Deck and Patio Takes Two Top Awards
By: June Sullivan
In an era when television commercials ask us if we know the size of our carbon footprint, many on Long Island are trying harder to walk lightly on the earth. In fact, one Dix Hills couple – with the help of The Deck and Patio Company in Huntington – went beyond creating a retreat for themselves. Their new backyard “escape” was designed also to be a home for wildlife and lush vegetation.
“Pictures are not adequate,” says the wife, referring to their property’s new 38-by -18- foot pond and woodland retreat. “You need to be here to hear the sounds of the water and the falls – plus the birds singing and the frogs croaking — and to watch the Japanese koi swimming around. It’s so beautiful. Everyone who comes is overwhelmed.”
Winning a gold medal from the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) in 2005, Deck and Patio was also awarded the APSP’s coveted “Chairman’s Award” for this project. It is also amazing to the homeowners that such a beautiful and nature friendly transformation has been accomplished so quickly.
“I have lived here over 40 years,” says the wife. “Our property has become overgrown. It wasn’t messy but it wasn’t well done anymore. I have always loved birds and flowers and a very natural setting. And we hadn’t seen birds in a long time.”
Felling they had neglected their love of nature long enough, she sought proposals from six or seven long island landscapers.
“A full-time bloom was important as I wanted to attract, in addition to birds, lots of butterflies,” she adds. “I also looked a many ponds that landscapers had done elsewhere. In the end, I felt Bill’s work [Bill Renter of The Deck and Patio Co.] looked the most natural, which was extremely important to me.”
“Our proposal included a deck that actually overhung the pond,” says Renter. “That way it would look as if the pond was partially underneath the deck and continued down the property. Our plans also called for two 35- foot babbling brooks and a four foot multi-tiered waterfall to feed into the pond.”
Renter says he also considered how their work would fit with the additional elements the homeowners had hired other companies to do, such as a conservatory and a small bridge — while always taking into account how everything would appear in nature.
“We understand the way water moves over rock,” says Renter, “which makes our waterfalls and streams looks natural. Movement is determined by the type of rocks you use, thus forcing water to move multiple ways when it comes down over the waterfall.”
The rocks used in this inspired pond installation – some of which weigh over three tons — were imported from farmers’ fields in New Jersey, says Renter. Each rock was hand picked for its particular use, sometimes for their ideal crevices in which garden perennials could be planted.
Every plant was approved by the homeowner wife in addition to being bounced off Deck and Patio’s landscape designer Marc Wiener who is also a certified arborist.
According to Wiener, The Deck and Patio Co. planted 4- 5,000 bulbs, over 300 species of deciduous woody plants, evergreens, and perennials including 150 different varieties of these species.
“The layout of the project detailed different settings and focal points,” says Wiener. “In some cases you are setting next to a pond observing a waterfall; in other cases you’re walking through a woodland path.” The result, says the designer, is a wonderful outdoor experience. First, one is captivated by the sensational color scheme — in colors the homeowners liked pinks, purples, yellows and lavender.
Inside the conservatory, the couple has built a additional small pond to house, during the winter months, the large turtles they have purchased.
“We don’t mind sharing it with them. And it’s the perfect spot to watch all the birds that now come to our property.”
In addition, the couple recently put a spy cam and small light inside one of their birdhouses.
“A male wren built a nest first,” she says. “Then a female came and did some rearranging before staying to lay her eggs.”
In fact, their visiting grandchildren were able to watch the eggs hatch and the mother bird feeding them until they fledged and flew away.
“We couldn’t wait to come home and see how our birds were doing,” she says. “We had the video cam set into our television and our grandchildren could watch the mother bird feeding her little ones as we all sat and ate dinner.”
Their grandchildren also love the vistas from the bridge, she says, especially to watch the Japanese koi swim by. But they don’t let the children throw coins into the water.
“We give them little stones to throw in,” says the homeowner. “Definitely no coins. That wouldn’t be good for the fish.”
Deck and Patio Provides Visible Impact
Recreating water and nature is an art form which takes a trained eye, many years of field experience, extensive knowledge of hydraulics and plant material, a true passion for nature and most importantly and understanding of how to balance the relationship between architecture and its natural surroundings. That is especially true when integrating water with the “built” environment as many site related factors must be considered such as topography, solar exposure, soil conditions, existing trees, property size, active and passive use areas as well as the style of architecture. The client, who is a prominent local architect, loves to incorporate natural materials with his designs for The Deck and Patio Co. it was a perfect match for combining creative ideas and years of experience in design and constructions methods.
Rather than clear cutting this ½ acre property, the residence was designed and built amongst mature oaks, maples and pines so as to preserve the surrounding landscape environment. Considering the size of the property and overall dimensions of the house was an important aspect of the design and required design of the project with the intent that the pool and spa would be built a year or so later, leaving access for pool construction and not disturb much of the existing work. To the client, visual and audio impact was a key element, taking into account viewing angles from inside the house, entering the back yard as well as interacting with the water feature when sitting outside.
According to Marc Wiener, ASLA and Director of Design and Sales at the Deck and Patio Co., “to make a water feature successful, the installation process is very detailed and must rely upon keen eye for rock placement and its direct correlation with the ‘architectural’ elements of form, texture, shape and height including the finishing touches plant material and gravel offers an effort to recreate nature.”
The water feature consisted of a 5’ high multi-tiered waterfall and 35 feet meandering stream which discharged into a 10’ x 15’ freeform Koi pond. The pond was built with much consideration for the fish as natural predators exist in and around the north shore locale. A small cave was constructed for the fish to hide and to lay dormant during the winter months.
So as to minimize the impact of this feature to the much needed lawn area for the clients’ active children, Deck and Patio designed the stream and waterfall to transverse the rear property line and utilized the existing topography to their advantage in order to create multiple spills and change water direction so it could be easily seen as well as heard from the rear patio and from inside the residence.
Landscaping the water feature required much thought so as not to block the views of the stream from the house, future pool and existing rear patio. Understanding how plant material will eventually grow makes for a sound design. Low lying evergreens and groundcover perennials were used in and around the rock outcroppings and stream for color and texture and to soften these large boulders which would otherwise stand out and detract from the overall intent of looking “natural.” Larger flowering planting were installed behind the water feature to provide accenting and screening of the surrounding neighbors and blend with other mature plantings that exist on the site. On lower portions of the slope, the water feature was planted with flowers for cutting and small beds for annuals so the client could interact with the stream garden throughout the season.
After a year of enjoying their water feature, the client decided it was time to install the pool and spa and complete the back yard renovation. The swimming pool had similar design constraints being that the depth of the property were minimal at best it would take up the majority of the left side of the rear yard once installed. The pool was designed with the intent to be “organic” with its natural surroundings. The 24’ x 42’ freeform concrete wall, vinyl lined swimming pool and raised 8’ diameter spa with spillway captured the very essence of the clients desire to have a body of water that would be harmonious with the residence existing patio, outdoor kitchen area, waterfall, stream and Koi pond.
The pool was nestled into the landscape with careful consideration for existing trees and mature shrub root systems so that minimal impact would occur during excavation and construction. In doing so, the mature integrity of the landscape was able to be maintained. The spa was built 12” above the pool water line which provided a picturesque spillway intermingling with the surrounding landscape. From certain vantage points you could see the spa itself, but the client wanted the spa to be unique and provide some seclusion from the main patio and other viewing angles. A 2’ high cascading waterfall was incorporated into the spa design which provided not only a gentle massage should you sit under it, but added to the overall theme of visual and audio effects of moving water in the rear yard.
The spa was situated in this location not for ease of access from the pool; rather it was so the client could view the Koi pond and waterfalls while relaxing in the spa. Since the client did not wish to remove the entire existing brick patio nor have a walkway around the entire pool, a random bluestone coping was incorporated which brought the lawn area up to the pool. This also aided in creating an “organic” relationship between landscape and hardscape. Many landscape designers pave the entire pool area, but with minimal space, inventive ideas come into play in order to conserve on cost and impact to the surrounding setting.
The pool and spa is fully automated with state of the art technology salt chlorine generator, mineral purifiers, pumps and filtration system. All of which can be accessed from inside the house, by the spa or by remote. With rising fuel and energy costs, many of the pool functions are energy efficient and can be programmed to perform minimal tasks to keep the pool water clear and circulating and when needed, the functions of the pool and spa power the waterfalls, spa jets and filtration system.
The pool was also constructed with a moss rock boulder coping which brings the landscape right up to the beam of the pool and created a natural setting. Wiener statues, “Vibration flowers and fragrance provided by many varieties of perennials, evergreen and deciduous plantings created successional color throughout the pool season.” In recognition for the design and installation of the pool, spa and water features, this back yard won two prestigious awards from NESPA and APSP in 2007.
The overall intent to combine water and nature and create a harmonious relationship with the built environment is a task many designers try to capture, but few have mastered the craft. With the advent of new technological advancements in construction methods and the use of green products, Deck and Patio continually strives for creative design solutions and most importantly provide their clientele with quality installations.
Award winning pond designed and built by the Deck and Patio Company in Huntington Station New York. This pond is 16′ X 25′ with a 35′ stream around the back. It was built in Cold Spring Harbor New York. The pond features all Aquscape products including and grande biofall and grande skimmer, a 10,000 gph ADI pump, 3″ plumbing, 45 mil liner with underlayment, all Moss rock pond stone and waterfall, and river gravel. This pond is an ecosystem, and requires very little maintanance. To see more award winning ponds, pool and waterfalls go to http://deckandpatio.com/awards/Awards2007.html
We’ve been conditioned in the United States to think that the only safe water is water that has been sanitized by powerful chemicals and/or devices using ozone or ultraviolet light. In fact, it seems that our industry has promulgated a doctrine that we need to kill everything in the pool (except for swimmers).
While it is certainly true that disinfected water is safe for swimming, we need to keep in mind that we mammals evolved on our planet over millions of years both drinking and swimming in water that was clarified and purified naturally in ponds, streams, rivers and freshwater wetlands.
This makes it interesting to speak with prospective clients about the benefits of natural swimming pools — that is, pools in which biological processes treat the water in place of familiar chemical treatments — and to describe to wary homeowners how plants and microbial activity actually work to make the water perfectly safe for swimming.
Originally a skeptic myself, I have spent a tremendous amount of time understanding the science behind natural swimming pools and observing their operation in the field. Fortunately, the science at the heart of the natural swimming pool concept is well-established. Indeed, it stands at the core of how all healthy freshwater systems work in nature (at least on this planet).
Nature’s Waste-Management System
These days, few of us consider that humankind developed and thrived without knowing how to apply chlorine, ozone or any of the other chemicals or devices used to treat water.
Our ancestors spread across the planet drinking natural water from a variety of sources without much trouble at all. And the waterborne diseases that eventually required chemical water treatment didn’t become a problem until cities became densely populated and the detritus of human occupation contaminated local water supplies. Similarly, the copious quantity of fertilizer used in farming has made its way into water systems, polluting them and knocking them out of their natural ecological balance.
The science behind the biological water treatment in natural swimming pools is called limnology, which some refer to as the “oceanography of fresh water.” It is the study of biological systems present in the fresh water we’ve relied on since the dawn of man. The idea behind natural swimming pools is an extension of this science, bringing common natural processes to manmade systems.
By mimicking the natural processes in a specially constructed and controlled environment, we are able to clarify and purify pool water without the use of chemicals and/or devices. The key to all of this is the nitrogen cycle, which might be best described as nature’s waste-management system.
Here’s how it works: Organic matter made up of debris and detritus enters the water in the form of all the compounds associated with human bathing and other sources (including leaves and fertilizer). These compounds give rise to microbial growth and algae that, since early in the 20th century, we have sanitized and oxidized using chlorine and other substances in our chemically treated pools.
In natural swimming pools, by contrast, beneficial agents called heterotrophic bacteria break down these compounds and convert them to carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia. Next, another beneficial bacteria known as nitrosomonas bacteria converts the ammonia into nitrites (NO2). Finally, in the third step of this elegant process, nitrobacter bacteria convert the nitrites into nitrate (NO3).
Nitrate is the compound that makes up the bulk of the fertilizer we buy to feed plants. In traditional swimming pools, this material can be a major problem, as nitrates are the primary food for algae. In a natural swimming pool, however, nitrates are removed by aquatic plants that we place in what we call regeneration zones.
In effect, the detritus that would otherwise require oxidation is instead used to grow plants, and the plants removing the nutrients from the pool water results in pool water that is perfectly clear.
Again, in achieving this effect we are relying on ecological relationships that exist in natural bodies of water. In this context, bacteria are essentially “reducers” that take detritus and transform it into oxygen and nutrients for plants and phytoplankton such as algae. The phytoplanktons and oxygen are then consumed by a host of tiny animal species categorized as zooplanktons.
Natural swimming pools include the abovementioned regeneration zones (or what some call constructed wetlands) to harbor these biological processes and make the water safe for swimming. And that is just one application of this approach: In fact, the “wetlands effect” is now being used with great success to treat mass quantities of wastewater and to restore natural bodies of water to healthy, balanced conditions.
(In fact, one of my friends has successfully used constructed wetland technology in lieu of a septic system at a number of homes in the Colorado Rockies, and many municipalities are now planning systems that use constructed-wetland technology for municipal sewage and wastewater treatment.)
The conceptual foundation for all of this is the nitrogen cycle as it’s applied in closed-loop systems. Here, the compounds that might otherwise engender growth of harmful pathogens instead wind up inside the plants, which we can harvest and remove from the system. Through this harvesting, we actually reduce the volume of nutrients carried by the overall system — although once the nutrients are bound up in the plants, they no longer are a source of potential problems.
Harvesting is just one of the tactics we use to control the nutrient burden. Another key detail of these systems is the fact that the plants in our constructed wetlands are not rooted in soil; instead, they grow in gravel in a hydroponic system. The only place these plants can gather nutrients is from the water itself, so they’re very hungry.
Not only do these concepts make sense, they can be applied with just a few variations on the techniques that are already used to build conventional swimming pools. These natural systems, for example, require proper hydraulic design with respect to flow rates, turnover rates and pump/plumbing sizing — just as is the case with their chemically treated cousins.
As for differences, there are two main ones, both of which are related to the design and construction of the regeneration zones. First, the gravel must be right for the job; second, the system must be set up so the aquatic plants stay hungry — meaning we are sure to eliminate any surface runoff into the pool that can carry fertilizers, pesticides or other organic compounds into the water from the surrounding landscape.
Additionally, the water plants must be able to out-compete the algae for the nutrients in the water, thereby limiting the amount of algae that can grow in the system.
It also bears mentioning that proper regeneration zones will attract animals in the form of amphibians, insects, birds and other species that thrive in natural wetlands. A family of happy frogs living in a regeneration zone is a good indication that the system is in equilibrium. In fact, we use skimmers that are frog-friendly; instead of finding bleached-white dead frogs in our skimmer baskets, the frogs are able to easily escape.
Setting Accurate Expectations
In speaking with clients about these systems, we’ve come to recognize that it is extremely important to set accurate expectations.
Most of us have had the experience of swimming in natural bodies of fresh water in the form of rivers, streams, lakes and ponds — and we survived with little concern about the presence of plants, microbial life forms, biofilm and other animals. Nonetheless, once you start talking about a “swimming pool,” all sorts of suppositions about how that body of water will look and how it will perform crop up almost instantly. The natural swimming pools that I have seen — designed and built correctly, of course — all had water that was transparently clear, and I was perfectly able to see right to the bottom of the deep end.
We never make any bones about it: The inescapable fact is that natural swimming pools teem with life, and the distinction we work to convey is that the nitrogen cycle our clients’ children are learning about in their science classes is what makes that water safe for swimming.
We also point out in some cases that our own bodies teem with microbial life. In fact, every healthy human body plays host to trillions of microbes of perhaps a thousand different species. The list of those that are harmful is infinitesimal compared to the vast majority that are beneficial. We couldn’t survive without them. Indeed, our bodies host about 10 times more bacteria cells than human cells — so all in all, we’re about 90 percent microbes!
Ultimately, we keep coming back to a simple fact: The processes we use to keep the water safe in natural swimming pools are akin to the reliable set of enduring biological relationships that enabled our ancestors to flourish around the globe without ever giving a passing thought to the plants and microbes that keep us safe.
In 2006 The Deck and Patio Company was awarded the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals Chairman’s award, the highest award, for a design and construction that we proudly built in Dix Hills, NY. This honor signifies recognition not just from our industry peers, but from the association as well. We have hundreds of successful ponds and water garden projects and we are always proud to show you photos to inspire you on the possibilities for a pond and water garden on your own. See video of Bill Renter from the Deck and Patio Company as he describes his favorite pond project on House TV
In 2010 The Deck and Patio Company was recognized again, this time by the APSP with a GOLD Medal for residential waterfeature design. This project was located in Nassau County Long Island and feature a 260′ x 45′ Waterfall, and Pond with rainwater harvesting , biological bog filtration, and a 3,000 gallon water storage vessel for irrigation in the surronding landscape.
The Deck and Patio Company only uses current “state of the art” water garden products, visit AQUASCAPE INC.™. for more information.
To get the design that works with your water garden or other water features, call 631 549-8100 or email the Deck and Patio Company.