The world of luxury pools is a rigid dichotomy between design and function. For average homeowners it’s often difficult to achieve a balance between what’s appealing to the eye and what our wallets can afford. Quite often luxury homeowners tend to fall in love with what they’ve seen on Pinterest. During the dream building phase, money is no object. For some that holds true well into the building phase of turning that dream into a reality. No one is more familiar with helping homeowners capture their grand vision for a high-end custom luxury pool than Lance Irby, one of the lead designers for Premier Pools & Spas of Sacramento. Recently we had the chance to catch up with this rising star in the pool industry.
Luxury Pool Designer Lance Irby
Irby first got his start in the pool industry ironically enough when he bumped into Keith Harbeck, the owner of the Sacramento branch of Premier Pools & Spas. Harbeck was a member of the gym that Irby was a Sales Manager at the time. “He’d always whisper in my ear to come sell pools for him, I never took it too seriously.” said Irby.
Irby had a background growing up around construction and doing landscaping in the summers. His focus in school was in design and architecture. After completing a four year internship with a local architecture firm working as a draftsman, Irby began to have a change of heart. As he embarked on establishing a family, he decided to take a leap of faith and reached back out to Harbeck to see what the pool industry had to offer.
“I had some design background, drafting background, construction background. I had skills that would translate well, but I had no idea that they would translate well to the pool industry.” said Irby, “If Keith hadn’t offered me the position and if my life circumstances hadn’t changed, I don’t know that I would have took the chance.”
In reflection Irby says the gamble to shift career paths towards the pool industry has paid off tremendously. “I can’t think of anything that fits me better.” said Irby, “I really enjoy what I do. It’s fulfilling and satisfying to feel like you’ve found something you’re going to do forever.”
Pool Industry Is The Perfect Fit
Irby who is entering his 9th year in the pool industry says that he’s found his niche. “Whatever life throws at me, I just feel like the pool industry is a great fit for my personality. It’s dynamic, it’s always different, it’s always changing. It’s creative and I love it.” said Irby.
Irby certainly seems to have discovered a dormant and hidden talent for creating luxurious over the top backyard resorts. Like many other professionals in the pool industry looking to further and expand on their education, Irby has begun pursuing a path towards becoming SWD Registered with Genesis.
Seeking a Higher Path With Education
“It’s given me the ability to get outside of my comfort zone and become a better designer, a better builder.” explained Irby, “and focus on the aspects and core principles that Genesis teaches, to try and be better and raise my level of competence in the pool industry.”
Many builders, designers, and landscape architects credit programs like Genesis with helping them expand their accumen in the realm of high end luxury pools. Irby says that his entire team is now attending the course, crediting owner Keith Harbeck with investing in the educational pursuits of his sales team. Of course, if it helps them become better builders and leads to more luxury pool projects it’s obviously money well spent.
When discussing what constitutes a luxury pool the definition always varies. Irby said that as a top design consultant for high end custom pools, the vision for a luxury pool is very personal and unique to the homeowner.
What Constitutes a Luxury Pool?
“That’s not a black and white answer. I think what’s luxurious to one person, may not be to another. I think it has to be something that is very fulfilling to a client, that brings a level of satisfaction of elegance. It’s something they desired or are proud of, it’s a combination of probably all those things” said Irby.
Creating a luxury pool for a client does not have a minimum or maximum budget. There is no guidelines that say a pool needs to have certain features or amenities or cost a certain price in order to qualify as a custom luxury pool.
“Sometimes you would associate a luxury pool with something very high end or very expensive, but that doesn’t necessarily make it luxurious by my definitions or standards.” said Irby, explaining how the definition differs for the individual consumer. “Everybody has different tastes and styles,” said Irby, “and if you can hit the nail on the head perfectly for that client and can provide them exactly what they wanted and something they are proud of and in love with then I think you have created a luxury pool for a client.”
Unprecedented Demand for Luxury Pools
The push to create a luxury custom outdoor living environment has led to a tremendous increase in homeowners looking to build a swimming pool. Across the globe a trend has developed since 2020, but nowhere in the United States has this been more true than in states like Texas, Florida, and California. In Irby’s stomping grounds of Sacramento, a mass influx of new residents from the Bay Area have caused local home prices to sky rocket. The migration has also seen many well heeled homeowners with cash to invest in their backyards.
“People are looking for a nicer more complete product, with the total environment and a higher end look. They’re coming from equity strong positions and they’re able to put nicer backyards together or build luxury pools almost instantaneously – it’s not a big financing conversation or ‘I need to save up money for this type of project’.”
In discussing what constitutes a high end luxury pool, one thing is clear. The design of the pool itself needs to be visually compelling. Irby explained how he works with homeowners to help them articulate their vision for the ultimate backyard.
“If it’s a design that’s high end, it needs to be exciting.” said Irby, “It can’t be something that’s redundant or cut and paste. You need to really take into account their needs. Listen to them alot, talk with them. Get to know them as a client. Find out why they want a pool, how that pool is going to change their life.” explained Irby; who goes above and beyond with his designs to help paint a complete portrait of what the overall end result of the backyard design will look like.
Hot New Design Trends For Custom Pools in 2021
We discussed some of the hot new design trends that homeowners are looking for in a luxury pool in 2021. Irby who is on the cutting edge of design gave us a list of some of the features homeowners are looking for in a luxury pool this summer.
“Definitely unique textures, wooden decks around pools. Large format tiles. Color and texture is something that is very popular. People are looking for alternatives for the decking solutions around pools.” explained Irby, “Fire and water always have a nice play off of each other. Those are very popular on high end projects. Water in motion and working with different elevations are also popular with customers these days.” continued Irby.
Irby has established himself locally as an expert design consultant in custom luxury inground pools and frequently works with some of the leading home builders in the area. Recently boutique custom home builder Zak Mougharbel of Sheba Development LLC brought in Irby and Premier Pools & Spas to help them provide an incredible resort style luxury pool for a homeowner in Granite Bay, CA.
Showcased here this unique water shape comprises an incredible luxury pool with 180 degree panoramic views of the Sacramento skyline. A truly breathtaking and unique one of a kind pool concept that expertly combines elements of fire and water into the perfect marriage of both.
A nod to Grand Effects for the incredible fire features that help accentuate the dramatic overall canvas of this masterpiece. The sunken firepit and fire woks are some truly high end amenities to incorporate into a luxury pool concept that make great use of different elevations.
This pool is a prime example of why Lance Irby is fast on his way towards establishing himself as a respected design consultant and one of the top pool designers to watch in the next few upcoming years.
Video Credit: Jovan Valdez / Sarah Ramalho
Home Builder: Sheba Development LLC.
Pool Builder: Premier Pools & Spas Sacramento
Pool Designer: Lance Irby
A Look Back at Ocean Dome
Now only a footnote in the history of pools, once the largest indoor waterpark in the world.
One of the most incredible pools that I have ever seen is sadly a thing of the past, but there’s no reason why we can’t take a look back at the engineering marvel that was Seagaia Ocean Dome. This amazing indoor pool and artificial beach was located in Miyazaki, Japan.
Unfortunately the park was closed back in 2007 and ultimately demolished in 2017. Your opportunity to visit this one of a kind experience is long gone, but it’s lasting effect as one of the most phenomenal wave riding waterparks in the world has not yet faded from memory.
This mammoth structure was the artificial wave equivalent of Pipeline, which was capable of producing powerful waves. And, based on video clips from the time, it would be on par with modern-day BSR Surf Resort in Waco, TX in terms of the fun it delivered to wave riding enthusiasts.
The artificial beach featured 12,000 square meters of simulated sandy beach, crushed from 600 tons of stones; and an “ocean” six times the size of an Olympic pool, filled with 13,500 tons of unsalted, chlorinated water kept hot at 82 degrees.
At one time Ocean Dome was considered a destination for world travelers receiving an annual 1.25 million visitors a year. There was even an “active” volcano that erupted every 15 minutes and spewed fire once an hour. The structure was once listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest indoor pool in the world.
Ocean Dome was closed in 2007 for renovations to the resort and was later purchased by Ripplewood, an American private-equity fund. Sadly the park was never to be reopened and wound up being demolished in 2017.
Largest Indoor Waterpark In The World: Tropical Islands Resort
While a thing of the past, the project is reminiscent of Tropical Islands Resort an indoor pool boasting Europe’s largest tropical holiday and current title holder for the world record Ocean Dome used to hold.
Can’t get to Germany? That’s okay, you can still check out Kalahari the largest indoor waterpark in the United States located in the Poconos in Pennsylvania featuring a wave pool, lazy river, wave coaster, and funnel ride.
Know of some incredible indoor waterparks we should check out? Tell us your favorite ones in the comments below.
One on One With Rick Chafey of Ask The Masters
Rick Chafey is one of the top pool designers in the country and the co-owner of two design / build firms – Red Rock Pools & Spas & Red Rock Contractors, out of Chandler, AZ. He’s also an instructor at Watershape University as well as the co-host of Ask The Masters, a popular podcast that focuses on education and the more technical aspects of what folks who build and design pools for a living, really want to learn about.
When it comes to swimming pools, Chafey is a fountain of knowledge. We had the opportunity to sit and talk shop with one of the top designers in the industry. Chafey first got his start around 25 years ago as a general contractor and around 5 years in, got into the realm of pool design and construction. “Early on we weren’t a design firm much at all,” said Chafey, “We pretended to be designers like a lot of pool builders do early on, without any real knowledge or education about what we were doing. We made pretty pictures and hoped and got our subcontractors to help us stumble through being a builder.”
The Path Towards Becoming a Leading Design / Build Firm
As Chafey progressed in his career, he began acquiring an education and expanding his acumen eventually gaining an in-depth understanding of the way pools are designed and built. Chafey began building a team that would eventually comprise 40 employees that handle design / build construction projects throughout Arizona as well as the rest of the country and overseas. His design team consisting of 2 licensed architects, a civil engineer, and 3 drafters comprise the consulting arm of Red Rock Pools & Spas. This forward-thinking expansion has allowed him to provide services throughout the industry for other builders both locally and abroad and has helped propel him as one of the leading design consultants in the swimming pool industry.
As one of the top design / build firms in the country, his firm is frequently brought in to consult on some of the most over the top and elaborate pool construction projects in the world. A frequent collaborator with some of the elite names in the pool industry, Chafey has developed a wide network of experts whom he can call on to help assist with various aspects of a given project.
An $8 Million Dollar Resort Style Pool Is Par For The Course
Currently, Chafey and company are working on an $8 million dollar backyard resort style luxury pool complete with its very own shark tank. “Structurally and cosmetically, we can figure that part out,” said Chafey, “but then we need to get involved in safety, and life support for the fish, and access and all those parts.”
“It’s got a flowrider surf machine, full size commercial 1,000 hp surfing machine. This one’s, unique because it’s the second one they built that’s designed on the same platform as an inflatable paddle board or a rigid inflatable boat.” said Chafey.
In describing the unique complexity of the project, Chafey explained how the system will work. “We can actually deflate the system and then we’ve got a transversing hydraulic deck system that closes it off from view and UV rays. When it’s not in use – it won’t look like a giant inflatable jump toy in the backyard.” Twinscape USA will provide the expertise for that application, said Chafey
“It’s also got a lazy river tied to it,” Chafey explained, “The main pool section has big grottos and underground water features. To top it off, its got a go-cart track tunnel that goes all the way underneath part of that river for a few hundred feet, then comes back out and back to grade. Soup to nuts, that project adds up to 50 different small design projects and we’ve got 6 different consultants to try and put all that together.”
Did Someone Say Shark Tank?
This over the top resort style luxury pool has an incredible amount of moving parts and degree of difficulty rarely found in most residential pools. Swimmers can splash around in the swimming pool while viewing through a shared acrylic wall at a 30,000 gallon shark tank on the other side. To add to the complexity, the shark tank has to be load bearing and support several portions of the home. The remarkably intricate project has been years in the making and has included the collaboration of a different teams of individual consultants. Chafey was brought in by the general contractor early in the game before there was even a budget allocated to the project.
Putting The Best Team Out On The Field
Ultimately, Chafey explained that it’s his ability to organize teams and orchestrate the various moving parts of a given project that help differentiate his firm as an elite design / build firm in the pool world. Chafey’s project portfolio has grown substantially over the last two decades, helping him achieve recognition with both some of the most discerning homeowners as well as his peers within the industry.
Chafey had some advice for aspiring pool builders looking to get into the realm of high end custom luxury pools, “Part of it is you have to start building a body of work to where you start making those connections and getting the requests,” said Chafey, “That’s just something you have to build up over time. As long as your concepts and creativity are getting peoples admiration and you’re able to pull them off, you can slowly build that body of work to where those projects are getting bigger.”
Trying to advance to higher end pool projects before going through the learning process is a recipe for disaster insisted Chafey who said, “It takes time, no matter how much you try to accelerate your capacity, it takes time and opportunity and then you have to be able to pull them all off throughout that process.” Rick’s own path took him a while to begin to receive the notoriety and recognition as an elite design / build firm. “For us, over the last 25 years, we’ve built a lot of relationships with design teams and general contractors.” said Chafey.
When it comes to being one of the elite pool design firms in the country, Chafey said that lately he finds himself in a small field of competition when it comes to the firms that are able to tackle projects of the size, scope and complexity his firm takes on. His ability to scale Red Rock’s consulting services to other builders has dramatically increased the number of projects they find themselves involved in.
Co-Owner — Brett Blauvelt
Lead Designer – Jake Lupe
Field Superintendents – Jordan Walker and Ken Kauffmann
Project GC Regal American Homes
Aquatic Glazing International
Aquatic Exhibits International
This certainly isn’t the first large scale project that Chafey has been involved with. Widely regarded in the pool industry for his expertise, he’s a full time functioning contractor not just an educator. Given his role on Ask The Masters, it’s only natural that his own work is often critiqued and analyzed. Having that kind of visibility comes with a price which means that all of his projects are under the microscope and scrutiny of the rest of the industry. As a leading consultant Chafey is often closely studied by his peers and as an educator even more so by folks looking to benefit from his wealth of knowledge.
Rick Chafey on his move to Watershape University
Early on, Chafey placed a premium on education, becoming a staff member at Genesis where he was an instructor and Chaired the Advisory Board for several years before eventually joining Watershape University. Chafey is now an instructor and is helping to shape the curriculum for the new education program with Dave Penton, Dave Peterson, Michael Nance, and Bill Drakeley along with other well-known previous Genesis faculty.
“When it comes to education, the main thing is to get involved, regardless if it’s Genesis, Watershape University, PHTA or whatever program you choose.” said Chafey, who said that he feels that Watershape University gives him to opportunity to adapt the new program towards more high end pools rather than production pools.
Chafey explained that the new program will provide a complete textbook level class that features distance learning options as an alternative to the costly in-person events that attendees typically spend thousands of dollars to attend in addition to the courses they are taking.
“Everyone learns better face to face. However that’s also what has been holding us back as a group because we were only teaching at certain locations at certain times a year, it made it very difficult and much more expensive for people to travel.” said Chafey, “If you’re on the east coast and have to travel to Las Vegas and spend 4 or 5 nights in a hotel and spend money on airfare and meals and pay for education… it’s not always practical. What Watershape University is currently doing is putting as much online as possible, hour by hour – each segment can be done online on your own time.”
“The intensity and requirement of doing our hydraulics class is pretty thorough. Dave Petersons class on hydraulics is the best class any pool builder in the entire country can ever take. If you’re a guy like me that wants to do higher level work, once you start taking a class like that you will get sucked in and realize how much you didn’t know and how much you have to learn.” said Chafey as he was describing what Watershape University brings to the table in terms of it’s offering.
After a long hiatus due to Covid-19, the program plans to have a big presence at the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo in Dallas in November. Chafey who co-hosts the Ask The Masters Podcast with Dave Penton, says he plans close integration between the two online platforms.
Get to know Rick & Dave on the Ask The Masters Podcast. We feature their content in the Pool Magazine app and you can also find them on Facebook where they host one of the most active groups in the pool industry consisting of thousands of members.
Listen to our entire interview with Rick Chafey on the Pool Magazine podcast.
Deepest Pool In The World – Deep Dive Dubai
Visitors can free dive and explore an entire sunken city at Deeb Dive Dubai, the world’s deepest swimming pool.
The world’s tallest building and the world’s largest mall are already located in Dubai. The world famous city now has the distinction of having the world’s deepest swimming pool.
Deep Dive Dubai debuted on July 7, barely ten days after Guinness World Records designated it the world’s deepest dive pool.
The new indoor pool has a depth of about 200 feet and a capacity of nearly 3.7 million gallons of water. It also has a large underwater attraction that looks like a “sunken city” that divers can explore on their own or with a guide.
Explore a Sunken City in Deep Dive Dubai
Dubai’s new vertical diving pool contains the vestiges of a forgotten sunken city, with graffiti, collapsing structures, and a big photo of Marilyn Monroe hanging on the wall. There’s an arcade featuring a classic Pac-Man game, foosball, and a pool table, as well as an apartment complex and library.
Guinness World Records has certified the pool as the world’s deepest swimming pool for diving. It holds the equivalent of six Olympic swimming pools. According to Deep Dive Dubai, it is 15 meters deeper than any other dive site.
According to the firm, the facility, which is shaped like an oyster in honor of the UAE’s pearl diving legacy, is also the region’s largest underwater film studio.
Beginners can dive to a depth of 40 feet, while certified divers can explore the entire pool with or without a guide. Certified divers can also “free dive” while attached to a fixed ascent line, which means diving without a tank and relying solely on their own air. There are also courses offered to educate a variety of new talents.
Bookings are only accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Will Smith, an actor and rapper, documented his visit in an Instagram post that has received over 3 million likes in just four days.
Deep Dive Dubai’s pool is 196 feet deep and contains 3.7 million gallons of freshwater, roughly the same equivalent of six Olympic-sized swimming pools. Scuba diving and freediving are two ways for swimmers to explore the pool. The pool also boasts 56 underwater cameras monitoring the sunken city.
The pool breaks the world record of 147 feet set by Poland’s Deepspot pool. According to the website, due to the scale of the underwater city, numerous dives are required to thoroughly explore it.
The new Deep Dive Dubai pool is regulated at a pleasant 86 degrees Fahrenheit, which should make exploring the depths of the pool a comfortable experience for divers. The sheer magnitude of this new attraction, has captured the world’s imagination and is creating a long waiting list of visitors eager to try out the new pool.
Featured Photo Credit: Antonie Robertson/ The National
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