Archive for May, 2010

Eco-Friendly and Safe Pools

Monday, May 3rd, 2010
Children splashing in the pool seems like clean summer fun.  We often don’t want to think about the pumps, filtration systems, and heaters that use energy, not to mention the environment cost of monthly driving for the pool maintenance person. And while swimming in contaminated waters is certainly not healthy, many are rethinking the safety of chlorine and it’s disinfection byproducts to the environment and our health.  Concerns over the health effects of chlorine is rising as new studies link repeated exposure to:  asthma, allergies, bladder and rectal cancer, skin and eye irritations, and possibly coronary heart disease and hormone disruption.
So what can we do to make our swimming pools and spas more eco-friendly and safe? While you may be familiar with solar heating systems, did you know how the heating system is installed can affect energy use. Newer Smart pumps can save energy, and varied pool purification systems (with their accompanying pros and cons) reduce pool chlorine levels,
Jorge Cuenca of Lifetime Pools suggests a multi-level approach in installing new or updated  equipment in a remodel. For a new pool within a landscape project we designed in Menlo Park, the owner traveled frequently and wanted to minimize chlorine levels while reducing the required maintenance. Here, Cuenca designed a combination salt system  (an Intellichlor controller) with an Ozonator. The Intellichlor is computer-based that reads the level of bacteria and from salt, injects just the right amount of sanitizer needed for the water, while the Ozonator, works in tandem and helps clear cloudy water. The use of two-pronged approach, minimizes toxins and need for chlorine, requiring only a small fraction of that used in traditional pools. And, if the homeowner can refill salt twice a year, and keep the skimmer/sweep clean, there’s no need for a monthly pool service.  The added cost of the salt and ozonator system generally pays for itself in 1-1/2 years in reduced maintenance costs. Old pumps can be updated with newer Smart Pumps programmed to run in different modes (using 1/2 horsepower at times, vs. 3 horsepower)  much less energy. For our Menlo Park pool, Cuenca designed a in-floor heating system, sending heated water to the bottom of the pool so the pool heats up faster. This newer equipment requires a larger pad, so skillfully working it into your over landscape design is important. Cuenca is seeing more demand for eco-friendly pools, definitely a trend in the”wave” of the future!

Designing music for the landscape

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Perhaps due to early days of playing in a Balinese gamelan, I’ve always longed to bring a great musical experience to the outdoors, something beyond plastic rock speakers, and blasting out the neighbors with your favorite song over and over.
Quite unexpectedly, on the Secret Gardens of the East Bay Tour, I found what I sought and was quite moved. Even with purple mulch and a lovely inspired garden designed by Lucia Howard , what truly captured my attention was a  new outdoor auditory experience– designed sound for the landscape. At this garden, the sound of Gregorian chants wafted through the landscape diverting attention away from the traffic of the busy corner. The music was mixed differently from the CD I owned, and while lovely,  it was not just the music that inspired, but rather the experience.  I found myself spinning in circles at an attempt to find (or follow?) the seemingly heavenly source,  as the sound emanated from all around, like a scent in the garden.
Hugh Livingston, of Livingston Sound is the master creator and artist behind this new technology and emphasizes “it’s not a sound system.”  Rather he creates the whole sound experience, from tempo and location, to the music itself all through a computer program that literally responds to the landscape!  How you ask?  Well, an iCam positioned to look up a tree can monitor branches moving with the wind and respond with a change in the sound to a multitude of hidden speakers.  Counting sensors at a garden gate send information to the computer to increase volume, tempo and other changes corresponding to the number of guests at a party. His artistry works in conjunction with the landscape designer so that the design, themes are well translated and united,  and speakers well hidden. It’s all quite fascinating, moving,  and something you just have to experience to fully understand. Thankfully Mr. Livingston is presenting a rare chance to experience his work “Scenes from a Lingering Garden” at a rooftop garden in Oakland on July 27, 2010.  Hopefully there will be many more to come.