• jonnynalepa

The Worlds First Transparent Pool That Spans Between Two Buildings

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

Londons Embassy Gardens luxury apartments and shopping complex will hold the worlds first and only "Sky Pool" elevated 115 ft. in the air.

If you've ever wanted to swim in a pool that made you feel like you were flying, wait until you see the newest watery edition to Londons Embassy Gardens. They're building the worlds first transparent pool that spans between two buildings and it's already under way. The two stainless steel sides that rest on either building have already been lifted into place and the acrylic panels are en route.

It's soon to be the first of it's kind with no other swimming pool like it in the world. The pool itself is 82' long x 16' wide and will be suspended more than 100' in the air, 10 storys up. Where things get interesting is that the pool also spans 45' between two buildings by way of completely see-through acrylic panels.

It's both an Architectural and Engineering feat that involves some serious expertise and coordination from Developers, Architects, Engineers, Stainless Steel Swimming Pool Specialists and Acrylic Specialists. The Architects involved are HAL Architects and Arup Associates, who are working alongside Structural Engineers Eckersley O'Callaghan to develop detailed drawings showing how this vessel comes together. They also brought on board some of the best stainless steel and acrylic manufacturers in the game, Bradford Products and Reynolds Polymer who I’ve worked alongside with on previous projects so I know just how capable this team is.

In fact, in my opinion, Bradford Products fabricates some of the highest quality residential and commercial stainless steel swimming pools and spas in the world. They're also something of a specialty in rooftop applications with swimming pool projects in places like The Cosmopolitan, The Golden Nugget and The Palms all in Las Vegas, Aspire Academy in Qatar, Resorts World Bimini in the Bahamas, The Dream Hotel in New York and many, many others. They even fabricate stainless steel spas for Mega-yachts.

Reynolds Polymer also fabricates and installs some of the highest quality acrylic panels on the planet on both residential and commercial applications ranging from pools and spas to aquariums and even underwater restaurants. They provided and installed the acrylic for the Indianapolis Zoo, The Intercontinental Hotel Pool in Dubai, The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, The Market Square Tower Pool in Texas, the Yeosu Aquarium in South Korea, the Oceania Shopping Center in Moscow, the AquaDom in Berlin and they're also currently working on the acrylic panel for the worlds largest underwater restaurant.

And what's great about this dynamic duo working together to complete a project of this magnitude in the United Kingdom, is that they're both stationed right here in the old U.S. of A. Bradford Products is headquartered in Leland, North Carolina and Reynolds Polymer, in Grand Junction, Colorado. This also means that the steel and acrylic pieces had to be shipped all the way to London which is a huge undertaking in it of itself. To give you an idea the acrylic panel sections are the largest swimming pool component Reynolds has ever produced and are actually made up of 18 individual panels weighing roughly 128,000 lbs. The first piece was cast in March of 2017 and they're just now finally underway, travelling over 9000 miles to the site. And once they arrive, the panels will be chemically bonded together on site to create a single, seamless floor or wall panel.

The fabrication and transportation of the steel vessels and acrylic panels is such an ordeal that a short film is being created to document the first stages of assembly. The film follows the unique journey from the production in the U.S. to the arrival in London and people will get to see first hand how these types of vessels are constructed. In the meantime here's a construction shot of Bradfords portion of the project.

The project is actually nearing completion and you can see how far along they are on site. The buildings are up, the steel structures of the pool in place and the framework for the acrylic is ready. All they're waiting on now is the acrylic to arrive.

The acrylic wall panels are also about 8" thick with the floor panel being 12" thick and you can see in the image above, why. They need to be strong enough to support the loads of both bathers and water. Given the weight of water at 7.48 lbs per gallon and the cantilevered area at which the acrylic needs to support this weight, you're looking at about 25,000 lbs. if my math is correct. - which it probably isn't. But that's a hell of a lot of weight. Not to mention the design and installation of acrylic panels have to account for expansion and contraction, movement, and waterproofing which all requires some serious structural engineering. Increased bond beams need to be built utilizing more concrete and rebar to properly support one of these panels. And most projects I've been on or seen, only use a panel thickness of around 3 to 4". So you can imagine the necessary supports for an 8" thick slab. Not to mention, the acrylic on the London Sky Pool is only going to have a structure supporting it on two sides. The bottom of the wall panels on the cantilevered portion, although chemically bonded together, won't have any visual structural elements supporting it. Most panels have a sill and jamb which are the horizontal and vertical surfaces supporting the panel usually on 3 or even 4 sides. And not only do acrylic panels move side to side but they expand and contract growing taller or shrinking during temperature changes so flexible caulks, grouts and membranes all need to be designated specifically for use with these types of acrylic materials. So the stainless steel pool structure as well as the concrete structure holding it up, needs to account for these types of complexities. That's really why acrylic and even steel require specialists.

Steel is also fairly common on rooftop applications such as this and probably even preferred because stainless steel vessels can weigh at least three times less than concrete vessels of the same size and they reassure watertight reliability. In typical concrete construction of pools on rooftops, you have to pour a barrier wall between the structure of the building and the pool structure so if the pool leaks, the water won't leak into the structure of the home or building. So in some instances, it's actually cheaper or at least around the same amount to use stainless steel because of it's strength-to-weight ratio. Heavier concrete pool shells require increased support structures to hold them up which increases material costs like concrete and rebar. So a lighter weight material like 316L marine grade steel that's also extremely durable and water tight can be as cheap if not cheaper than building a pool out of concrete. Stainless also allows you to have more precisely engineered components through the use of CNC laser cutting machines that deliver superior precision which on a project of this magnitude, only makes sense.

So once the steel and acrylic are in place, and water in the pool, not only will this be a one of a kind swimming pool but it will be a one of a kind pool experience for swimmers. No one has yet to swim in a pool like this because ones never been built. The closest thing to the London Sky Pool are pools like the Intercontinental Hotel in Dubai, the Market Square Tower Pool in Texas, and the Ward Village pool in Honolulu; all of which have a small portion of the pool floor and wall in acrylic that you can walk on but neither come remotely close to Londons design. There are also pools like Hong Kongs Hotel Indigo pool and many others with standard acrylic windows in the floor that are pretty awesome but they also don't come close.

To give you an idea, Market Squares Tower Pool which is very similar to the Intercontinentals pool, cantilevers only 8' off the side of the building with an acrylic thickness of 5.5" weighing 10,300 lbs. Still an impressive pool and at 500' in the air no less which is 50 storeys up. But Londons Sky Pool is sure to make these pools look cute.

Intercontinental Hotel Pool - Dubai

The Edge Resort in Bali also has an acrylic panel in their pool floor which hangs over a cliff around 500' up in the air but it accomplishes about as much as the previous two examples. It's a hell of a pool and these are all much higher up in the air and offer a better view but their acrylic panels are a much smaller scale and don't offer the same experience Londons Sky Pool is sure to have.

The Edge Resort - Bali

Even the Anaha Ward Village pool in Honolulu that spans 15' from the edge of the building doesn't quite match up. It's the first of its kind in Hawaii and extends farther out than other pools like it but it's only 75' up in the air and it's no Sky Pool.

Anaha Ward Village - Honolulu

As you can see, even as awesome as existing acrylic panel pools are around the globe, the London Sky Pool is simply on another level. That's what they were going for afterall. Sean Mulryan, the chariman and CEO of Ballymore Group, the project developers, said "My vision for the sky pool stemmed from a desire to push the boundaries in the capability of construction and engineering. I wanted to do something that had never been done before. The experience of the pool will be truly unique, it will feel like floating through the air in central London."

And once this project is complete, they'll have succeeded and probably even exceeded expectations. The London Sky Pool is definitely pushing the envelope and it's something the pool industry needs. It's a testament to just how far the industry has come and how far we can go.

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