

The software and company which Nehlich had founded, suddenly began receiving tremendous attention. During conventions and tradeshows, throngs of spectators were huddling 20 deep just to grab a glimpse of the incredible new 3D technology in action.

The product however, was still very new for the industry. Builders were in awe of the capabilities, but Structure Studios was still finding difficulty achieving mass adoption with their new product.

“In 2008, the economy was riding high and many builders felt they still didn’t need 3D in order to close sales.” said Nehlich. This was in spite of the fact that more and more companies began incorporating 3D in their sales presentations.

By 2009, The Great Recession had hit the pool industry hard and perceptions slowly began shifting. “Builders found increasing competition in the market.” said Nehlich. “The economic downturn had suddenly made it much more difficult for them to close sales.” he continued.

Builders vying for those same discretionary dollars suddenly found that they needed a differentiator to help give them an edge. Structure Studios answered by providing them the means to compete at a whole new level. Nehlich had helped usher in a new era, providing the pool industry with the software necessary to Design for Story. Homeowners could now completely visualize what their outdoor project would look like from start to finish as a realistic 3D representation.

Demand for Nehlich’s 3D design software began to skyrocket. Structure Studios would ultimately wind up releasing a variety of different software products that catered to pool designers as well as landscape and hardscape designers.

  • VizTerra is the Professional Designer’s Choice. Customized for landscape, hardscape, and outdoor living and garden designers as well as builders and architects.
  • Pool Studio is an intuitive interface with 3D design tools that enables designers to create immersive 3D presentations. The software makes generating expertly designed swimming pools a breeze.

In 2009, Structure Studios combined the two softwares together into a unified platform and released Vip3D which is actually an acronym for Vizterra in Pool Studio. The new software combined the best aspects of both and was an immediate success. With tremendous confidence in the future of his product, Nehlich leveraged every penny he had during the height of the recession in 2010 to purchase 100% ownership of Structure Studios.

Over the years, Nehlich and his team have continuously worked on their platform to refine and improve the experience for both the end user and the consumer. Recently they released their newest version of the award winning platform. A new and improved rendering engine supports many of the innovative features now found in Vip3D.

New Enhancements in Vip3D 3.0

  • Next-level realistic real-time 3D rendering
  • Edit shapes instantly in 3D
  • More automatic terrain data
  • All new material library

One of the aspects that Nehlich and his team worked hard on improving in 3.0 is the realism in 3D graphics. “The consumers tolerance for 3D changes with the technology.” said Nehlich. “The bar for realism in 3D environments goes up each year.”

Pool Designer Kyle Franco Beta Tested Vip3D 3.0

To get a pulse of how the new features in Vip3D are perceived in the industry, we decided to contact Kyle Franco, a top pool designer and one of the beta testers of Version 3.0.

We asked Franco, co-owner of Premier Pools & Spas in Fort Worth, what he thought of the new version. Franco, who has been using the software for years, makes great use of the platform. A top performer for the Premier Pools organization; his 3D pool designs are helping him develop his social media following.

Kyle Franco -showcasing some of the new functionality found in Vip3D 3.0 - Seen here: More realistic flame effects, depth of field and fireflies which Franco incorporated into his sales presentation.
Kyle Franco -showcasing some of the new functionality found in Vip3D 3.0 – Seen here: More realistic flame effects, depth of field and fireflies which Franco incorporated into his sales presentation.

“The new version really allows me as a custom designer to take things to the next level with more details.” said Franco, whose designs can also been seen on DIY Channel’s TV Show – Pool Kings. “As a builder it helps provide a better visual for the homeowner so that they have the right expectations when the pool is completed.” he continued.

“I nearly perfected the old version and was excited to see this come out and begin working on it!” said Franco, “The new functions in version 3 allow me to design even faster than before, which is a huge bonus for someone like me.”

We asked him to elaborate on what other improvements he liked. “One of my favorite things about the new version is the detail in color, and presentation mode. All the options to really spice up the images and videos, are incredible! All in all, just an amazing update… I have all 5 of my designers using it!”

The Future of Pool Design

Nehlich says the future for 3D Pool Designs is even brighter as we move into 2022 and beyond. “As mobile processors and hardware catches up, we continue to innovate and improve upon our products.” said Nehlich.

Augmented Reality is one of the emerging technologies Structure Studios has invested in - Seen here: YARD (Your Augmented Reality Designer) app which enables homeowners to visualize pool designs in real time.
Augmented Reality is one of the emerging technologies Structure Studios has invested in – Seen here: YARD (Your Augmented Reality Designer) app which enables homeowners to visualize pool designs in real time.

Emerging technologies like Augmented Reality, Aerial 3D Mapping and Virtual Reality have found a home in the product. Structure Studios release of YARD (Your Augmented Reality Designer) a new add-on available for Vip3D customers is a testament to their investment in continuously improving the design platform.

Companies like Cody Pools, Anthony Sylvan, and Presidential Pools are already early adopters of this new technology. Wearable tech like the Oculus is also dramatically gaining traction with builders as a means to immerse potential buyers in the design and shorten the sales process.

Feature Photo Credit: Kyle Franco – Premier Pools & Spas

5/5 - (30 votes)

Editor in Chief of Pool Magazine - Joe Trusty is also CEO of PoolMarketing.com, the leading digital agency for the pool industry. An internet entrepreneur, software developer, author, and marketing professional with a long history in the pool industry. Joe oversees the writing and creative staff at Pool Magazine. To contact Joe Trusty email [email protected] or call (916) 467-9118 during normal business hours. For submissions, please send your message to [email protected]

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The Indoor Ocean Where The US Navy Tests Its Ships

Take an insiders tour of the Indoor Ocean where the US Navy tests its ships.

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One of the world’s largest wave pools sits at the United States Naval Surface Warfare Center. They use the facility to create waves of specific sizes, frequencies, and amplitudes. Since 1962, the US Navy has tested all of its ships, platforms, and moored systems in realistic sea conditions at the Indoor Ocean in NSWC Carderock.

Approximately 240′ x 360′, the enormous basin is 20 feet deep and holds 12 million gallons of water. In addition, it also once held the record for having the world’s largest dome.

Indoor Ocean Used To Predict Ship Performance

The Navy uses the facility to predict how their full-scale ships will perform in the open ocean by testing their stability and control in a vessel that simulates real-world wave conditions. The maneuvering and seakeeping basin, also nicknamed (MASK) is where the US Navy tests its fleet. Built in 1962, and renovated in 2013.

The Indoor Ocean received an upgrade from 21 slow and inefficient pneumatic domes to 216 paddles. Consequently, today, operators have better and more independent control. With 99 percent precision, the results produced at the renovated facility provide far more realistic conditions than its predecessor.

NSWC Carderock is one of eight Naval Sea Systems Command Surface Warfare Centers. Credit: DOD

Engineers at the facility evaluate operability, ship motions, and efficiency. MASK researchers can then use this information to fine-tune a new vessel’s design to maximize its chances of achieving the desired level of performance. Testing also aids in establishing operational guidelines for the crew and ensuring the correct configuration of the ship.

The US Navy uses the Indoor Ocean facility at NSWC Carderock to conduct tests for the design of its fleet. Credit: DOD

“There are many different kinds of waves,” Calvin Krishen, NSWC engineer, said in a YouTube video uploaded by the Department of Defense. “Waves are different in different parts of the world and they are different depending if you are close to shore, or away from shore or whether you’re in a storm or not. We actually have the capability of programming all those different types of waves to test.”

Conducting Testing & Analysis To Create Better Ships

Engineers perform rigorous tests and manufacture vessels to a smaller scale in order to see how they will perform out on the open ocean. Based on the analysis conducted at NSWC Carderock, ship designers can make necessary adjustments to improve performance in real-world conditions.

Ship designers can make any necessary adjustments based off analysis conducted during wave simulations. Credit: DOD

How This Enormous Wave Pool Works

The machine that operates the wave pool consists of a paddle system that lines two walls of the pool. The system consists of 216 individual wavemakers capable of producing waves of varying sizes from -45 degrees to 135 degrees.

The paddle system is programmed for choreographed movement. It creates reproducible, perfect-sized, perfect-frequency waves. Force transducers create air bellows that go across the pool at specific angular motions. The motion is akin to fingers moving across the keys of a piano.

A series of choreographed bellows control the paddle system that creates the waves. Credit: Vertasium

There are wave pools located all over the world but what makes the Indoor Ocean unique is its ability to create reproducible waves of specific amplitude and frequency. Wave conditions vary in different parts of the world. MASK, however, is capable of mimicking the same conditions that exist during various times of the year in any location across the globe.

Paddles are programmed to create repeatable waves of specific frequency. Credit: Veritasium

Why The Need To Upgrade?

The old pneumatic-powered wave system used antiquated technology. The Navy requires a facility capable of performing the rigorous testing demanded by engineers In the past, the testing team sometimes had to relocate their models to the actual ocean and study the weather in order to recreate the perfect wave conditions.

Today, designers create models as large as 30 feet in length. Operators submerge them in MASK’s turbulent waters to simulate their future working conditions.

Data analysts conduct tests to see how ships will perform at sea. Image Credit: Licet Studios

Precise computer controls may be the most useful part of the new high-tech system. Testers can design a certain marine environment and tell the computer how to achieve it. Operators program a 3D model of the exact waveform they want to simulate.

“We can nail, at scale, the conditions all over the world,” said Jon Etxegoien, Head of Naval Architecture & Engineering, “So it’s not just that we can do some kind of rogue sea states, we can actually do the kind of seas they can expect in the North Atlantic, the South Pacific, littoral areas, that sort of thing. So that’s what gives us a real leg up. It’s not just some generic sea condition, but the specifics of where they’re going to be operating.”

Take a Tour Inside Where The US Navy Tests Its Ships

Does it shock and awe us that the United States military owns the best wave pool in the world? Not really. However, it does fill us with enormous pride to know that dedicated professionals perform the highest level of testing and analysis for the vessels that comprise our naval fleet.

Featured Photo Credit: Department of Defense

4.8/5 - (35 votes)

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China Claims Title For World’s Highest Outdoor Swimming Pool

New business tower in China has a pool with breathtaking views from the 71st floor.

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China Claims The Title For World's Highest Outdoor Swimming Pool

The title of the World’s Highest Outdoor Swimming Pool now goes to China. Construction of a new 1,322-foot-tall tower by Chicago-based architects Goettsch Partners is now complete in Nanning, China. The tower’s crowning feature is an outdoor swimming pool that, according to the architects, is the highest in the world.

Title for Highest Outdoor Pool Goes To China

The hotel’s pool on the 71st-floor terrace is 1,060 feet above the ground, making it the highest in the world. Previously, the 57th-floor infinity pool at Moshe Safdie’s Marina Bay Sands held the title.

Guangxi China Resources Tower claims the title for the world's highest outdoor swimming pool.
Guangxi China Resources Tower claims the title for the world’s highest outdoor swimming pool.

The Guangxi China Resources Tower, at over 2.93 million square feet, is the 18th tallest building in China and the 37th tallest building in the world. It is a mixed-use design that includes a hotel, office spaces, and retail.

More than 60% of the 86-story structure’s lettable space, or 272,000 square meters, will be occupied by offices. Approximately 6,000 square meters of retail space and a Shangri-La Nanning hotel with 336 rooms are also planned.

“The building is a symbol of rising prosperity for the city,” notes James Zheng, AIA, LEED AP, CEO and president of GP. “It further sets a world-class standard for quality that is meant to endure.”

The tower, developed by Shenzhen-based China Resources Land, will serve as the focal point of a brand-new 90-hectare urban quarter in Nanning. The podium and basement of the building are linked to the structures around it.

The hotel's infinity pool sits on the 71st floor of the massive sky scraper.
The hotel’s pool sits on the 71st floor of the massive skyscraper in Nanning, China.

Beginning in 2014, the building process will be completed by the end of 2020 (November). The company claims that the building is completely occupied and functional now that the interior fit-out is complete.

One of a Kind Panoramic Views

The hotel emerges atop the office volume, drastically altering the building’s profile. The lower volume is capped by a monumental terrace at Level 71, which serves as a one-of-a-kind outdoor sky space where guests can swim in the hotel’s pool. From sunrise to sunset, the sweeping 180-degree panorama offers unparalleled views of the surrounding lakes, parks, and mountains.

The tower is an essential part of a larger mixed-use development, and its design to LEED Gold standards places an emphasis on sustainable sites and energy optimization. The podium and basement levels of the various buildings work together to form a seamless network that is optimized for the greater master-planned development. Sunshades on the building’s exterior, combined with a high-performance façade enclosure system, allow for abundant natural light and breathtaking vistas to penetrate every level while significantly cutting down on energy consumption.

Mechanical systems have been developed to maximize the efficiency of operation, reduce energy and water use while increasing comfort levels inside the building. The highest quality materials are used throughout the structure to emphasize longevity and durability and lessen the building’s future impact on the local environment.

“The tower is a sustainable response to its urban context,” sayid Travis Soberg, AIA, LEED AP, in a press release. “The building integrates conservation methods throughout the design that reinforce our commitment to environmental responsibility.”

Photo Credits: Goettsch Partners

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Las Vegas Losing Classic Fire & Water Feature – Mirage Volcano Set to Close

Hard Rock confirms iconic Las Vegas fire feature, Mirage Volcano will close.

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Las Vegas Losing Classic Fire & Water Feature - Mirage Volcano Set to Close

The Mirage’s fiery volcano, which has been erupting regularly on the Las Vegas Strip for over 30 years, will soon cease activity forever.

Since MGM Resorts International sold the property to Hard Rock International last year, the resort has been undergoing a rebranding process, and the resort’s iconic volcano will not play a role in the new resort plan.

The time of the final eruption for the Mirage Volcano is unknown, and neither Hard Rock nor MGM officials would confirm exactly when the volcano would be dismantled. They plan to build another one of Hard Rocks guitar-shaped hotels in the space.

About The Mirage Volcano

When the resort opened on November 22, 1989, the volcano quickly became a fan favorite. A modeled three-acre paradise resembling the South Seas is routinely jolted awake by the ominous rumbles of the Mirage Volcano throughout the night. Rapid movement of water along with creative lighting resembles lava.

Exciting flames shoot over 60 feet into the air. If you’ve ever watched the show from the street, you can literally feel the searing heat. With music composed by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, more than 150 Fireshooters, developed by WET Design (who also created the Fountains of Bellagio), propel fireballs in a dramatic choreographed display.

The volcano was one of the first free attractions paving the way for others like the pirate battle at Treasure Island, the light shows and concerts at the Fremont Street Experience, and the Bellagio fountains.

From 8 p.m. until 11 p.m., the volcano at the Mirage continues its hourly eruptions. We took the opportunity to see this fiery spectacle, perhaps for the last time, while exhibiting at the PSP Deck Expo recently. The street was packed with onlookers watching the show on the street.

Elaine Wynn, who was married to casino magnate Steve Wynn at the time, first came up with the idea for the volcano as a great way to differentiate the Mirage from the competition.

In recent years, however, Las Vegas has been shifting away from a transparently thematic approach with its newest resorts, including the Cosmopolitan (2010), Circa (2020), and Resorts World (2021), and its reliance on free attractions and loss leaders, such as buffets and poker rooms, to bring in the bustling crowds.

Las Vegas Residents Eager To Keep Attraction

There has been a running sentiment amongst casino insiders that free attractions such as the Mirage Volcano have turned into a drain on profits. In light of the news that the Volcano is slated to be removed, many Las Vegas residents have expressed they do not want to see the attraction go.

“When I heard the news, I remember just wondering why this was going to happen,” Alden Gillespy, a longtime resident of Las Vegas and critic of removing the volcano, told the Las Vegas Sun. “The fact that they were going to tear down the volcano, that hit me personally.”

Every time it goes off, the Volcano in Las Vegas draws in hundreds of people, both young and old, to the Strip. The idea of tearing it down has been met with pushback. A group of passionate residents in Las Vegas has banded together to compel Hard Rock International and the city government to stop the new owner from demolishing what they say is a historic landmark. A petition to protect the volcano has over 9,000 signatures of support.

Among those who think the volcano should be preserved is UNLV history professor Michael Green.

“We lost a lot of hotels on the Strip because of the understandable need to build better, more modern hotels,” Green told the Sun. “The volcano is a reminder of how it helped trigger the modern Las Vegas boom.”

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