On The Edge Of Spectacular

This rooftop pool in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a popular amenity. Photo By RTKL / David Whitcomb

The rooftop can be a highly desirable, programmable space that enables the operator to host a variety of income-producing entertainment activities, particularly at night.

Pools at the edge of the roof can free up space for a variety of other guest and event activities. The popular infinity edge creates visual drama, and borrows space from the view beyond.

Many pools can be designed to double as fountains, adding sound, light, and movement to enliven the space.

“All pools leak:” So says Trip Knox of International Aquatic Design, a Massachusetts-based pool-design, fabrication, and installation firm. “Pipes move, concrete cracks, finishes wear out, or the pools just sweat from condensation.”

Eventually, even the most carefully constructed pool will leak. This may not always involve the primary containment vessel, but may involve piping, connections, or drains.

For in-ground installations, this is not usually a major problem. But for pools situated above occupied spaces in a hotel or residential development, it can be extremely damaging, disruptive, and costly to repair.

For hotels in particular, which tend toward larger pool installations, this is a major concern. Bigger pools, more weight, and more plumbing invite more opportunities for something to go wrong.

Providing enough space for a meaningful guest amenity typically means using the larger spans associated with a hotel’s public spaces and function areas (i.e., lobbies, meeting-room complexes, and ballroom ceilings). Shutting these down to fix a leaky pool can be disastrously expensive.

Almost all rooftop pools should provide secondary containment as a precaution, creating essentially a pool within a pool with the necessary supporting drainage systems.

A technique quickly gaining favor is fabricating the primary containment vessel in stainless steel as a single unit (or with larger pools, several large pieces that can be lifted into place and welded together), thus significantly reducing the likelihood of future leakage from the pool itself.

These pools are lighter, potentially reducing structural requirements in some cases; provide a higher level of quality control since they are built off-site; and often offset the higher initial cost with simpler and less time-consuming installation at the job site. They can be finished in the same way as with traditional concrete pools.

Wind on the water: Wind is a consideration when designing pools with infinity edges or raised zero edges. In conventional pool designs, where the final water level is recessed 8 to 12 inches below the deck surface, the effects of high winds across the water surface are usually limited to waves occasionally cresting the coping and splashing water onto the deck.

With flush-edge conditions, the increased wave action brought on by high winds can push much larger quantities of water onto the surrounding deck surface. While this typically isn’t a concern where the pool is set back from the edge of the building, it is a point to consider when infinity-edge pools are placed in close proximity to the parapet.

To counteract the sometimes negative effects of this action, it is advisable to install controls that allow the water levels within the pools to be monitored and quickly modified.

At the Four Seasons Hotel in Baltimore, Md., guests are afforded three pool experiences. The fourth-floor feature pool is a raised-edge infinity pool that doubles as a water feature when not in use. An 18-inch granite-clad wall surrounds the pool entirely, and a bull-nosed edge allows water to slip smoothly across its top and down the wall face.

To catch and return water to the pump room, a 12-inch (W) by 9-inch (D) trough was designed at the base of the pool, concealed neatly by slotted, cantilevered stone pavers carrying the required depth and “No Diving” markers.

The fifth-floor amenity space consists of a hot tub with the same raised-edge concept as at the feature pool and a wet deck–a 3-inch beach-entry reflecting pool, which allows for a more subtle interaction with the water.

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