Fountain Man

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Last we heard from Bill Goddard, owner of Goddard Construction Services in Woodbridge, Calif., he and his crew were putting the finishing touches on a 6,000-square-foot gunite swimming pond (!) for a client with a 4.2-acre estate in Stockton, Calif., about an hour east of the San Francisco Bay area.

But Goddard's work on the estate wasn't finished. The client, who Goddard somewhat needlessly points out "loves water," wanted more than the massive pond, 125-foot-long real-rock waterfall, two streams, four pools, koi ponds, streams and water gardens Goddard had created for her, so Goddard designed and built another water feature in the front yard, as well as a couple in the back. With all that water going on, it was tricky finding just the right location for each element.

"We had to make sure the fountains fit within the overall design," he says.

One of the biggest design concerns was the view angles, for the large fountain in front as well as the two he built behind the house, one of which serves as a centerpiece for a pool cabana. But even more important, Goddard says, was the design of the circulation and filtration, the integrity of the shells and the planning of the water and electrical delivery.

"We tell the client, 'Everything that you see is going to be beautiful, but it's what you can't see and what's underground that's most important, because it gives us the ability to do things right,'" he explains.


Goddard's client had a big budget, and Goddard certainly drew up some big plans. The fountain in front of the house features three tiers, a 20-footdiameter base and water that sprays 20 feet into the air at a rate of 250 gallons per minute.

Rather than rely on his own knowledge of hydraulics, Goddard turned to The Fountain People, a firm with experience in large-scale commercial fountains for hotels, universities, corporate headquarters and city plazas around the world, for some assistance with the technical end of things on the largest of the fountains.

"Suppliers can help you immensely," he says. "We bought a pre-manufactured fiberglass vault with all the pumps, filtration and auto-fill already in the unit. And The Fountain People supplied all of the components."

The vault is buried in the ground and covered by a green lid that blends in with the surrounding grass. In it there are two pumps, a 1- and a 3horsepower. The larger of the two runs suction and return into the two lower basins of the fountain, and the other runs the 4-foot-diameter brass spray ring and decorative centerpiece.

"Their engineering staff did the calculations and the design of the filtration system for that one," he says. Goddard and his team specified the pumps and motors for the two smaller fountains.

The help he got from his manufacturer on the main fountain helped address an area that Goddard says is too often overlooked in fountains: filtration and water quality.

"Because we're on big estates and we're doing unique things, we do a tremendous amount of research ahead of time and talk to lots of suppliers and experts in the industry. One of the things I've noticed is that filtration and maintenance aren't given enough attention," he says.

"There's a lot of negative impressions because people put these beautiful fountains in, and they look great for a couple of weeks, then on the first hot day they'll get a huge algae bloom.

"There's a high percentage of fountains that are put in with either no filtration or with improper filtration," he says. "And that can lead to algae problems. And chemicals, whether hand applied or automated, are important, too."


Another key step in GCS's construction is to make sure the only water that escapes the fountains does so through evaporation.

"All of those vessels have woodformed, poured-concrete basins with water-stops between the horizontal and the vertical surfaces," Goddard says. "The water-stops are plastic pieces that go in the concrete so that when you have a transition that you pour separately, it helps waterproof."

In addition, GCS uses Sikaflex, a waterproofing caulk, and two coats of Thoroseal, another waterproofing compound. "Then we plaster on top of that," he says.

Some clients opt for sensors that will shut the fountain down when winds reach a certain speed, but this client "didn't want to go to that extra expense," according to Goddard. Even the biggest spenders — the total cost for this project approached $3 million — have their limitations.


Of the three fountains GCS built, only two were called for in the initial design for the property.

"The wall fountain was an addition," Goddard explains. "We wanted to add another destination point. There are 1,700 feet of path that go around the property, and we had an area on the property wall where we could put it.

"The path is kind of a country garden style and it meanders through and down to that wall fountain. It's in a very formal area, and the sconces are bronze castings. The center one is a hummingbird with the water coming out."

In some cases, a late change in the game plan could trip up a builder (You want another fountain where?), but, Goddard explains, he designed the water and power delivery with just this sort of thing in mind.

"That's typically what happens with our clients," he says. "So many changes are made, either by them or by me, from a design standpoint, and we want to make sure things flow and fit."

To accommodate changes like these, Goddard ran an oversized utility loop 1,700 feet around the perimeter of the property to deliver water and electricity. That way, he says, he didn't have to "dig up the yard completely."

Of course, not many builders are called upon to design pools, fountains, streams, ponds and more for $3 million backyards (or, in this case front and backyards), but Goddard insists the same principles of aesthetic and functional design apply to all fountain projects.

"You need to make sure fountains fit within the overall design, whether you're doing just a fountain or a whole project like this one," he says. "Take the fountain in the cabana. It's dead center to the door of the house, and it's laid out correctly. Everything is about view angles, and it's all designed to make sense together."

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