Anyone have any experience designing natural swimming pools (NSPs) in the eastern United States? I am in the midst of designing one for a new residential project. But it's a relatively new concept in the US and there are not a ton of resources available.

Views: 2348

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Hi Miles,

I used to work for BioNova Natural Pools. At that time, we were just really getting started with work in the US though the German headquarters had been in practice for over 2 decades. Now they have built a few residential NSPs and are working on the first public one in the states. I don't mean to sound like a sales pitch, but what I can tell you is that it's a pretty technical/scientific process to get the system to function properly. You might try to wing the design and construction based on whatever research you can find, but I think it would be safer (in terms of water quality) to work with an experienced company that has really refined the technology. BioNova has there are several licensed "dealer partners" in the Northeast that could do the construction and technical aspects of the NSP while working with you (the landscape architect) to get the design right if that's the direction you wanted to go in. Either way, good luck on your project! It's such a neat concept, I hope they become a lot more common in the US.

Kara thanks for the reply. I have had some correspondence with BioNova and they also provided me with a proposal do consult on the design and construction.  It's a fairly expensive contract, but maybe worth it.  It does seem like a fairly straight forward system, but I'm also very concerned about making sure it works, and being the one responsible for the design when it would be my first time.  Are you familiar with a UK based designer named Michael Littlewood? I have one of his books (he has a series of 3) where he encourages people to build their own and provides a good bit of technical detailing.

Yeah, I knew it would be expensive. I do know of Michael Littlewood and his books -I know my boss hated them and thought they were very technically flawed and gave poor advice. Without actually having built an NSP myself, I can't really judge. I guess your best bet would be to try to track down people who own pools built with Littlewood's instruction and see how they function (how much algal growth, water testing results, etc. -keeping in mind that some slimy biofilm is normal.) But I'm guessing that's exactly what you're trying to do by posting on here!

Interesting you said that. I'm finding that the book I have is not very well written and has some confusing descriptions. I'm definitely looking for more scientific guidelines.  Maybe I need to revisit the BioNova proposal. So are you using what you learned at BioNova with whatever you are doing now? Are you involved with building NSPs?

No, I'm not using anything specific to natural pools now. I work for a small landscape arch/planning firm that does a lot of public sector work. I just wanted to work under an LA and get some broader experience in the field so I didn't get pigeon-holed into pools -but I would love to get involved with NSPs (in a more technical hands-on way) again sometime in the future. It seems like they're about to hit a turning point in the states now, especially when the first public NSP is built.

Exactly. I would really like to be able to add this to my skillset. But really don't want to have a failure the first time

Hello Miles;

My only input concerning (NPS) with ANY type of man-made pool, you are going to have "structural design" elements when designing these pools. 

I have very extensive experience (over 30+ years designing private & commercial pools & water features).....several hundred.  One of the most important things I learned over the years is that a "Licensed Structural Engineer" should be retained to design ALL "structural" elements of the pool.  They have the expertise with respect to soils & structural design that Landscape Architects don't have.  Well, I realize we are taught to design "details" for just about everything we design....but, the liability that comes with "structural design" is serious business.  If a pool structure fails or a person is injured due to a defect in the structural design...someone is going to be sitting on the WRONG end of a law suit. So, I would design the pools/water features...and add a note that basically stated "All structural design elements for this pool shall be provided by a Licensed Structural Engineer".  I specified things like pool tile, coping, plaster type/color, pool decking, shape, depth, pool safety elements, etc...and ensured that every pool design was 100% within code compliance (city & state)...also, very important, as those codes vary...but, normally the STATE code prevails over all city pool codes.

I've never designed an (NSP).....I turned over my designs to home owners and developers...and I feel sure that the pool water was treated with "chemicals".


J. Robert (Bob) Wainner

In fact, the permit process requires stamped engineered drawings in most states...NY and Ct for addition to naming licensed electricians, plumbers etc on the permit. The permit will also identify pool enclosure regulations that must appear on drawings.

Many towns also require approved grading and drainage plans as well.

I think your biggest challenge is with the health department; if they see something new they may really stumble you through the permit process.  You may have to become an educator for these folks to help move your project along.

Hi Miles,

I Have been interested In this subject for a number of years but have a not had the opportunity to design or build a Natural pool.

Attached is the information I have on constructing natural pools. Maybe it will be of some use.

It is a great idea, good luck, please keep me abreast of your Progress.

Todd Chambers


Todd this is great. Thank you. I'm currently talking with BioNova Pools about consulting on the mechanical and biological aspects with me designing all the 'aesthetic' aspects. But ultimately I would like to be able to design everything myself. Just takes a client that wants one and right now I have one.

It's fantastic : been looking for that client for a few years now, and all my time researching the topic still cannot come to fruition. Best of luck for the process !

In all my internet wanderings and book readings, the most useful source I found is a book written by Wolfram FRANKE : "Der Traum vom eigenen Schwimmteich", 2004. I have the french translation, and I'm confident you can find one in english.

It's extremely clear under all aspects of technical details, from water quality, to construction, planting and so forth... but better than anything else, it makes this concept so clear and simple, that you can't feel shy anymore, and feel ready to walk into the process with a degree of confidence.

Keep us updated on your progress !

I lived in Germany for 11 years (2000-11) and worked the last 4 of those at a design/build firm that has built several of these pools: I also freelanced for a similar company that builds several each year:

It is really not that difficult, and the possibilities for design are endless. You can see a variety of styles by checking out these company websites. For starting out, it might be easiest to combine a preform pool with a biofilter system and plant filter zone rather than dealing with either concrete pools or pool liners for the swim zone.

If you need any help with German translations, feel free to pm me.


New Jobs!



Professional Development 4 Replies

I am looking for a better way to manage my own self-education of our profession. I have amassed a collection of books that I would like to read but I also find that I don’t have much time for that amongst my other responsibilities.  I was thinking…Continue

Tags: Development, Professional, Education

Started by Bentley Ruggles in EDUCATION. Last reply by Bentley Ruggles on Saturday.

LARE Professional Experience 6 Replies

Hi,So I am in the process of taking the LARE here in California. I am currently getting the last bit of my professional experience by working in the public sector under the supervision of a Civil Engineer.How common is this? Has anybody gotten…Continue

Started by Smithhart in PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE. Last reply by J. Robert Wainner on Saturday.

Compost Blankets 2 Replies

This seems like such a simple question but I haven't been able to find an answer on the internets...Can anyone explain what the difference is between a compost blanket and a layer of regular compost? Is there some kind of binding medium mixed in to…Continue

Started by Katherine Jacobs in DETAILS & MATERIALS. Last reply by Jamie Chen on Wednesday.

Pollution caused by Industrial Facilities 1 Reply

How landscape architecture can help to mitigate the pollution caused by industrial facilities?, like carbon from the coal industries.

Started by Ian C. Santiago in GENERAL DISCUSSION. Last reply by Jamie Chen Oct 17.

© 2017   Created by Matt Alcide.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service