Leaders in Aquatic Design Series: Counsilman-Hunsaker

Tom Muehlenbeck Center, Plano, TX

Tom Muehlenbeck Center, Plano, TX

In our architect and design firm series, we aim to get a barometric read over the entirety of the aquatics industry by sitting down and talking with major architectural firms who are helping shape the industry by creating dynamic, innovative and landmark designs for aquatic environments around the world.

In the third installment of the series, we had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin Post, a principal at Counsilman-Hunsaker. Kevin Post leads the operations division of the firm, and is also the former Aquatics Director at the University of Texas. “All of the facilities I worked at were designed by Counsilman-Hunsaker. As I went through my career, I knew I wanted to focus on aquatics, and so the transition was natural for me.”

Post isn’t likely to be the first person inspired by one of Counsilman-Hunsaker’s facilities. The firm has been around for over 45 years, and has completed more than 1,000 aquatic projects “of every size and complexity.” [x] The firm was started when Olympic swimming coach, James E. (Doc) Counsilman, Ph.D., and former three-time National Champion and World Record Holder, Joe Hunsaker “joined forces to create what has grown to become the Aquatic Design Industry.” [x]

Post gave us his perspective on how he and his firm approach meeting the challenge of delivering market leading designs every time.  According to Post,  “part of our job is constant improvement and evaluating what’s new in the market…  we are constantly researching new products and getting a pulse for what’s new in design. If we’ve researched a new product, we’ll definitely recommend new products for our clients consideration.”

Emphasizing this point, Joe Hunsaker wrote in the firm’s blog hydro+logic:

“Taking time away from the press of current work, to gain the knowledge of others, is an example of the struggle between “the urgent and the important.”  If we are to consider ourselves professionals, and responsible for providing our clients with the best knowledge and recommendations, it’s logical that we should take every opportunity to know what others in our field are thinking.”

Also important is leveraging the collective knowledge of the firm over time. “[We have] a design criteria manual that basically is a compilation of every piece of design knowledge collected throughout our entire history. … most people say they’ve never seen anything so complex and complete, compiled in one place..”

At the moment, Counsilman-Hunsaker is especially concerned with sustainable design. “Because we focus on long-term sustainability, we look at functionality as part of design. We favor a total costs approach, taking into consideration use, maintenance and sustainability, and discourage  the approach that favors value engineering where it would save in the short but not medium to longer run. ” said Post.

Looking through the firm’s portfolio, there’s a focus on recent projects receiving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver & Gold certification, like the Kroc Center in Chicago, IL.

Given the firm’s sense of curiosity about new creations and appreciation of well-made materials, where does Post see the future of aquatics coming from? “Many new suppliers and manufacturers share their new ideas with us and we might even ask for new products to be developed if our clients ask for new technology. I’ve actually found in the aquatics world that the US is 10 years behind Canada, and Canada is 10 years behind Europe. So, we often send people over to Europe to learn about the newest technologies and design innovations.“

But innovation for the firm isn’t limited to products and technologies. Post explains the idea behind their circle of services as a way to continue supporting clients beyond the construction phase. “We were creating wonderful designs and handing them off to the owner. Now we are offering services to support the entire business of an aquatics facility. For example we offer operational audits, staff training and on-boarding, and brand development and marketing services. Our ultimate goal is to always be a resource to aquatics professionals.”

Thank you to Counsilman-Hunsaker and Kevin Post for spending time speaking with us about your design expertise and perspective!