I blame Snoop Dogg.
Him and his rapper pals in the early 90s, pushed their R’n’B and Hip Hop Music through the MTVs into impressionable minds. Pool-side parties and bikini-clad babes flooded our screens and jammed the air waves. Everyone knew if they were either a ‘blood’ or a ‘crip’. If they didn’t, then there were quizzes in magazines which could tell you who you should be drive-by shooting on the weekend.
What was the result? A demand for swimming pools. In Britain, where our average summer days reach the dizzying heights of 24 degrees Celsius…if we’re lucky, for one day.
At this time I was still getting by doing odd jobs for friends of friends, struggling to pay my rent each month. Luckily for me, one of these friends was kind enough to put my name forward to build a pool for a rich colleague.
Now, I had built walls and I had laid down concrete drives. So, in my infinite wisdom, I took the job. How hard could it really be? After all, a swimming pool is just a big concrete drive with bricks around it, right?
My new client, an estate agent who came complete with a perfect smile and Porsche 911, wanted a 7ft deep, 20 x 40ft monster in his back garden…in Skegness. There was no persuading him to go smaller. Even though he knew that I was a one-man outfit, he felt that he needed the space to hold his Diddy-style raves and that I was the man for the job.
Unlike his pool dimensions, his budget was small. Hence the reason for hiring a one-man crew to build, what was to be, the largest private pool in the county. So I had quite the job ahead of me, with very little experience and no real clue where to begin.
Of course, if you wanted to attempt a pool build today you’d be able to consult the internet. You could find forums, blogs and videos explaining every step – from material sourcing to logistics to the build itself. However this was the 90s. I wasn’t to buy my first computer for another 15 years and no pool building company would dare share their precious processes with an upstart like myself.
So I had to call further afield. Much further. Luckily, for me, I had contacts in America who were willing to discuss their methods. The build was scheduled to take one month. It took two. Two months of drowning in concrete, cutting my hands on tiles – I spent four days alone fitting a diving board and I had 50kg of materials left over. All I can say is, thank God I didn’t care about sustainability back then.
I know now that the carbon footprint for the production and delivery of concrete is massive. With the power of the internet, my knowledge base has expanded to include all sorts of techniques and methods for building green swimming pools.
Here in England, companies have developed swimming pools that are completely chemical-free, utilising clay and gravel in place of concrete. Natural filtration systems support the production of friendly bacteria (think Yakult for your swimming pool) and small fish get rid of any gnats or mosquito larvae.
If I’m commissioned to consult on a new pool, I’ll offer a sustainable option as standard. Some clients are a little worried about the prospect of spending thousands of pounds on, what is essentially, an oversized pond – but there are some ways to win them over.
What I’ll try and suggest is a combination of natural and artificial. It’s not hard to do win over liberal clients who are keen to save the planet, but for more stubborn individuals there’s always the cost-benefit analysis.
The expensive part of the pool is usually the main construction. Take away the concrete and suddenly the whole endeavour becomes a lot more affordable. This leaves room in the budget for a quality pool skimmer and filtration system to give the customer peace of mind that they won’t be swimming in a glorified marsh.
With a reliable team of helpers, I can get a hybrid-eco pool set up within 10 days. Once your moss lined, cress filled pool is complete you may not feel like a ‘blood’ or a ‘crip’ but you could still end up swimming with the fishes!