Ask an expert
Pool+Spa editor Dannielle Furness spoke with Adrian Swaine, Landscape Designer, Arboricultural Consultant and Founder of ecodesign.
Pool+Spa: Can you tell us a bit about your background (education, where you're from, experience in the pool and spa industry, etc)?
Adrian Swaine: In 2003 I left full-time employment in a top landscape construction company and started out on my own landscape design business. Having studied horticulture, landscape design, arboriculture, permaculture and bush regeneration, the backyard and outdoor living aspect of the pool industry was something I fell into quite naturally.
P+S: How did you come to work in the poolscaping industry? When you were starting out, did you imagine you'd end up where you are now?
AS: I initially traded as “The Other Side", but I was unable to secure that domain name. So when researching alternative names I was able to obtain the “ecodesign" name. Then before I knew it I was operating a fledgling design office (ecodesign) and a start-up landscaping/maintenance business (The Other Side). Initially, in ecodesign we were working mainly on landscape documentation for council development applications. We found an increasing need to incorporate pools into our designs usually around new homes for architects builders and developers. Similarly, The Other Side started out mowing more lawns and trimming hedges than building retaining walls and paving. But as time progressed we attained the correct licences and insurances to venture into structural landscaping. At all times we stayed focused on where we were at that time and making sure we did the best we could for our clients; looking a few steps ahead, relying on good relationships and partnerships to progressively build the business organically.
P+S: In both commercial and residential environments, the pool has come a long way over the last 50 years — it's no longer just a concrete hole filled with water. Is this a fair statement and does it reflect current customer expectations?
AS: Our approach to pool design and poolscaping is to consider the water as a space rather than a volume. This allows us to unshackle from traditional pool layouts and to tailor the structure to individual functional requirements. Through design we can make them more compact whilst also maximising the usefulness, but also making them more beautiful. If well designed, a swimming pool can provide returns of up to 400% on your investment. The squeeze of the great Aussie Backyard has seen a reinterpretation of the backyard pool. Space is a premium, but there has not been a decline in the desire for a refreshing summer dip in the backyard swimming pool.
P+S: How important is it for designers and builders to have an ethos of sustainability? Does the average customer think about the environmental impact of a pool and surrounding elements?
AS: A sustainable mindset is one which is not limited to environmental sustainability, but rather it is a way of approaching all aspects of a business holistically. A sustainable business should recruit, retain and reward clients, staff, suppliers, contractors, strategic partners equally. If a business owner is able to do this the business will be sustainable and rewarding in the long term. Environmental responsibility doesn't mean ticking boxes and wearing a badge. The responsibility needs to be engendered into all aspects of the business culture and operations.
P+S: What are some of the value-add elements that can be incorporated into the design of a pool and surrounding areas without running the risk of overcapitalisation on a property?
AS: When designing the landscape surrounding your pool garden lighting is a great asset, especially when you consider the amount of time you spend entertaining friends and family in the evening. A covered outdoor entertaining area is also sure to get a 2:1 return on investment as a minimum. If you are able to surround your pool and covered outdoor entertaining area with a well-designed plantscape you will have the complete oasis. If return on investment at sale time is of prime concern, consider framing the important views from inside the home and the entertaining areas.
P+S: In a residential environment, how important is the existing home when it comes to design — does it always pay to make the two spaces flow as one or can it work equally well as two distinct or disconnected areas?
AS: Your entertaining areas should be like an extension of your home so your decor should flow through and out to your entertaining areas. The look and feel of finishes, the volume of spaces and the quality of appointments should be consistent inside and out — in this way balance can be achieved.
P+S: How important is communication between all stakeholders in a poolscaping project? What are the pitfalls if everyone is not on the same page?
AS: Concrete is relatively flexible and inexpensive to install but once it is in place it is quite expensive to change or remove. Things like provision for gas, water and electricity is very difficult to retrofit once a pool and its surrounds are in place. During the construction process there can be unforeseen events which require changes to be made. Recently, on a project where a new pool was being installed next to a newly built home, it became apparent that an air conditioner was to be installed within the pool area, which had not been documented on the plans. The implication required the pool to be moved just over a metre, which created a void between the house and the pool that needed to be creatively resolved without losing the original design intent.
P+S: What has been the biggest change in the last 10 years with regard to design and building trends, as well as customer involvement/engagement?
AS: We have seen clients become more educated, more savvy and looking to involve themselves in the process. As a result, they also have a more realistic understanding of the cost associated with achieving a premium finish. We see more people investing in good simple design which maximises functionality and impact.
P+S: What do you see as the biggest challenge in the next 10 years and what trends do you think will prevail?
AS: The Australian style will see influence from global trends towards technology such as 3D printing and integrated automation. Hopefully this will transform pools by increasing forma and function.
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