Leaders in Aquatic Design: Cloward H20

 Atlantis The Palm - Dubai

Atlantis The Palm - Dubai

In the second installment of this year’s series, we had the pleasure of connecting with Allen Clawson, Managing Partner & Principal of Cloward H2O. Clawson has twenty five years of global engineering, project management, design and planning of aquatic systems and facilities experience. (x)

Like most aquatic engineers, Clawson fell into the industry after working closely with pool designers: “I think, like most people, I came into the industry by accident. I had never thought about people engineering swimming pools." His path to working with Cloward H2O started with twelve years in manufacturing and implementation of water sanitation equipment, focusing on the mechanical side of water treatment in recreational, aquatic life support, agri-food sanitation and other light industrial applications. We enjoyed reading Clawson’s article from a few years back entitled, “In Search of Perfect Pool Water - What I Learned At The Aquarium"(x), which examines why considering issues from a new perspective helps aquatics professionals arrive at better solutions overall.

Working on the mechanical side of the industry, Clawson soon met the crew at Cloward H2O. “We often ended up at the same trade shows and job site for commissioning and training. They eventually  convinced me to move to Utah and join their team.”

Since 1977 Cloward H2O has provided “water perfected,” (x) in nearly all imaginable applications.  If water is involved - you will find they have experience there.  Cloward H2O majors in aquatic recreation and relaxation, but this is only the top of their resume. Other areas of expertise include aquariums, aquaculture facilities, government research, and “all things water”(x). Their mission statement reads: “we strive to perfect all aspects of water from flowing majestic movements to serene stillness and crystal clarity.“

Their dedication shows in the variety and range of their projects. Cloward H2O has been privileged to participate on many of the world’s most outstanding aquatic projects with one-of-a-kind descriptors such as, largest ____, deepest ____, tallest ____, world’s first ____, and so forth. “Every project deserves the attention to detail and innovative approach that we would give to one of these iconic projects - whether a residential pool, condominium complex clubhouse, or 5 star resort in some exotic location.”

The Hilton Walkoloa Village, (which incorporates multiple swimming pools, decorative waterfalls and cascades, a ¾ mile long saltwater boat ride and saltwater lagoon, as well as fresh and salt water exhibits for birds and fish), was one of the first all-inclusive recreational aquatics projects for Cloward and established a pattern of the application of solid engineering principles to accomplish the extraordinary results that the company is so well known for.  

How does Cloward H2O reach “water perfected?” Clawson pointed to the twin Atlantis projects (Dubai’s Atlantis the Palm and Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas) as great examples of how Cloward H2O’s experience creates lasting attractions.  “It's not just about rides or what you do at the water park. It’s about how you feel. Do you come away from that experience saying, ‘Wow! I want to come back’? That experience and response is what we are creating.” And that does not happen without partnerships with other extraordinary design firms. “Our business is all about teaming up with an Architect or Landscape Architect to create a fully integrated immersive experience.” in the case of Atlantis, 141 acres of  aquatic experience including the unique and first-of waterpark attractions, resort pools, fountains, sea life exhibits, etc interwoven seamlessly within the guest experience.

In talking about the Atlantis project, the conversation naturally segued into how Cloward approaches each project as a completely unique set of design challenges. “There are generally good engineering principles that we all try to follow. But hard, fast, fixed rules in design? There really aren’t many. We have this discussion with our team all the time,  “There is no cookbook.” When we get a request for a design of a pool, we look at the pool individually and uniquely. The cases are almost always unique in some way, so we try to be flexible and address specific needs in terms of design, equipment, maintenance, and what’s right for that client and their operations.”

The Atlantis project demonstrates Cloward’s  focus on finding what the client wants to do with their water features. Not working from a “cookbook” means they spend time demystifying what their clients vision, what do they really want to do - not just what they think they can have or what they have seen before. Leap of Faith and Serpent Slide, both of which plunge through a shark-filled lagoon at Atlantis Paradise Island had never been tried before. In fact, it started off as a napkin sketch during a meeting and has become an icon recognized everywhere in the hospitality industry.

“We recently had the opportunity to sit down with a local author who had been struggling with a pool project for two years. His vision for the backyard just was not gelling, and we asked him, ‘What’s really important to you? How are you going to use this pool? Who is going to use this pool?’ We started sketching, really rough stuff at first but completely divergent thinking. When he saw the sketches, he said 'That’s it! That’s what I want to do!' Others before us had been designing within normal boundaries and budgets going with what they knew but not hitting the target.”

As far as global design leadership, Clawson has found inspiration for interesting problems in interesting places. A past client asked to illuminate a 60 metre-deep pool. Turns out that’s a more difficult light fixture to find than you might think. Stumped, Clawson discovered the lighting solution upon listening to the keynote address by Dr. Robert Ballard, the explorer who discovered the Titanic, at a zoo and aquarium conference.

And Clawson sees new innovations happening all across the world. “Some of the most interesting technology for aquatics tends to come out of Australia. They tend have more water-based challenges than other places, or at least focus on them in a more innovative way. In Southeast Asia you don’t think twice about water. In Australia they really struggle to increase water quality and reduce waste.”

People have great ideas everywhere. “A couple years ago while attending the Asia Attractions Expo, I was stunned when I met a guy whose father had developed a water park in Pakistan. This guy built an extraordinary park in 1983 in Pakistan, there were only a handful of waterparks in the world at that time and here was this guy with an extraordinary vision.  The family had been operating it ever since. His son was trying to take it over and did some amazing things there. I have met extraordinary visionary people in India, Pakistan, Turkey, Africa, and other places, who have built water parks just to improve their community and provide not only recreation in a place where there is so little, but also work for the people of the village.  What a great industry!”

We asked how they balance safety with other key considerations, Clawson cited the Virginia Graeme Baker Act, a law that mandates standards to prevent drain entrapment in public pools. “Many pools had to be retrofitted to comply with that act. Those who were designed properly didn’t. None of the pools we designed had to be retrofitted.”

Safety, he believes, starts with good design and engineering. Designers should not wait for best practice to be required. With the implementation of the Virginia Graeme Baker Act about ten years ago (law passed in 2007 and implemented in 2008) there has not been a reported child entrapment death in a public pool (x). “If all designers and builders followed solid engineering principles, we wouldn’t need laws and codes. So that’s our approach to safety. Let's do what we believe to be a safe and responsible practice in terms of pool construction, water quality, or with slip and falls.  Let’s learn the lessons in these areas from other industries and practices and apply them in a responsible manner.”


Thank you, Cloward H2O and Allen Clawson, for spending time speaking with us and sharing your design expertise and perspective!

Life Floor intends to highlight industry leaders through this blog series. In doing so, for the sake of accuracy, we may include quotes and opinions that are not shared by Life Floor itself. However, all quotes that appear are included because we believe they are valuable for consideration by both ourselves and for the aquatic industry as a whole.

Leaders in Aquatic Design: Aquatic Design & Engineering

 Windsor Hills, Kissimee FL

Windsor Hills, Kissimee FL

Last year, as part of our architect and designer series, we sat down with three major firms in the aquatic design industry. Josh Martin, the President and Creative Director of Aquatic Design & Engineering (ADE), was kind enough to share his perspective in the first installment of this year’s series.

Josh Martin started at Aquatic Design & Engineering in 2008. As President, Martin describes his job this way: “I’m responsible for the direction of the company, operations, and leadership. Making sure we’re taking on the right staff members, projects and vision for the company." As the Creative Director, he leads the Studio Splash design studio. In that role, he oversees anywhere from 10-20 projects per month with his creative team.

Aquatic Design and Engineering, founded in 1987, is all about creating “Engaging Water.” Their focus on detailed engineering and client-driven design shows in their 2,200 projects worldwide. Examples include Morgan’s Inspiration Island at Morgan’s Wonderland,  “the world’s first ultra-accessible splash park,” or the accessible zero-depth pool and interactive water features for the Give Kids The World Village.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines chose ADE to create thrilling slides that were, according to Martin, “a part of the ship's design, to really blend it with the style of the ship." (x)

As a Leader in Aquatic Design, how does ADE approach creating, retrofitting, and expanding aquatic areas for their clients?

“We really try to design from the guest experience,” Martin says. He points out that this isn’t always easy: sometimes the guest is a five-year-old child. “I do have a three-year-old, which helps. Our staff have a lot of children, so we try to think about how the targeted user is going to play.”

We asked Martin for an example of ADE’s design principles in action. Windsor Hills, an HOA in Kissimmee Florida with plenty of rental properties for vacations, wanted to stay competitive with neighboring properties by adding a water park feature. The HOA had already started this process with a landscape architect and pool contractor that weren't delivering what they wanted.

Enter ADE: “I developed a relationship with Windsor. We created a package that would make them a differentiator in the market and be a WOW factor for people on vacation. The owners are really looking for ‘wow’ photos.”

 Windsor Hills, Kissimee FL

Windsor Hills, Kissimee FL

“The Eureka moment was putting together a package that would be a resounding yes for the owners and the renters - two 25-foot slides, a play structure with slides, dumping wheel, and safety floor. It’s a very successful project. Our team got to go out there for a soft opening... watching our kids play on something we designed was very enlightening.”

In this design, you can see some of Martin’s leading design principles: safety and uniqueness, especially Martin’s renown refusal to design any area with standing water, and his aversion to pass-through systems. “We try to avoid doing any type of standing water in children’s play areas. We believe that poses a drowning risk. Especially if kids are knocking down younger kids, the younger kid could end up face down in three inches of water which is unsafe. So the “safe parent approach” is one we take to provide the opportunity for safe play.”


“Secondarily, we really want to make each space unique. We look at everything from the color, to the floor pattern, to the equipment so that the neighboring entities don’t have the same layout. We’re very much a custom design shop with the desire to create one-of-a-kind layouts.”

With renovations and retrofitting, the challenge is to create something new and interesting without straying from the client’s original vision.  “We look at what worked previously, and ask, how do we take that space and reimagine it completely? We want designs that make you say, ‘Wow, I have the latest and greatest installation, but somehow it feels like it has always been here.’”

“Consumers and how people interact in pools is different by region. In Europe, they love lap swimming. In Florida, we don’t think about lap swimming because most Americans like to sit or float in water or be at the edge of a pool. So how can we create more edges and more spaces for people to be in the water? When we approach a renovation, we think about how a demographic is going to use that pool/area.”

Where does Martin see the industry heading in the next few years? He doesn’t think any one place in the world is the example of what the Aquatic Industry will become, nor does he limit his inspiration solely to what other aquatic features are coming to market. “I think the way that Australia and New Zealand look at playgrounds is inspirational.  I think we could use those ideas in America for water play. I look at a lot of modern architecture and ask, how can we apply that to water? New people and new countries building these kinds of spaces think about these puzzles in a different way.”

In America, pools are built out of concrete and have been for decades. Other countries don’t have that established standard. “We designed a 15,500 sq ft swimming pool in Belize out of stainless steel wall panels. The benefits were that it went in 100 days quicker, it saved the owner money, and it had a longer warranty.”

In safety and engineering, Martin takes his role as a leader in the aquatic industry seriously. If projects start with designers, he believes that designers should be the ones stepping forward and creating change, especially when it comes to safety and hygiene issues. Martin is especially averse to pass-through water systems. “Pass-through systems are of the devil. I don’t know how other firms are, but I hope the other firms as industry leaders feel that they should be setting the standards - we shouldn’t have to have manufacturers come to us to tell us safety standards, we should be demanding safety standards as the designers. “

Where does safety fit in this for ADE? Martin thinks that conversation happens right at the start, leading with safety and building up, “We’ve flipped the script. We don’t start with nozzles or features or square feet. We start with budget and then we show you less than that and more than that. If you can’t build it safely and functionally, then you shouldn’t build it. At the end of the day, we want clean water, a safe place for kids to go and we need to come up with basic rules and operations of that. All designs should be practical and functional before anything else.”

Thank you Aquatic Design and Engineering, and Josh Martin, for spending time speaking with us about your design expertise and perspective!

Life Floor intends to highlight industry leaders through this blog series. In doing so, for the sake of accuracy, we may include quotes and opinions that are not shared by Life Floor itself. However, all quotes that appear are included because we believe they are valuable for consideration by both ourselves and for the aquatic industry as a whole.

National Parks and Rec Month: Project Spotlight

Happy National Parks and Recreation Month!


Municipal spaces, near and dear to our hearts, are something we love to explore and talk about. In previous blogs, we’ve discussed The 10 Minute Walk To a Park Initiative [x] and our work to standardize splash pad safety [x]. We’ve especially taken joy in sharing the public splash pads we’ve designed through the years: Bloomington, MN [x], Westfield, NY [x] Clarksville, TN [x].

This July we’re celebrating three municipal projects that embody the importance of Parks and Recreation.

Shoreview Community Center (Shoreview, MN)

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Even before we were a company, the Tropics Indoor Waterpark has been an important part of the Life Floor story.  Growing up in Minnesota, several of us found our love for aquatics at this community center. Now we’re watching our kids swim in this same center thanks to the city’s dedication to educational and fun aquatic programs and facilities.

In 2017 the City of Shoreview became an even greater part of the Life Floor story. The city announced a 13 million dollar expansion, with City Manager Terry Schwerm noting, “We’re really trying to make sure the whole community remains a really desirable place for young families.” (x) With this new focus in mind, the Shoreview Community Center is refurbishing the current indoor Tropics Waterpark, and expanding the aquatics facilities to include a new zero depth splash pool and multi level play structure, With our early childhood ties, our team is thrilled to be part of the refurbishment project, providing a color palette to fit the water park’s theme of tropical, beach fun.


Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Splash Pad (Town of Huntington, NY)

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We are highlighting this project for National Parks and Recreation month because it showcases an important aspect of public spaces: memorializing the life and impact of a notable member in the community. This public splash pad was built for the children and families of Huntington, NY to memorialize and honor Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo who was killed in the line of duty in 2016 (x).  “Sgt. Tuozzolo’s wife, Lisa Tuozzolo, and all those who knew him through the NYPD and SCPD wanted to do something to memorialize his dedication to family and community” (x).

This splash pad became Huntington’s first, and features dump buckets, spray hoops, nearby benches and memorial trellis. The splash pad allows visiting loved ones to honor Sgt. Tuozzolo while children of Huntington interact and play with each other to create a community of shared experience at Elwood Park. Because pools, parks, recreation centers and green spaces aren’t just resources for the community to use, they are often what builds and brings a community together.  

Elk Grove (Elk Grove Village, IL)

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The Pavilion Aquatics Center in Elk Grove, IL is a wonderful testament to how parks and recreation programs can grow with a community. The Pavilion, officially named Jack A. Claes Pavilion Community Center, commemorates the 29-year-long career of Jack Claes as the district’s only Executive Director. During his career, Claes expanded the parks and recreation program from “a few rented rooms”(x) to a rich and varied experience. "We built the programs up and the community responded," Claes said. "Now there's an endless stream of people going in and out.”

Life Floor has had the honor of being part of the program’s growth with installations at Rainbow Falls Waterpark, the Pavilion Aquatics Center, and Fountain Square Park. Our team has loved visiting these facilities to witness the hub of activity and fun for everyone in Elk Grove Village.

A big THANK YOU to all the parks and recreation professionals who build up our communities and create safe, fun spaces for everyone to enjoy. Happy National Parks and Recreation Month!

Water Safety Month: Slip-Resistance

Life-Floor-Slip-Resistance.jpg

In aquatics, we talk a lot about slip-resistance, slip-resisting surfaces, and reducing slip-and-fall injuries. Wet areas can be slippery: it’s why we have bath mats, and slippery-when-wet signs, and Bon Jovi albums.

While it’s pretty easy to tell when something is slippery, defining slip-resistance has been an ongoing discussion. We believe a clear standard can not only help clarify what slip-resistance is, but create a better standard of living for the people who use and love aquatic areas.

What is Slip-Resistance?

The greater the coefficient of friction created between a floor and a foot, the better the slip-resistance is. That being said, people still need to be able to walk on it- since wet areas usually have barefoot traffic, the amount of grit needs to be comfortable and safe enough that it doesn’t abrade bare skin. Sandpaper, for example, has a great coefficient of friction, but it isn’t something you’d want to sit, stand, or walk on for too long.

When Life Floor first came to market, the standard reference in the ADA and most building codes was the ASTM Standard 1028-C. While this test did measure a coefficient of friction for wet flooring, it only measured a static coefficient of friction, which is the amount of force it takes to get an object to move from a point of stillness. Unfortunately, this standard wasn’t exactly related to real-world conditions.

Over time, it became apparent that surfaces which passed this test still witnessed significant slips and falls, especially in areas where kids were active in and around water. ASTM standard 1028-C was pulled in 2014.

How Should We Test For Slip-Resistance?

That’s the trick. Finding a good test that mimics real-world conditions needs careful consideration, which is why we compiled a list of factors that a slip-resistance test should include: 

Running

Kids use splash pads because splash pads are designed for kids. Multi-level play structures and recreational pools also see use from the smallest patrons. In all cases, the challenge is the same: posted rules, parents, and lifeguards can only do so much to restrain the energy of young children. Kids will be kids, and aquatic facilities are designed to encourage this simple truth. Which means that any test for a slip-resistance standard should use equipment that measures dynamic coefficient of friction to simulate running feet and active play.

Water

It’s pretty straight-forward that any aquatic surfacing standard should anticipate surfaces that are constantly wet. The dynamic coefficient of friction should be measured wet, and should take into consideration both treated water (pools and recirculating splash pads) as well as potable water (flow-through systems).

Most slip-resistance tests use soapy water. While soapy water makes sense in shower areas and may apply to locker rooms, soapy water is never used on actual splash pads and is very rare on pool decks. Tests should be completed with the type of water with which the guests actually come into contact.

Bare Feet

While shoes and flip-flops do occasionally come into play, the majority of people using splash pads and pool decks do so barefoot. Only one slip-resistance test, the variable ramp, uses an actual barefoot person. Every other test merely simulates bare feet. Using a rubber “foot” as a slider matters, as it most closely simulates a bare foot or a soft-soled shoe.

Test in Multiple Directions

Pool decks, splash pads, and other aquatic areas can expect traffic coming from all angles, which means that any test measuring the slip-resistance of a surface should test the surface at multiple angles. Testing from multiple angles will prove which surfaces with different grains are either slip-resistant or slick.

Testable in the field

Finally, while lab tests are important, to insure that existing surfaces adhere to the standard, any test that works in the lab should also work in the field. In most cases, it’s simply not practical to remove a pre-installed surface from an existing application and ship it off for testing.

Which Test is the Most Accurate Slip-Resistance Test?

Over the last four years, we have worked with a variety of safety testing companies to find a test which we felt would actually hit all these criteria. We wanted to demonstrate Life Floor’s slip-resistance while wet in real, aquatic-recreational situations. We even created our own test to start this process. As you can see, however, this test didn't hit every need we identified, specifically being testable in the field.

In the end, we did find an existing test that was both reflective of actual performance and most correlated with reduction of injuries: the British Pendulum Test. We use this test because it has a clear measure of both slip-resistance when wet and the degree of slip-resistance. According to the British Pendulum Test, anything with a rating of 36 is deemed slip-resistant when wet. For example, when our tiles are wet, their BPT ratings range from 39 for our Slate texture to 58 for our Ripple 2.0 and Boardwalk textures

Tellingly, most of the developed world already uses the British Pendulum Test. We also found that the Australian standard was the most thorough in establishing criteria for just about every application (pool decks, zero depth entries, locker rooms, being separate areas requiring different levels of slip-resistance).

To learn more about our work on safety testing and standards, you can read our white paper, “Splash Pads Need Safety Surfaces,” here.