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Material World

Daring to be different is a goal held by many, but only some achieve this in the comfort of their own backyard. With the rising popularity of experimentation in pool design and construction, Natasha Brennfleck speaks with Andrew Plithakis, director of Liquid Blue Pools. Read on to find out how acrylic additions elevate the swimming experience, by diving deep into a recent project completed by the Liquid Blue Pools team.

There is nothing quite as indulgent as slipping into a pool that makes you feel special. Whilst this feeling is synonymous with resort-style pools, the tide is turning to elevate the humble backyard pool. Playing with interesting textures, tones, and materials – specifically glass and acrylic walls and windows – pool designers can beautify residential pools and create luxurious and unique poolscapes.

Acrylic has gained popularity in bespoke pool design, and here, Melbourne Pool and Outdoor Design explores the capabilities of this unique material to spark inspiration and add unexpected flare to your next pool project. 

Aquastone Pools & Landscapes

An Unexpected Strength

Coming in many forms and strength levels, glass, laminated glass, and acrylic are suited for different applications. Glass is ok for windows, whilst acrylic is better suited for outdoor pool projects. “When it comes to glass the maximum thickness … is 19mm, so when you need something thicker and durable to sustain water pressure, the glass panels needs to be laminated together,” Plithakis says. “Glass is rigid and brittle, [so it’s] difficult to make custom size shapes.”

It is for these reasons that Plithakis favours the use of acrylic rather than traditional glass. Acrylic is lighter, scratch-resistant, and has greater insulating properties than glass, making it an ideal choice for aquatic use. “[Acrylic] weighs less than half of glass … has 15 times the strength of glass and four times the strength of concrete.” Plithakis elaborates. An integral part of the installation process was considering the weight and pressure of water, proving the strength of acrylic for aquatic use. In this case, because of the sheer scale of the material, the form of the acrylic depends on tonnes of pressure to remain straight and retain the pool’s

 form. During the process of installing the large pool wall in this project by Liquid Blue Pools, “[the] acrylic panel was made with an inward bow so when the pool was filled with water it pushed it straight,” Plithakis explains. “This wasn’t just a piece of acrylic. It was the biggest single piece used in Australia”.

Integrating acrylic and other unique materials into pools comes with its challenges. With such unconventional materials being an addition to already tricky builds – often already having to account for sloping sites, tight timeframes, and weather – the addition of acrylic comes with much risk and requires experimentation and great skill from the tradespeople installing the addition. “Getting the pool made with that slot to accommodate the bow, that was the challenge of [the construction],” Plithakis says, highlighting the difficulties of working with such a large piece of acrylic in the residence’s landscape.  The acrylic wall in this project is both a design feature and an engineering feat, requiring patience and teamwork as heavy machinery and exacting calculations were needed to install the material safely and correctly.

 

Crystal Clarity

Acrylic can be integrated in pool windows, submerged spa walls, and infinity edge spill-overs, bringing drama and life to the humble pool. With these advancements in design, this usually fragile material is flipping expectations to become a sturdy and sought-after addition to pools.

Acrylic creates a stunning unexpected feature wall wherever the pool is positioned because of its ability to make the interior of the pool visible. Acrylic allows more light to enter the space making the pool and outdoor area to appear larger – perfect for tight spaces. Particularly effective in larger pools to emphasise the sheer size of the pool, acrylic bolsters the aesthetics of the pool water and interior tiling into the landscape. As seen in this sensational pool by Plithakis and his team, the acrylic feature wall emphasises the scale of the pool and elevates the grandeur of the entire landscape.

With the advantage of an infinity spill-over cascading into a smaller catchment, such as a moat or a splashpad, a pool’s design can integrate two spaces for waterside play and maximise on entertainment potential. Keeping water safety front of mind, pool designers have found that installing a moat or splashpad below an elevated acrylic panel or wall acts as an extra precaution against pool related accidents without sacrificing aesthetics. “[The edge] spills over into a moat around the pool, to alleviate the need for a pool fence,” Plithakis says. 

Artesian Pools

Through The Looking Glass

The type of acrylic that is used in pool wall construction is key to the features’ success, specifically to ensure the best aesthetic outcome and structural durability. To achieve the strength needed for aquatic use, glass needs to be layered which causes discolouration and warping. “Glass gets distorted with magnification. When you look down at the pieces you see the glass and it looks dark green,” Plithakis says. “In order to achieve strength glass needs multiple pieces laminated together, resulting in distorted views and potential delaminating.” Keeping best practice and materials in focus, it is best to avoid using glass or materials that that may delaminate, distort or discolour, ruining the intended effect.

Plithakis recommends pool owners take care to ensure they are using high quality acrylic, warning against using inferior or imitation acrylic that may not be up to the challenge of withstanding the water pressure loads and overall strength.

Pool owners should take care to choose a professional with proven experience working with this material. “Potential buyers need to be aware of the experience of the [pool builder] because there are a lot of imitation acrylics,” He says, “I frequently get calls where someone’s … used inferior acrylic that’s not specifically designed for aquatic use”.

This material concern is extremely important for pool designers like Liquid Blue Pools, whose pool design “was [at the time] the biggest single piece of acrylic used in Australia in a swimming pool”. As Plithakis says, “you could walk up to a piece of [high quality] acrylic with a hammer and be lucky to take a chip out of it, but glass will smash and shatter”. Selecting quality materials for any size project using acrylic or laminated glass is of the utmost important to ensure the longevity of the pool while maximising enjoyment and viewing potential.

The Wade Forward

If you’re looking for more than just a swimming pool, consider integrating unconventional materials such as acrylic for an attractive outdoor feature. Acrylic elevates your outdoor space to a luxurious retreat that brings the ‘wow’ factor and delivers fun for friends and family. With experimental design cementing a place in the market, unique materials are sure to be part of a future of pool design that is constantly breaking with convention.

Images courtesy of Liquid Blue Pools