The Pool Industry: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

Eric Herman Headshot
photo of palm trees near the ocean and a pool drain

Over the past year, I’ve leveled some fairly heavy criticism at the pool construction industry. Some of you have taken me to task over my comments about our industry’s reluctance to embrace change and my speculation about why there seems to be an ongoing spate of construction defects and failures. Others have been supportive in their remarks commiserating that in some respects, the design, construction and repair segments of the industry would do well to up the collective game.

The coverage we’ve given to those problematic issues has unfolded alongside AQUA’s continuing coverage of the many examples of our industry’s finest projects. While that juxtaposition may seem a bit, well, contradictory or even ironic, I would argue that’s a direct result of the reality in the field.

On one hand, as the industry continues to rise from the ashes of the economic crisis of 2008, we are seeing extraordinary examples of truly phenomenal work. There is no question we have a class of designers and builders who continue to push their projects into ever greater and more diverse realms of creativity and ingenuity. On the flipside, talk to any number of quality builders and you are certain to hear story after story of almost mind-bendingly inept missteps.

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Based on my own recent experience covering the industry, both narratives hold water.

This month's AQUA Architecture includes a wonderfully upbeat piece by our old friend and contributor, Brian Van Bower, titled “Reflecting Sunshine.”

For decades now, Brian has been one of our industry’s most enthusiastic proponents and thoughtful critics, as well. This time around, his discussion is all about the unique characteristics of the Florida pool and spa industry. For the most part, his discussion is a celebration of one of the industry’s most enduring and flourishing regional markets.

In stark contrast to that decidedly positive vantage, you’ll also find a diatribe from another regular face in AQUA, Mark Holden, in his piece titled “On the Hazard Watch.” There, Mark chronicles his work conducting safety inspections for mostly public pools, particularly those found at hotels and resorts.

Suffice to say it’s a chilling account in which Mark admits that based on what he’s seen in his far-flung travels, he would not allow his own children to swim in many of the pools he’s examined over the past decade.

To my mind, both accounts have value. In Brian’s case, we see how swimming pools become part and parcel to the cultural identity of an entire state. As such, those who provide quality pool designs and installs in a very tangible way perpetuate the most desirable of regional characteristics, i.e. it’s pretty hard to imagine a place like Florida without the association with pools and the overall aqua culture.

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Mark’s discussion by contrast points to one of the brutal ironies impacting our industry: While we know that the hospitality industry constantly uses pools to stoke occupancy rates, it’s also apparent that for many properties, those sunny media messages are not supported with competent maintenance and management. It’s a deplorable state of affairs that betrays the interest of the pool industry, hotels themselves and ultimately the consumer.

These contradictory stories demonstrate the level to which ours really is a tale of two industries. Yes, we are in the business of providing one of humankind’s most enjoyable and healthful products, while at the same time, it’s clear that many within industry ranks, as well as those tangentially involved in pools and spas really do need to improve.

Both things are true, and as we set our sights on 2015, it’s useful to keep both the bad and beautiful in mind.

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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