Founders Continue to Refine & Support Genesis Program
Pool Magazine goes one on one with the Founders of Genesis
Many in the industry accredit their success and achievements to the education they received attending the Genesis program. Genesis is one of the leading instructional training systems dedicated to higher education in pool construction and design. The program, first started back in 1998 by Skip Phillips, Brian Van Bower and David Tisherman, quickly became an important resource for builders who were looking to further their education in pool engineering and design.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Skip Phillips & Brian Van Bower while they were recently attending a meeting at the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance headquarters in Alexandria, VA. They were there for a 2 day strategy session with PHTA, discussing new refinements to the Genesis program.
During the course of our conversation with the two founders, we learned how they first got their start in the pool industry. We also found out the origin of this seminal instruction program that has been responsible for producing some of the most talented minds in luxury pools today.
How The Founders of Genesis Got Their Start
Van Bower first got his start in the pool industry back in the 70’s. Like many other stars in the pool industry, Van Bower had humble origins that first began as a tech performing pool service for other companies. A quick study, he eventually decided to start his own pool service company. After building up the business to around 600 accounts, Van Bower decided to change direction.
To Van Bower, the evolution of his career meant building instead of servicing pools. Setting out to educate himself, Van Bower started off small at first. He began building spas before eventually moving on to pools.
The year 1989 would prove to be a pivotal one for Van Bower as he progressed further into designing pools. He would eventually sell his first company in 1991.
Today, Van Bower’s current company Aquatic Consultants works on high end luxury pool projects all over the world. Their clientele includes a who’s who list of celebrities from Sir Richard Branson, to a certain quarterback for Tampa Bay whom shall remain nameless. “I am a product of the Genesis system,” said Van Bower.
Van Bower & Phillips Share Similar Origins
Co-Founder, Skip Phillips also started in pool service back in 1975 and over the next few years built the company up to 3 retail outlets servicing roughly 1,100 pools a week. In 1979 he decided he wanted to start building pools so he began studying for his contractors license.
“My second pool won a design award which is frankly an indictment on the pool industry more so than it is an endorsement of me, ” said Phillips, who would eventually become an NSPI instructor along with Van Bower.
“Our process for starting the Genesis system was actually a knee jerk reaction to invalid certifications and invalid educational processes that kept the industry dumbed down,” said Phillips.
The Origins of Genesis
“Back in early 1998, Skip and I had been teaching programs for what was then NSPI,” said Van Bower, “Skip had approached them, because we decided that even though we were teaching programs, they weren’t programs that interested us that much.”
“We wanted them to go outside of the industry instead of having thinly veiled product demonstrations as education and actually bring in instructors who were credible.” said Van Bower.
It was Phillips that first spoke up to program directors. He asked them to bring in architects and landscape architects. Phillips said he and others wanted credible experts from outside the pool industry who could provide instruction in design theory as well as cover topics outside the normal realm of curriculum being taught at the time.
Upon hearing his suggestions, Phillips said that NSPI program directors shut him down cold. “They told me there was no market for an advanced program.” said Phillips, “In fact, they said if we held a venue like that, they would give us $100 per person that attended.”
Phillips said that the incredulous nature of those remarks planted the seeds for starting the Genesis program in that very moment.
I found it so offensive, that I got up and said: ‘That’s alright I’ll do it myself’, and Brian was in the room and stood up and said ‘No, he isn’t going to do it himself, we’re going to do it together.’ David Tisherman was also a partner in the venture at that time.Skip Phillips – Genesis Co-Founder
“When we put on our first school, we actually hadn’t thought it out any further than that,” said Phillips. “One of the students came into the Morro Bay location we were at and asked ‘Are you the Genesis guys?’, and I was almost hesitant to say yes, because I didn’t know what would follow,” explained Phillips.
“Twenty out of twenty two attendees called the following week and said, ‘What are we doing next?’, and I said, ‘What’s this we thing?'” said Phillips. “We hadn’t really thought it out that far, but it became obvious that there were like minded people that knew that this industry didn’t have any valid education, ” explained Phillips.
“Initially there were a lot of obstacles as we moved Genesis ahead just trying to find venues,” said Phillips. As it often does in the pool industry, word of mouth quickly began to spread about the Genesis program. Interest rapidly began to grow as more and more people who had heard good things about the program, wanted to experience what others had conveyed had been a life changing experience for them.
Much of the initial buzz about Genesis 3 was generated by word of mouth from a variety of people who had taken the program. They were discovering that Genesis offered something fresh and original the industry hadn’t seen; expert instructors without a hidden agenda to disguise a product pitch as credible education. David Tisherman, who was closely connected to the Genesis 3 program and was one of the original founders, would eventually sell his shares and depart from the organization in 2012.
Over the next decade, Phillips and Van Bower continued to grow the Genesis program into what it is today. Their legacy on the pool industry has left an indelible mark on the face of modern luxury inground pools. Over 6,000 people have gone through the Genesis program since its inception.
“All you have to do is flip through the pages of a magazine to see our impact on the pool industry,” said Phillips. “If you look at the vessels now versus twenty two, twenty three years ago, they’re not built the same, they’re not designed the same, and that’s really because of the Genesis system,” explained Phillips.
Without question, many builders credit the Genesis program with advancing standards in education. Dave Penton of Ask The Masters, said attending the program made him a better builder. As did Benjamin Lasseter as have many other well known designers, architects and landscape architects. Those who have attended the program credit Genesis with dramatically advancing the quality of higher education in swimming pool construction.
Van Bower explained that it has been a long evolution for the program that he and Phillips started over twenty three years ago. Both founders felt that if they wanted to continue to grow Genesis they would have to involve core attendees and sponsors which would eventually comprise a board of advisors. The close affiliation of this board of advisors with the National Swimming Pool Foundation led to an eventual partnership. Eventually the NSPF, wished to take control over the program, which later merged with the APSP to form the PHTA.
Today, the program is managed by the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance. Van Bower explained how this will be a game changer for Genesis. “Now we have great resources both financially and knowledge wise because instead of 2 pool guys and a couple of helpers putting together programs, we now have staff and training and people that are knowledgeable in marketing.”
There has been some reported turbulence, so we asked how things have changed since the PHTA took over the program. Van Bower remarked “We feel today we are stronger than we’ve ever been. We have better faculty and have been pleased with the outcome of our programs as of late”.
During our discussion with founders, Phillips and Van Bower, we asked about some of the major distinctions between Genesis and other emerging instructional programs to which Phillips replied, “Genesis is obviously the origin of really any of the advanced educational systems on the planet. We’ve been global for some time. We’ve had IACET approval, multiple schools in Europe and Australia. Genesis with its curriculum has really set the stage to launch careers. Frankly almost anyone you see or talk to who has reached some level of status in this industry came through our program. To our credit, the real value is in the success of the people that came through our program.”
Competition Emerges in wake of merger
We asked some pointed questions that have puzzled many in the pool industry. Point of fact, we wanted to know what the primary distinctions were between Genesis and other highly acclaimed programs like Watershape University.
Watershape U was recently started by Dave Peterson and Bill Drakeley. Other former notable supporters of the Genesis program including Dave Penton, Grant Smith, Ryan Oakes, Rick Chafey, Kevin Cobabe, and one of Pool Magazine’s own featured Op-Editorialists Paolo Benedetti, have also joined to support the new education program. All were closely connected to, had gone through or taught for Genesis in years previous before splintering off to start Watershape University.
Phillips replied, “Obviously the depth in Genesis is significant. We have a very deep staff on the design side working with Kate Wiseman who has her Masters in Landscape Architecture. Great designers… Feras Irikat, Kirk Bianchi are just a couple of names. On the engineering side, Terry Brannon is a great instructor – very knowledgeable. We now have 3 engineers to work with.”
When trying to characterize the distinctions between the two programs, Phillips said, “I really can’t speak to how these other programs are structured (Watershape University), but we do know that the basis for that and the basis for their credibility in their certifications is really based on what was learned in Genesis.”
Cause of the split
Shedding some light on why the founders of Watershape University may have felt a sudden compulsion to splinter off, Phillips said, “They were concerned (referring to Peterson and Drakeley), as we were that the merger (between APSP and NSPF) would result in some sort of challenge with our program. That turned out not to be the case,” he continued, “but they wanted their own program and wanted to do things their own way. There are some talented people there and I actually credit Genesis for that success.”
What it takes to graduate from Genesis
Van Bower outlined the specific requirements necessary in order to become a Genesis Associate. “You have to have taken our basic pool construction course, and engineering 211, and basic fluid engineering or hydraulic program and then you can use the title Genesis Associate.” said Van Bower.
Van Bower explained the process of matriculating to become SWD Registered. “When you move on to the registered level,” said Van Bower, “you step up to a requirement for over 150 hours in order to achieve the title SWD Registered. There are several principle courses required along with some electives.”
The next and highest level of the Genesis system, Van Bower explained, is that of SWD Master; which is currently only achievable through project submittal and an evaluation by the Genesis advisory board.
Recalibrating to Covid
In comparing Genesis to going to college for pool construction, Van Bower agreed with the analogy. He explained how Genesis was adapting to distance learning in a virtual environment as have many universities and vocational training programs since Covid-19 began.
Traditionally, tradeshows and expos have been the primary method in which Genesis disseminates and reaches much of the pool industry. The recent events of last years pandemic have caused them to focus on refining and recalibrating much of the content to be consumable via online learning courses. “We approached it with some trepidation about how well it was going to be received.” said Van Bower, “The exit surveys and comments of our attendees were of the highest level. We were shocked at how highly regarded the virtual program was. We have quotes from the builders that attended, where we feel really good about what we are doing.”
Phillips broke down the pool construction program at Genesis “Our construction program is something that every single builder, regardless of perceived experience should take. We get down to basics and cover issues that are so effective, that even 20 years ago – people would come out of our class during the first break and call their office and say ‘Don’t dig another pool, don’t shoot another shell, don’t put another stick of plumbing in til I get home. We’re doing this all different.'”
One of the programs that has become incredibly popular with designers is the color theory and application course which Phillips elaborated on “What’s interesting is going back over a decade, we saw the value of incorporating color theory and learning some of the vocabulary and the influences of all these various design features.”
“Color influences everything we do,” continued Phillips, “from the clothes we wear, to the cars we purchase to how we decorate our houses. It also influences the materials and color palettes of the pools. Frankly, if you don’t understand and haven’t been to a class with Feras (Irikat) then it’s almost the equivalent of going into design blind.”
We have spoken with many designers and builders here at Pool Magazine, and one of the major aspects attendees seem to enjoy the most seems to be the events that Genesis puts on. Elaborating on what those are like; Phillips said, “In some cases these are events that are specifically structured around travel to a destination with architectural references. Our very first schools were in Morro Bay for a reason, and it was because of its proximity to Hearst Castle which has two of the most iconic pools in the world. We worked out an agreement with the state of California to have special focused tours.”
Since those very first tours, Genesis has taken the lead on creating destination events all over the world. Setting up architecture based events that are strategically tied in with teachable design references throughout Germany, Italy, France, and Australia.
These tours have as much to do about food and wine as they do about pool construction. This lifestyle destination trip combined with an educational tour that delivers a premium experience; has been closely interwoven into the events and tours participants attend.
Van Bower said that the power of PHTA to help propel the program to an even wider audience means incredible things are on the horizon for Genesis. “Skip and I continue to work with Genesis because we believe it’s important. We are really thrilled to see what the merger of the two organizations (NSPF & APSP to form PHTA) will bring to the table.”
The outlook for the future of the program is something that Phillips and Van Bower are incredibly optimistic about. “We’re fortunate that the leadership of PHTA, particularly the head Sabeena Hickman recognizes Genesis for the benefit that it is,” said Van Bower, “doesn’t want to degrade it any way, and is strongly in favor of keeping it in the forefront.”
“Of course now we have the power of the PHTA behind Genesis, so we have chapters and members spread all over the country that will be interested and are interested in our programs.” said Van Bower “Right now the future is bright. Skip and I are in a meeting in Alexandria, VA at the headquarters of PHTA, in a room with 20 people sitting around a table doing nothing but working on Genesis programs and future events. It’s an amazing team that we have and we’re stronger than ever”.
Listen to our complete interview with Skip Phillips and Brian Van Bower on the Pool Magazine podcast.
Let Your Pool Dreams Take You To Dubai
We take a look at two incredible pools making headlines in Dubai.
If you’re having pool dreams, let your mind wander to Dubai. The Persian Gulf is known for its luxurious and extravagant lifestyle, and a new mega mansion in the Emirate Hills in Dubai is no exception. The AED 349 million (US$95 million) mansion boasts a double-decker swimming pool and a host of other amenities spread over 40,000 square feet.
According to Leigh Borg, an executive partner at Luxhabitat Sotheby’s International Realty, the villa is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that has been thoughtfully conceptualized and developed for the perfect family home. The contemporary villa, designed by XBD Interiors, offers floor-to-ceiling windows, several large reception rooms, and a kitchen kitted out with top-of-the-line furniture and appliances.
The villa’s standout feature is undoubtedly the pool, which is cantilevered over another pool beneath it. A nearly 38-foot suspended glass bridge connects a balcony to the pavilion and swimming pool on the main floor. The outdoor area also boasts a pool pavilion, outdoor showers, an al fresco kitchen and dining area, and a stepped garden.
The villa has 10-bedroom suites, steam and sauna baths, a recreation room with a pool table, a cinema, a library, and a kid’s playroom. There is even a soundproofed music room on the first floor and a spectacular gym on the upper level offering beautiful views of the green.
That’s not the only pool in Dubai making headlines this week. A $50 million duplex at Volante Dubai located in the Business Bay neighborhood is a prime example of luxurious living in the city. The 35-story tower was designed by FNP Architects and is situated along the city’s Water Canal, offering breathtaking views of the iconic Burj Khalifa.
This villa in the sky spans over 19,000 square feet and includes four bedrooms, each with its own lavish living area, and an array of opulent amenities. As you step off the private elevator onto the lower floor of the penthouse, you’re greeted by an open-plan living area with 26-foot bifold glass doors that lead onto the terrace, providing a seamless indoor-outdoor living experience.
The penthouse’s two building-length terraces span across two floors and feature a Mediterranean-inspired courtyard complete with a rooftop swimming pool. The space gives the impression of a private park rather than the roof of a building. The outdoor amenities are nothing short of extraordinary and include an infinity pool that overlooks Dubai’s skyline, a firepit surrounded by ample seating, an outdoor bar and dining area, and loungers, all set amidst a private garden with lush trees. However, the most mesmerizing feature of the penthouse is the panoramic view that stretches from Dubai’s iconic landmarks to the crystal-clear waters of the Persian Gulf.
If both of these pools are giving you wanderlust, we don’t blame you. Dubai is certainly known for its over-the-top opulence and these two properties are certainly a prime example of that.
Featured Photo Credit: Luxhabitat Sotheby’s International Realty
Chlorine Poisoning Incident at Swimming Pool in Italy
Chlorine poisoning sent 25 swimmers to the hospital at a pool in Italy, according to reports.
A mass chlorine poisoning incident occurred in a swimming pool in Italy’s Bosco Chiesanuova municipality, located in Verona. Officially reported that 25 individuals were injured, including children as young as three years old. Those affected were hospitalized after the incident.
The Monti Lessini Sports Centre witnessed a significant emergency response due to the incident, with cops, firefighters, and paramedics arriving at the scene. Nuclear experts, belonging to a specialized firefighting unit known as the NBCR (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical and Radiological) operatives, were also present.
The experts were summoned to help evacuate the pool, which had been contaminated with chlorine gas that was released around 10 am. The NBCR operatives are a “specialized group of firefighters that is called to intervene in exceptional situations,” as described by Italy’s Ministry of the Interior. Those who were seriously affected by the gas were transported to hospitals in Negrar, Borgo Trento, and Borgo Roma, while others were taken to medical centers in minibusses.
Out of the 25 individuals who were poisoned, nine were nursery school children aged between 3 and 6, who were at the pool for a swimming lesson. Four swimmers were severely affected by the toxic gas, and the manager of the pool was also hospitalized. Investigations suggest that the poisoning occurred due to a miscalculation of the amount of chlorine needed to sterilize the pool. Local media reports state that a massive overdose of chlorine led to a cloud of toxic gas rising from the water and poisoning swimmers.
The incident is reminiscent of a situation that occurred at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in 2021. Incorrect installation of a water filtration system resulted in 65 people being rushed to the hospital after the release of pool-sanitizing chemicals.
Chlorine gas can be fatal if breathed in and was used by the Germans as a weapon in World War I. Victims can experience shortness of breath, blurred vision, burning pain in the nose, eyes, and throat, as well as blisters on the skin.
This is not the only poisoning incident this year, as hundreds of girls fell ill in Iran’s schools due to a “deliberate poisoning” with chemical compounds. Chlorine gas was also used in these attacks, with victims suffering from similar symptoms as those in Italy.
Claiming Your Swimming Pool as a Tax Deduction
If you or a loved one has a medical condition that requires a swimming pool for therapy, you may be able to claim the cost of constructing a pool as a medical tax deduction. Many Americans are unaware of this tax break, which can also apply to other medical expenses such as assistant medical equipment.
Using a Swimming Pool as a Tax Deduction
Aaron Rogers owner of Southern Poolscapes recently informed a customer that they could claim part of their pool construction as a medical expense deduction on his taxes. “He built the pool to use for therapy after a recent spinal fusion,” said Rogers, “as we tallied the bill up he mentioned, ‘boy, I wish I could claim this on my taxes’, and that’s when I mentioned it to him.”
Rogers claims it isn’t the first time he’s seen someone do this but because his customer had all the right paperwork, a good portion of her swimming pool was tax deductible. “All in, I believe his net deduction came close to $50,000,” said Rogers, “in some instances, if it is doctor-recommended, the IRS allows it.”
Medical Deduction for Swimming Pools & Spas
For example, therapy pools, spas, and other similar facilities that are recommended by a doctor can be eligible for the medical tax deduction. Additionally, if you need assistant medical equipment such as a chair lift, safety rails, or other modifications to the pool, these costs can also be claimed as part of the deduction.
Installing a swimming pool or hot tub at home can be recommended by a doctor for various medical conditions, such as osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and chronic pain. Pools are also commonly used for physical therapy, particularly in cases where a person is unable to bear their full weight on a leg or other part of their body.
How You Claim Your Pool as a Tax Write-Off
Moreover, if you build a pool for medical reasons, it can make sense to claim the tax deduction. Building a pool can be a significant expense, but if it’s recommended by a physician, the deduction can help offset some of the costs. Plus, having a pool can provide a therapeutic benefit to the individual with the medical condition, improving their quality of life.
However, it’s important to note that there are some limitations to the medical expense deduction. Firstly, you need to itemize deductions on Schedule A, rather than taking the standard deduction. Additionally, eligible expenses must be above 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI) to qualify for the deduction. For example, if a couple has an AGI of $200,000, they can only deduct eligible medical expenses above $15,000.
Who is Eligible?
Based on the latest IRS data, in 2020, approximately 4 million tax filers claimed medical expenses as a deduction on their Schedule A. This is in contrast to the approximately 12 million filers who claimed mortgage interest and the approximately 13 million filers who claimed charitable donations. Despite this, the average medical expense deduction was approximately $20,000, indicating that this deduction was particularly valuable for those who qualified and likely came at a time when any tax relief was greatly appreciated.
Even if a taxpayer’s medical expenses don’t exceed the deduction threshold, it’s still important to understand what expenses qualify for the deduction. This is because the same expenses that are eligible for the deduction can also be reimbursed through a Flexible Spending Account or Health Savings Account, without the requirement of meeting the 7.5% AGI threshold.
Claiming a Medical Expense Deduction for your Pool
To claim the medical expense deduction, you will need to keep good records and documentation of all expenses related to the construction of the pool or other medical expenses. The IRS provides a comprehensive list of eligible medical and dental expenses in Publication 502, which includes costs related to the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. Examples include bandages, guide dogs, nursing home and assisted living care, and special-education tuition.
In at least one case, the IRS did not allow a taxpayer to deduct installation costs for his pool because the taxpayer did not have sufficient medical documentation to support his claim. The taxpayer only provided a statement from his doctor advising him to lose weight, but this alone was not enough to qualify for the medical expense deduction. It’s important to have proper documentation and meet all the requirements set by the IRS to avoid being denied the deduction.
The IRS has an extensive list of tax deductible home improvement expenses that are eligible for a medical deduction. While constructing a swimming pool would be considered a capital expense, it could still be considered for a medical deduction.
When claiming a medical deduction for expenses that add permanent value to a home, such as a swimming pool, the taxpayer is required to obtain an appraisal of the increase in the home’s value as a result of the modification. The amount of the deduction must then be reduced by the appraised value increase. This is to prevent taxpayers from claiming a deduction for expenses that are not directly related to their medical condition.
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I missed the boat. I went to one session hosted by Tisherman in Orlando many years back and came back and told our guys over dinner, “Wow they are really on top of it – but holy cow what a jerk that guy was to people. Unbearable. I have never seen someone so full of himself.” That painted my perception of Genesis as undesirable to pursue. We built an average pool, the crash hit in 08, and we stuck with service. Here we still are today. Rinse repeat every year :/