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
“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.
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.”
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.
“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 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.”
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.”
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.
“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 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.
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
China Claims Title For World’s Highest Outdoor Swimming Pool
New business tower in China has a pool with breathtaking views from the 71st floor.
The title of the World’s Highest Outdoor Swimming Pool now goes to China. Construction of a new 1,322-foot-tall tower by Chicago-based architects Goettsch Partners is now complete in Nanning, China. The tower’s crowning feature is an outdoor swimming pool that, according to the architects, is the highest in the world.
Title for Highest Outdoor Pool Goes To China
The hotel’s pool on the 71st-floor terrace is 1,060 feet above the ground, making it the highest in the world. Previously, the 57th-floor infinity pool at Moshe Safdie’s Marina Bay Sands held the title.
The Guangxi China Resources Tower, at over 2.93 million square feet, is the 18th tallest building in China and the 37th tallest building in the world. It is a mixed-use design that includes a hotel, office spaces, and retail.
More than 60% of the 86-story structure’s lettable space, or 272,000 square meters, will be occupied by offices. Approximately 6,000 square meters of retail space and a Shangri-La Nanning hotel with 336 rooms are also planned.
“The building is a symbol of rising prosperity for the city,” notes James Zheng, AIA, LEED AP, CEO and president of GP. “It further sets a world-class standard for quality that is meant to endure.”
The tower, developed by Shenzhen-based China Resources Land, will serve as the focal point of a brand-new 90-hectare urban quarter in Nanning. The podium and basement of the building are linked to the structures around it.
Beginning in 2014, the building process will be completed by the end of 2020 (November). The company claims that the building is completely occupied and functional now that the interior fit-out is complete.
One of a Kind Panoramic Views
The hotel emerges atop the office volume, drastically altering the building’s profile. The lower volume is capped by a monumental terrace at Level 71, which serves as a one-of-a-kind outdoor sky space where guests can swim in the hotel’s pool. From sunrise to sunset, the sweeping 180-degree panorama offers unparalleled views of the surrounding lakes, parks, and mountains.
The tower is an essential part of a larger mixed-use development, and its design to LEED Gold standards places an emphasis on sustainable sites and energy optimization. The podium and basement levels of the various buildings work together to form a seamless network that is optimized for the greater master-planned development. Sunshades on the building’s exterior, combined with a high-performance façade enclosure system, allow for abundant natural light and breathtaking vistas to penetrate every level while significantly cutting down on energy consumption.
Mechanical systems have been developed to maximize the efficiency of operation, reduce energy and water use while increasing comfort levels inside the building. The highest quality materials are used throughout the structure to emphasize longevity and durability and lessen the building’s future impact on the local environment.
“The tower is a sustainable response to its urban context,” sayid Travis Soberg, AIA, LEED AP, in a press release. “The building integrates conservation methods throughout the design that reinforce our commitment to environmental responsibility.”
Photo Credits: Goettsch Partners
Las Vegas Losing Classic Fire & Water Feature – Mirage Volcano Set to Close
Hard Rock confirms iconic Las Vegas fire feature, Mirage Volcano will close.
Since MGM Resorts International sold the property to Hard Rock International last year, the resort has been undergoing a rebranding process, and the resort’s iconic volcano will not play a role in the new resort plan.
The time of the final eruption for the Mirage Volcano is unknown, and neither Hard Rock nor MGM officials would confirm exactly when the volcano would be dismantled. They plan to build another one of Hard Rocks guitar-shaped hotels in the space.
About The Mirage Volcano
When the resort opened on November 22, 1989, the volcano quickly became a fan favorite. A modeled three-acre paradise resembling the South Seas is routinely jolted awake by the ominous rumbles of the Mirage Volcano throughout the night. Rapid movement of water along with creative lighting resembles lava.
Exciting flames shoot over 60 feet into the air. If you’ve ever watched the show from the street, you can literally feel the searing heat. With music composed by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, more than 150 Fireshooters, developed by WET Design (who also created the Fountains of Bellagio), propel fireballs in a dramatic choreographed display.
The volcano was one of the first free attractions paving the way for others like the pirate battle at Treasure Island, the light shows and concerts at the Fremont Street Experience, and the Bellagio fountains.
From 8 p.m. until 11 p.m., the volcano at the Mirage continues its hourly eruptions. We took the opportunity to see this fiery spectacle, perhaps for the last time, while exhibiting at the PSP Deck Expo recently. The street was packed with onlookers watching the show on the street.
Elaine Wynn, who was married to casino magnate Steve Wynn at the time, first came up with the idea for the volcano as a great way to differentiate the Mirage from the competition.
In recent years, however, Las Vegas has been shifting away from a transparently thematic approach with its newest resorts, including the Cosmopolitan (2010), Circa (2020), and Resorts World (2021), and its reliance on free attractions and loss leaders, such as buffets and poker rooms, to bring in the bustling crowds.
Las Vegas Residents Eager To Keep Attraction
There has been a running sentiment amongst casino insiders that free attractions such as the Mirage Volcano have turned into a drain on profits. In light of the news that the Volcano is slated to be removed, many Las Vegas residents have expressed they do not want to see the attraction go.
“When I heard the news, I remember just wondering why this was going to happen,” Alden Gillespy, a longtime resident of Las Vegas and critic of removing the volcano, told the Las Vegas Sun. “The fact that they were going to tear down the volcano, that hit me personally.”
Every time it goes off, the Volcano in Las Vegas draws in hundreds of people, both young and old, to the Strip. The idea of tearing it down has been met with pushback. A group of passionate residents in Las Vegas has banded together to compel Hard Rock International and the city government to stop the new owner from demolishing what they say is a historic landmark. A petition to protect the volcano has over 9,000 signatures of support.
Among those who think the volcano should be preserved is UNLV history professor Michael Green.
“We lost a lot of hotels on the Strip because of the understandable need to build better, more modern hotels,” Green told the Sun. “The volcano is a reminder of how it helped trigger the modern Las Vegas boom.”
Congratulations Pool Nation Award Winners!
Popular pool podcast hosts award show focused on inclusion
Pool Nation held its second annual awards show in Las Vegas, NV at the International Pool Spa Expo. “Our favorite thing about these award shows is it’s like a high school reunion, only with people you want to hang out with. To us, it’s a place where we celebrate each other’s accomplishments and successes; where we build each other up instead of tearing each other down,” said John Chakalis. The award show presented by the popular Pool Nation Podcast in collaboration with PoolPro recognizes achievement in a variety of different categories.
Award Winners by Category:
- Variable Speed Pump of the Year: Hayward TriStar VS
- Best Residential Pool Filter: AquaStar Pipeline Filter
- Automation of the Year: Jandy Aqualink RS
- Innovative Product of the Year: AquaStar Pipeline Filter
- Salt System of the Year: Hayward Aquarite
- Best Value Automation: Jandy iAquaLink IQ904
- Favorite Net: Pirhana Net
- Favorite Test Kit: Taylor K2005 Test Kit
- Best Truck Wrap: Big Family Pools
- Builder of the Year: Element Pool Company
- Sales Rep of the Year: Korey Wax – Alpha West Marketing Group
- Favorite Pool Vac System: Hammer Head Pool Vac
- Heater of the Year: Jandy JXI Heater
- Pool Guy of the Year: Chris Mele
- Pool Girl of the Year: Michelle Watson
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Wayne Ivusich
- Zac, John, & Edgar Award: Janey Flawless
- 30 Under 40 Male: Alexander Jacobs
- 30 Under 40 Female: Alisa Gotay
- Pool Company of the Year 250 Pools or less: Round Rock Pool Pros
- Pool Cleaner Suction Side: The Pool Cleaner, Hayward
- Heat Pump of the Year: Hayward Heat Pro
The Pool Nation award show has become quite popular among pool professionals and is supported by the pool & spa community. The awards are unique in that nominees are voted on by peers from within the pool industry. With a focus on inclusion, Pool Nation host Edgar De Jesus said, “It’s clear that we all want a better industry but in order to do that, we all belong in the same room and the key to success is collaboration.”
Having had close interaction with a number of the winners, I can certainly attest to the validity of the awards being given out. Korey Wax is a phenomenal sales rep. Wayne Ivusich certainly deserved a lifetime achievement award for his 30-plus years with Taylor Technologies. Element Pool Company is a young and thriving pool builder in the San Antonio market, that we’ve written about here at Pool Magazine. To see a young up-and-coming pool company recognized as Builder of the Year is absolutely refreshing. Round Rock Pool Pros is also a pool company that has fast become recognized as a service industry leader and again, great to see some of these terrific companies getting the recognition they richly deserve.
The 30 Under 40 category recognized two young professionals that will undoubtedly remain a force in the industry, Alexander Jacobs of United Aqua Group and Alisa Gotay of 787 Serrano Construction LLC. Again, these are folks who you may have already encountered in the pool industry that are rapidly making a name for themselves.
In all of the product categories, this year each of the winners delivered an exciting product that helped propel the industry forward. Many of the best pool product category winners had products we’ve highlighted right here in Pool Magazine. Congratulations to all of the winners who deserve all the credit in the world for having a tremendous year. We wish all of them continued success moving forward into 2023.
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