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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.

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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.

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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 info@poolmagazine.com or call (916) 467-9118 during normal business hours. For submissions, please send your message to submissions@poolmagazine.com

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Tesla Pool – Automaker Adds Swimming Pool To Charger Station

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Tesla Swimming Pool

One of the primary reasons consumers opt to purchase a Tesla is the robust availability of convenient charging stations. Recently, the automaker has experimented with adding amenities to its charging stations. New cube lounges at a Supercharger station in Germany come equipped with automated coffee, food, and more. Tesla is also adding other options and fun activities for drivers to enjoy while they wait for their vehicles to charge. The newest amenity they’re currently experimenting with is an above ground swimming pool.

A clip of the pool being installed prior to launch was shared with news sources.

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The swimming pool can be used by up to 4 people at a time for 10 minutes, giving folks just enough time to change into their swim suits and enjoy a quick dip while their vehicle charges. There are even Tesla-branded beach balls to play with while they’re swimming in the shipping container style above ground pool.

This promotional popup will open at the Tesla charging station in Hilden, Germany; which incidentally is one of the largest in the country with 40 chargers and 8 superchargers. The pool will be open from Thursday until Sunday. Tesla owners can drop in for a swim from 2:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.

What do you think about this idea? Is this something you’d like to see in the United States? Sound off in the comments and let us know.

3/5 - (2 votes)

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Pool Rental App Swimply Is The New Side Hustle For Homeowners

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Pool Rental App Swimply Is The New Side Hustle For Homeowners

Pool rental marketplace Swimply has created the ultimate side hustle for homeowners. Spending upwards of $100,000 to create the ultimate luxury outdoor living area is an investment some are willing to make. This is especially true if one can be confident they will recoup that investment quickly. Renting the pool to friends and neighbors is one smart way to do just that.

The Pool Rental Concept

Pool rentals are sweeping the nation and the innovative online marketplace Swimply is leading the charge. Described as “Airbnb of swimming pools,” Swimply debuted last year. According to the firm, there are over 20,000 swimming pools in all 50 states, as well as in Canada and Australia.

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After recently raising $40M in funding from AirBnB and Lime co-founders last year, Swimply is poised for tremendous growth moving into 2023. The service has been rapidly gaining traction with consumers who are attracted by the ability to rent a swimming pool by the hour.

Renting a pool by the hour may can be very profitable. Swimply has created the marketplace for renting a pool.
Renting a pool by the hour may can be very profitable. Swimply has created the marketplace for renting a pool.

Swimply’s Business Model is Unique

In the sharing economy, Swimply, definitely deserves recognition for their offering. Providing a marketplace that allows buyers and sellers to connect and rent a pool is at the core of the company’s business plan. The model is simple, Swimply takes 15% of the booking fee from hosts and 10% from guests.

Swimply’s pool rental marketplace can be lucrative for hosts and may not be as weird as it sounds. As water recreational facilities were shut down by COVID in the last two years, Swimply has emerged to fill the vacuum. Consequently, the company has grown exponentially.

We spoke with Swimply Co-Founder and COO Asher Weinberger last year about the revolutionary new technology which is connecting homeowners with an open marketplace of consumers looking to rent a backyard for a few hours.

Listen to our conversation on the Pool Magazine podcast:

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Pool Rental Marketplace Grew 5,000% During Covid

After a soft launch back in 2019, Weinberger quickly realized that the public was elated with their offering. “There was a tremendous amount of interest and at the time we could only meet 10 to 15% of the demand,” said Weinberger. “That helped set the stage for us because we learned a lot about what people wanted and how they were using the platform.”

“We caught huge tailwinds in light of Covid and grew roughly 5,000% year over year,” said Weinberger. Since then, Swimply’s marketplace has exploded with consumers searching for a safe recreational experience with friends and loved ones in an open outdoor setting. This has been true both on the guest side and the host side.

Homeowners Look To Monetize Their Pool

It appears that word has definitely begun to spread that renting your pool is a sweet new side hustle. One man in particular recently made the news after he reportedly netted $177,000 just by renting out his pool and backyard.

Jim Battan of West Linn, Oregon, told news sources, “I love to say that the pool has paid for itself and more. I built a man cave last year, and also credit that to my Swimply pool.”

Swimply As a Side Hustle

Being a Swimply host isn’t for everyone, according to Battan. The side hustle does require a fair amount of work on the part of the host. Maintaining the pool between guests involves much more than simply setting out fresh towels. His 26-foot by 18-foot pool and its accompanying pool house has cost him roughly $37,000 in maintenance over the last decade. On a typical week, Battan estimates that he and his wife Lisa spend approximately 12 to 14 hours cleaning and testing the water’s chemicals as well as managing all of their bookings.

“I love the income, but I generally caution people from it,” Battan told reporters. “Unless you’re retired or don’t have a day job, it takes a lot of time to learn about pool chemistry and management. It’s not good enough to just rely on a once-a-week service to come out look at your stuff. I look at my pool chemicals probably five to 10 times a day.”

Renting Your Pool By The Hour Can Be Profitable

It’s also important to note that Battan’s pool represents the best-case scenario. Currently, he’s Swimply’s top earner out of 25,000 pools in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. The average host earnings are between $10,000 to $20,000 per year.

Ned Gilardino is another top earner from Aurora, Colorado who is cashing in on the lucrative side hustle. Last year he rented his pool out roughly 500 times clearing close to $50,000 in the process.

“Not only has the extra money paid for the cost of maintaining the pool,” Gilardino told news sources, “it has actually brought in an entire new revenue stream for my family.”

Pool rentals vary by price and can be filtered to meet price, features, and amenities. - Photo Credit: Swimply
Pool rentals vary by price and can be filtered to meet price, features, and amenities. – Photo Credits: Swimply

Homeowners who are looking for MSI’s (multiple sources of income) can certainly put Swimply on their list of resources. Typically most swimming pools on the platform rent between $15 and $75 an hour. However, there appears to be no limit on how much hosts can earn. We’ve seen some pools in premium areas such as Beverly Hills rent for as much as $200 an hour. Those with luxury amenities in their backyard obviously can charge towards the higher end of the spectrum.

Guests can search for an ideal backyard in their price range to throw a pool party and even filter their search to show properties that have specific amenities. Finding a backyard with a fire pit, or an outdoor grilling area, or one that allows pets, is easy. Swimply made it simple to narrow down selections with the ideal features consumers are looking for.

The interface is simple and intuitive to use on both ends. Swimply also made it super easy for homeowners to track their reservations, communicate with guests and quickly get their pool rental up in their easy-to-use marketplace.

Swimply’s Contribution To The Shared Economy

Given that public pools are closing at an alarming rate, Swimply has also started filling a gap in underserved communities, much the way Uber and other sharing economy platforms have.

While the shared economy is a young concept itself; Swimply’s arrival simply ushers something we will undoubtedly see even more of in years to come. Though unexpected and a newcomer; one thing is certain, homeowners and consumers have embraced the concept of renting a pool by the hour.

4.6/5 - (17 votes)

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Sinkhole in Swimming Pool Kills Man, Swallows Guests

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Sinkhole in Swimming Pool Kills Man, Swallows Guests

A man was found dead after being swallowed by a sinkhole that opened up in a private swimming pool. The incident transpired in Israel where authorities are still trying to figure out what caused two men to be swept away by the receding water after a sinkhole sprang up within an inground swimming pool at a private property in central Israel. One was recovered dead at the scene on Thursday afternoon.

The body was located by search crews in the town of Karmei Yosef after a four-hour recovery operation conducted by rescue personnel who were lowered deep underground. The search was hampered by concerns that tunnels extending from the sinkhole could lead to a second collapse.

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It took rescuers several hours of searching before they were able to uncover the body of the man who had gone missing. The other 34-year-old man who had been trapped for some time, was saved and treated for minor injuries to his lower body.

Rescuers worked for hours to find the missing victims body. - Photo Credits: Fire and Rescue Services
Rescuers worked for hours to find the missing victims body. – Photo Credits: Fire and Rescue Services

Employees of a private company were having a pool party when the incident occurred. About 50 people were present at the time of the accident, according to one guest.

“The water level suddenly started receding and a hole opened up, creating a vortex that swept two people inside,” the guest told news sources.

She said a sinkhole opened a vortex formed which swallowed up the victim in a matter of seconds. She yelled at her coworkers to get out of the pool as the sinkhole emerged, but they initially assumed it was a game. Authorities say, fortunately, there were only 6 people in the pool at the time or injuries and casualties could have been far greater.

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“Seconds later, the ground just dropped… I watched two people just disappear,” she added.

According to police, an investigtion into the incident is currently underway, and they plan to find out if the pool was operating with the proper license.

4/5 - (8 votes)

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