A Blistering Safety Issue

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Sizzle. The sound you’d like to avoid when wet feet touch hot concrete. If you’ve ever been to an outdoor aquatic facility in the summer, this problem is likely a sore subject. One of the most common complaints brought to us by operators is the issue of hot surfaces throughout outdoor facilities, specifically on pool decks, stair towers, and walkways. It comes as little surprise then to learn that concrete can reach temperatures hovering around 120°F, while rubberized surfaces can easily reach temperatures above 140°F. In one recent study, a rubberized surface was reported to be 170°F (X).

So how big of a safety concern is this?  

For reference, the American Burn Association states that human skin begins to feel pain at 111°F and can sustain first degree burns at 118°F and second degree burns at 131°F (dependent on the duration of skin contact and skin age with younger children being more susceptible to burns). On average, third-degree burns can appear in as little as five seconds at these higher temperatures. Permanent damage and scarring appear after one minute of contact with surfaces over 140°F. We’ve included the table below from the American Burn Association to show the relationship between time, temperature and third degree burns.

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We’ll spare you the photos, but the issue of burns is sadly common among young children throughout the hottest seasons, and waterpark operators are searching for a better answer.  

You Can Drop Eggs on Life Floor, But You Can’t Fry ‘Em

Imagine stepping into a pair of hot flip flops left in the sun - while hot initially, they cool down nearly immediately after stepping into them. That’s very similarly the phenomenon with Life Floor tiles. While our tiles will be warm to the touch in direct sun exposure without water, tiles will also cool quickly when standing in the same place for a few seconds due to our material’s unique ability to dissipate heat. In fact, our tiles do not retain heat, which is the main contributing factor to hot surfaces like concrete. The reason for this is because of the tile’s low thermal conductivity, which in other words means our foam material is very temperature stable.

Even better, in areas that are consistently wet (spray grounds, zero-depth entries, multi-level play structures), Life Floor tiles stay cool.  

Adding Color & Style to the Solution

We recommend our lighter color tiles for surfaces with direct sun exposure (think Sandbar, Sandstone, Ivory, Foghorn, iceberg ) to keep the surface as cool as possible. Additionally, Life Floor can be installed over metal floor drains and similar metal features to eliminate metal burns.

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So there you have it. You can drop eggs on Life Floor, but you can’t fry ‘em.

Contact solutions@lifefloor.com to learn more about Life Floor solutions for your facility.

Leaders in Aquatic Design: Water Technology, Inc.

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For our third and final installment of the 2018 Leaders in Aquatic Design series, we had the special pleasure of speaking with two leaders in the field, Douglass Whiteaker, Principal, and President of Water Technology, Inc (WTI) and Jen Gerber, Senior Business Development Coordinator.

Whiteaker’s decades of work within the industry has provided WTI with an expert perspective on how aquatic facilities are moving into the future. When we asked how he found himself in the industry, Whiteaker replied, “I would say I started in the industry at 6 years old with my first competition,” explaining that his competitive swimming is what first introduced his father (an engineer) into aquatics and later influenced his own career path. Gerber’s work with WTI has focused on understanding the evolving scope of the aquatic industry through developing strong relationships with other aquatic leaders, as well as taking an active approach within industry organizations.

WTI handles nearly every aspect of creating water experiences for their clients including masterplanning, design and engineering, theming and branding, and construction administration. “We do a little bit of everything, in every state, in every province, and all around the world, which roughly equates to 150+ projects a year,” Gerber explained. Whiteaker expanded, “We handle the gauntlet of different types of aquatic facilities throughout the world. We do many of the destination waterparks both indoor and outdoors, and municipal aquatic facilities in North America and beyond. We design resorts and competitive facilities all around the world as well as membership-based facilities like country clubs, YMCA’s and wellness/fitness centers.”

With WTI’s expansive reach across aquatic markets, the firm prides itself in understanding the different needs of each user group across markets. “Our team is unique in that we focus on scalable innovations for our clients. Whether large waterpark or small municipality, innovations are finding creative solutions within schedules and budgets,” Gerber said, pointing to the rise of municipal waterparks, which have been influenced by larger resort parks.

So while needs differ between user groups, how WTI approaches each client remains universal. WTI’s design principles are based on the belief that good design considers user experience. In the Athletic Business article Trends in Aquatic Design Over the Past 40 Years Whiteaker notes, “Though the operation and construction costs have increased due to new methodologies and technology, ultimately these changes are driven by the higher level of expectations of the consumer, who desires a safe, healthy and entertaining experience for patrons," (x)

In our interview Whiteaker goes on to explain the term ‘water-tainment’, “It's about how we maximize pool participation through ensuring visitors have a great experience. In the municipal market, not only do we want to make sure we have the entertainment and recreation side dialed-in, but we also want to make sure that we have the ability accommodate aquatic programming opportunities for the facility. In all aquatic environments, but more specifically, membership-based and sports swimming facilities, pools have to provide a great experience for all abilities, which includes safety as well as social interaction. Watertainment is ultimately something different for each patron, age group, ability and interest and as designers, it is our job to deliver that experience to everyone.”

Gerber adds that the firm believes strongly in trying anything at least once, “We are constantly creating new designs that blow the last thing we did out of the water. Whether that is creative theming or making an immersive environment, to the entire park experience, we are always looking for ways that we can grow and innovate.”

This focus on innovation can be seen in projects like YAS Waterworld (x), a waterpark in Abu Dhabi UAE, where waterparks and resorts compete for the growing tourism market. WTI designed four one-of-a-kind rides throughout the park. National brands like Great Wolf Lodge, North America’s largest family of indoor waterpark resorts, continue to choose WTI for their immersive, themed environments and have completed seventeen facilities together, with multiple currently in development.

With WTI’s reach across markets, their eureka moments in design often happen when they take a trend in one market and apply it to another. “Lazy rivers initially became popular in waterparks and after seeing that trend, the aquatic industry responded to municipalities by providing an opportunity to participate in recreational venues.” Gerber explained. Whiteaker went on to describe how eureka moments also happen when clients want to reimagine aquatic features for programming, “Lazy Rivers started as a leisure activity, and later became an avenue for fitness programs - adults could walk with the current, exercising and socializing along the way.”

Gerber also believes many innovations stem from working within the client’s current space constraints and existing infrastructure. “Typically there is a sentimental attachment to the existing space, someone in the community loves an aspect of the facility and that’s why they choose not to start fresh,” Gerber said, “For example, there are many old L-shaped pools where people fell in love with the facility and cherish the memory of learning to swim. For that reason, Facility Directors are not going to destroy a nostalgic community space, instead they’re going to renovate it. The bottom line in these situations is being respectful of the relationships and the memories that exist in that facility while also providing a fresh vision for rejuvenation.”

Safety is also a significant planning stage in the design process with Whiteaker stating, “Part of achieving the owner’s goals and objectives means designing a space that is safe and efficient. For example in a recreational facility, one way to consider the safety of users means thinking about the layout. Placing zero depth entries near the entrance of the facility means that when kids are excited and run away from parents toward the water, they’re running into less than two feet of water as opposed to the deep end.” Whiteaker goes on to explain that safety also includes addressing the number of staff (and therefore staffing budget) a facility will need to properly oversee attractions and swimming areas. Facilities can add hundreds of thousands of dollars (even millions) over the course of the facility’s life if a design requires more life guards and staff to keep it safe.  


Thank you WTI, Jen Gerber, and Douglass Whiteaker 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: 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.