On The Edge Of Spectacular

The earliest documented swimming pools include the “Great Bath” at Mohenjo-Daro, now Pakistan, pools built for military and athletic training by the ancient Greeks, and the famous Roman baths, built during the occupation of Britain by Emperor Claudius to stabilize and enclose the natural hot springs below.

Rooftop pools have become increasingly popular. Photo By Mahan Rykiel Associates

Pools have been a part of human civilization since the 3rd millennium B.C. Modern swimming pools began to appear in Britain as swimming clubs became popular in the mid-19th century. The concept expanded worldwide when the Olympic Games restarted in 1896 and included swimming races.

Today, pools of every size, shape, color, and purpose are ubiquitous. Private, residential pools can be found in every corner of the globe and in every climate. Schools, health clubs, recreation centers, hotels, and now even some hospitals seem incomplete without a pool of some type.

Why Build On The Roof?

As land becomes scarce in congested urban areas, pools are becoming more common as rooftop amenities. Hotels and urban residential developments are looking at rooftop pools as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition.

A quick Internet image search will reveal pools with transparent bottoms and sides, pools with infinity edges that merge with the skyline, and pools that jut precariously beyond the roof.

Walk-in edges, chaise-lounge ledges, and pools that double as decorative fountains are some of the new and exotic elements of the traditional pool.

With new building techniques, non-chemical filtration, affordable heating equipment, automatic covers, and other advances in construction, operations, and maintenance, rooftop pools are becoming more realistic options.

Their value as an important amenity and point of differentiation can be seen in the competition among Las Vegas hotels to outdo one another with the latest fantastic pool environments. They become focal points for events and activities both day and night, in addition to their historical role as a recreation amenity.

A pool can enhance the value of a small space, adding a sense of life, color, and movement. It can reflect the sky during the day and, with an infinity edge, visually extend the smallest space out to the horizon. At night, as a shimmering light source, a pool can transform the character of a garden and turn it into a magical place.

Also, as a result of the development world continuing to embrace green technology, rooftop gardens are becoming an attractive opportunity to meet sustainability goals. They can help reduce building operational costs, enhance value for real estate, and meet increasing government demands for less environmental impact, particularly for the capture, filtering, and reuse of stormwater runoff.

The Challenges

Maximizing Space: Most roofs by definition are space-challenged. Getting the most benefit often depends on the population being accommodated. For residential projects for a smaller population, pools can become the focal point for a garden and a place of refuge, as much as a recreation space. In these situations, the landscape may be as important, or more so, than the pool.

Hotels must plan for times when the deck is full with guests. Space for enough seating and lounges is a critical design issue for a successful guest experience. The pools themselves need to address a wider user base–children, casual dippers, sunbathers, and swimmers. Food and beverage are often part of the mix at larger pool decks, and these facilities need to be factored into the design. Separate restroom and changing facilities quite often are necessary.

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