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.