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Sky Pool – One on One with the Manufacturers

An in depth look at the engineering marvel that is the Sky Pool

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The iconic Sky Pool in London has finally arrived and the overnight sensation that this pool has become is nothing short of remarkable. One of the most highly anticipated new pool projects, this incredible and instantly iconic pool has been written about incessantly since it was first devised.

This unique see-through acrylic wall pool sits suspended between two towers of the Embassy Gardens in London, England. Recently we had the opportunity to chat with Paul Gardner Vice President of Engineering for Reynolds Polymer, the manufacturers behind this creative and captivating new swimming pool vessel.

In preparation for our meeting, we hopped on one of our favorite social media groups Ask The Masters and found out what questions the pool industry had about the Sky Pool. There were a lot of interesting questions, which was indicative of how fascinated pool builders are about this project.

Sky Pool Has Worldwide Notoriety

We asked Gardner what it was like working on such a high visibility project. “We’re engineers and weren’t thinking about the marketing benefits that early on. Now it’s fun to be on it and we see how exciting it is from that standpoint.” said Gardner.

Given that Reynolds Polymer is a manufacturer of acrylic panels, there are very few companies around the world that could take on a project of the size and magnitude of the Sky Pool. Still, we wanted to know how Reynolds got the nod for this particular project.

A Short List of Manufacturers

Reynolds Polymer is one of a handful of companies in the world that can take on projects of this magnitude.

“Y’know when you do something crazy with acrylic, there is only a few of us that can do that and really only a few that are willing to do it from an engineering standpoint to come up with a good solution, so the field was pretty narrow to begin with.” said Gardner.

“The client came to us pretty quickly.” said Gardner, “We worked on it a long time just to make sure something like this was even feasible.” Reynolds Polymer would go on to secure the design contract as well as the engineering contract shortly after that.

Engineering Hurdles To Overcome

Ultimately, there are probably only a handful of companies around the world that can take on a project of this scope. “When it comes to being monolithically cast, we’re the only ones that do it like that. All of our competitors will laminate. So, they’ll take thinner sheets and glue them together. But in this case getting a monolithically cast part, enabling us to use some of our other methodologies such as signature bonds, that’s the only way you could have done it.” said Gardner.

This particular project had many engineering challenges Reynolds Polymer had to overcome. One of them was accounting for movement from the actual structure of the building. We asked Gardner what his team did from an engineering standpoint to account for settling and movement between the two buildings.

Sky Pool: Engineering of the Vessel

“The swimming pool itself is set up as really an isolated box. On both ends, the acrylic is sitting in a steel tub and that steel tub is then sitting on concrete columns and supported by bearings. The steel tub and the acrylic vessel are cinched together with 2 tension rods underneath which are the only visible structural elements that you can see other than the acrylic. That creates essentially an open top box that can float depending on the movement of the buildings.” said Gardner.

“It can also be adjusted for settling. If there was enough settling, you could get in there and adjust the height of the bearings with either some shims or whatever was necessary to get it back to level.” continued Gardner.

Reynolds Polymer monolithic casting process enabled them to create the 14-inch-thick acrylic panels for the Sky Pool.

Determining the Thickness of the Acrylic

Determining the proper thickness for the vessel encompassed doing finite element analysis, a widely used method for numerically solving differential equations arising in engineering and mathematical modeling. “We had lots of different load cases that we were looking at,” said Gardner, “By running through that and looking at like 15 or 20 load cases, we settled on a thickness. The thickness is really driven by long term stress. How much stress the acrylic can see to enable it to last for decades.”

Analysis of Natural Frequencies – Image Credit: Eckersley O’Callaghan

The acrylic itself is resting on two steel tubs on either end that is supported by cementitious grout between the acrylic and the steel shelves the entire U channel structure is sitting on.

“You don’t build this and test it and expect it to fail.” said Gardner. All of Reynolds engineering and structural analysis was confirmed by an independent third party who determined the engineering specifications were precise. The polymer system of the Sky Pool is expected to last for at least 50 years.

Some of the questions we got from the pool industry pertained to actual seismic activity that may cause the structure to shift. We also wanted to know about the usability of the Sky Pool under real world conditions.

A 3rd party structural analysis was done by Eckersley O’Callaghan

“Fortunately, London is not a very seismically active area. If there is such a thing, the pool is set on a system of bearings. It’s fixed on one side, and it’s allowed to move on the other. If there was any differential movement whether that’s seismic or heavy winds, there is ability of that structure to move independent of the pool.” said Gardner.

In playing devil’s advocate, we asked Gardner what the design entailed to keep water from the pool from splashing down below and keep the pool from freezing.

The walls of the Sky Pool are 8 feet high over the span of the center of the pool. One question we got asked is about water splashing out of the pool down on pedestrians below.

“The walls are about 8 feet high. They would have to splash it over the edge, and there is no reason they couldn’t. You have to have the safety walls up there so that people aren’t doing anything too crazy and hanging over the edge once you’re that high up. Otherwise, people could splash and get things over the edge if they get too wild.” said Gardner.

The pool itself is heated year round so the potential for the vessel freezing is nil. “The water is heated year-round so that water is never going to get an opportunity to freeze to a solid block. Plus, it doesn’t get that cold in London consistently enough to where you could have that happen.” said Gardner in responding to whether a pool freeze could cause damage.

Concealing The Plumbing

The filtration system for the Sky Pool has the pump room on one end of the two towers of Embassy Gardens so the water circulates from one side to the other. With no visible plumbing in the photos we have seen have the Sky Pool, we asked Gardner exactly how they managed to conceal all the plumbing. “You’ll notice a pedestrian bridge just north of the pool itself and there is some pipe work that runs through that pedestrian bridge that takes the water back over to the other side.”

A pedestrian bridge runs alongside the sky pool and cleverly conceals all the of pipework for the pool plumbing.

Maintaining The Sky Pool

Another big question that was on our minds as well as many other folks in the pool industry was, how do you clean and maintain a pool that high up? “Obviously the wet side is easy to get to in to clean.” said Gardner, “The dry side… we’re pushing the limits of what you can reach with a man lift on the ground. That’s the process right now. They’ve got a man lift that can go up 10 stories and somebody is cleaning it on the dry side on a regular basis.”

Getting the Sky Pool ready for transport to the Embassy Gardens took an enormous amount of planning and was a monumental undertaking involving crews on both sides of the pond.

Transporting this massive 175,000-pound acrylic structure to the Embassy Gardens in London was no easy task. “The interesting thing is when we were finally finished with it and ready to get it out of here, in Colorado we were having a bunch of wildfires. Even with the best planning and routing, we had to re-route it because the fires had shut down the highways on the route we wanted to go.” said Gardner.

Sky Pool leaving colorful Colorado on a 5,000-mile trip to its new home at the Embassy Gardens.

“We got stuck on the Texas border because Hurricane Laura was coming through Houston which was the port we were going out of. We sat on the Texas border for a day or two waiting for Laura to clear out to where the ports would open back up.” said Gardner.

We followed the progress on Reynolds Polymers social media pretty much the entire way and like many other folks in the pool industry, wondered what the permitting process and logistics process was like. As it turns out transporting the vessel was a massive undertaking that took years of planning and coordination. “Permitting takes you multiple months because we had to get all the escorts lined up. It’s not the first large project for us though. For a small town of Grand Junction, Colorado we move a lot of material out of here.” said Gardner.

It certainly isn’t the first large scale acrylic pool project Reynolds has been involved with. Other incredible projects they have undertaken over the years include world class pools and structures all over the globe.

Reynolds Polymer manufactured the 200,000-gallon aquarium in the center of the swimming pool area at Golden Nugget

Reynolds Polymer has made a name for themselves in the pool industry for manufacturing, designing, and engineering over the top see through acrylic pool vessels and aquariums. Their work is rapidly gaining traction with luxury homeowners as well who want their own version of the elaborate Sky Pool in their own backyard.

Another suspended acrylic pool Reynolds Polymer was involved with is the Intercontinental Hotel pool project in Dubai.

Due to the incredible amount of attention the Sky Pool has already received, we can imagine there will be high demand for this particular concept. “There has already been inquiries coming in for little Sky Pools” said Gardner. “I think because of the publicity of the Sky Pool, there will definitely be others that want something similar. It’s very attractive to have something that catches the eye and floating water is something that people can’t seem to get enough of.”

Listen to our entire interview with the manufacturers of the Sky Pool on the Pool Magazine Podcast

Watch a video of behind-the-scenes footage of the Sky Pool making its way from Reynolds Polymer’s factory in Colorado all the way to London in the UK.

Article Photos Courtesy of Reynolds Polymer

4.8/5 - (19 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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Claffey Pools Acquired by Riverbend Sandler Pools

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Claffey Pools Acquired by Riverbend Sandler Pools

The pool industry has seen a spate of recent acquisition announcements. The latest, being the recent acquisition of Claffey pools by Riverbend Sandler Pools. Backed by Chicago-based Concentric Equity Partners, they are continuing efforts to consolidate the swimming pool construction and maintenance industry in the Dallas-Fort Worth market.

The acquisition agreement was signed on December 31, 2021 but only made public on Thursday. Full details about the exact terms of the deal were not disclosed.

This marks the third major pool builder purchased by the holding company, after acquiring Pulliam Pools back in November. The acquisition of the Fort Worth-based firm made it one of the nation’s largest pool construction companies.

This recent acquisition of Claffey Pools which is ranked within the nations top pool construction companies with about $32 million in reported residential construction revenue in 2020. A builder of high-end inground swimming pools, Claffey’s average pool project costs around $142,000.

Riverbend Sandler intends to make considerable advancements by acquiring existing service and maintenance companies, in addition to focusing on construction. Consequently, they hope to become a key service provider in the state’s pool service and maintenance sector.

This in itself appears to be a key decision point for the Claffeys who are looking to expand their pool service and maintenance divisions. Last year’s Texas Pool freeze caused unprecedented amounts of damage across the Lone Star state and saw Claffey perform over 1,000 repairs as a result.

In regards to any restructuring of the organization, the Claffeys, along with their 95 employees, will remain with the company. Riverbend Sandler has announced its intentions to continue its expansion. It will continue to concentrate on Texas, for the time being, looking seriously to expand into the Austin, Houston, and San Antonio markets after having established the predominant marketshare in the Dallas area.

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GENESIS Announces Newest Platinum Sponsor: Pool Magazine

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GENESIS Platinum Sponsor - Pool Magazine

(Alexandria, Va.) – GENESIS is pleased to announce its newest Platinum Sponsor, Pool Magazine. The GENESIS sponsorship program showcases companies that are dedicated to the highest standards of best practices, quality, and ethics in the pool and spa industry.

“We look forward to collaborating with PHTA and expanding our relationship as a Platinum Sponsor,” says Joe Trusty, CEO & Editor-in-Chief. “We are excited for this next chapter and look forward to making a positive impact on the industry.”

As a Platinum Sponsor, Pool Magazine will have the opportunity to maximize its brand visibility, connect with thousands of engaged industry professionals, and unlock valuable opportunities.

“We are delighted to add Pool Magazine to our distinguished list of Platinum Sponsors,” says Janay Rickwalder, Vice President of Communications and Public Relations of PHTA. “Pool Magazine has everything we look for in a partner: quality services that can benefit our members, an understanding of the importance of continuing education, and a finger on the pulse of industry trends. I am excited for this collaboration and to working together in 2022.”

For more information, please contact Janay Rickwalder, PHTA’s Vice President of Communications and Public Relations, at jrickwalder@phta.org or 703.357.3918.

###

About the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance 

The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA), a non-profit organization with nearly 3,500 members from around the world, was established in 1956 to support, promote, and protect the common interests of the $36.5B pool, hot tub and spa industry. PHTA provides education, advocacy, standards development, research, and market growth to increase our members’ professionalism, knowledge and profitability. Additionally, PHTA facilitates the expansion of swimming, water safety and related research and outreach activities aimed at introducing more people to swimming, making swimming environments safer and keeping pools open to serve communities. For more information, visit www.phta.org

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Pool Contractors Gift New Pool To Grandma After Disaster

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Pool Contractors Gift New Pool to 80 Year Old Grandmother in Indianapolis

A group of pool contractors are the answer to one homeowners prayers. For years, Kitty Smitth, an 80-year old resident of Indianapolis, had dreamed of having an inground swimming pool for her 29 grandchildren and great-grandchildren to enjoy. Smith had just recently used her life savings to purchase a home and property in South Indianapolis that she was hoping would allow her to finally realize those dreams.

Smith acknowledges that the home she purchased needed a lot of work inside, but held out hope of enjoying the backyard with her family. For Smith and her grandchildren, the backyard pool meant a safe haven from the dangers of the pandemic that was sweeping across the country last summer.

“They were here, swimming and playing. I can’t tell you how great that was. This has just been my dream my whole life,” she told reporters.

Smith’s pool collapsed after a snowstorm this February. Photo Credit: WTHR

Future summer dreams would be put to an end this February when a winter storm caused her pool to collapse into a heap of disintegrating concrete and collapsed fiberglass walls. Smith was horrified to find that her backyard pool had collapsed in on itself in the night. “My whole body just started going numb and shaking. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” she told reporters.

An engineering report was conducted to determine the cause of the failure. Analysis determined that a leak may have contributed to its collapse. A new pool cover, which had just been installed, combined with the inadequate water level in the pool may have contributed to adding stress on the walls of the pool.

To add insult to injury, Smith quickly found out that her homeowners insurance would not cover the damage. Despite being a customer of the same company for over 40 years and having a policy that includes the replacement cost of an inground pool, her insurance company refused to pay a cent. They claimed her policy excluded any leak in the structure of the pool.

Smith was faced with an impossible problem. The cost of installing a new inground pool would be at least $60,000 plus an additional $20,000 for hauling away the debris from the old pool that had collapsed. “I just put everything into my house”, Smith told reporters, indicating that she didn’t have the financial resources to rebuild the pool. She stated that she felt like her insurance company had left her high and dry.

Smith contacted investigative reporters and discussed her problem with them. The reporters shared her story with some folks they knew in the pool industry that could help lend a hand. Ultimately, eight separate Indiana companies came together headed up under Automatic Pool Covers owner, Michael Shebek. Shebek pooled his resources and network to help put together a team that will help rebuild Smith’s backyard.

What is truly incredible about this story is that although some of the companies on this list are competitors, they are all united in the single goal to help one local resident recover the usage of her pool.

Shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday, Smith was greeted with the surprise of a lifetime. The contractors who have agreed to rebuild her pool at zero cost, showed up at her house along with the 13news team to break the good news. Overwhelmed with emotion, Smith hugged them all and said “I don’t know your names but I know your hearts,” telling the contractors, “I love you.”

A team of local pool contractors has vowed to help Smith rebuild her pool. Photo Credit: WTHR

Smith will hopefully have a new pool to enjoy with her grandchildren this summer. The contractors have all assured her that the unsightly mess in her backyard will be removed and a new pool installed. The entire cost of the project is estimated to cost approximately $90,000.

“Just no words. There aren’t words big enough to thank everyone,” Smith said. “I’m just so thankful.”

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