August 3, 2012
By Barry Justus
A growing number of homeowners also want to bring an element of resort-style relaxation to their ultimate backyard. From intimate plunge spas to giant party spas to aerated jets within the pool itself, you are truly only limited by your imagination.
Custom concrete spas can be a welcome addition to the ultimate backyard. They can be located in or beside the pool, or as an entirely separate entity. In all cases, they can be plumbed and heated for year round use. It is highly recommended that hot water spas be fully tiled. Granite, glass, porcelain and certain natural stones are all perfect for the often aggressive water chemistry needed to keep hot water clean and safe. You can also custom configure the spa’s jets to meet your specific needs. The ultimate spa layout includes a vertical stand up well for two, with jets configured in a vertical position to give you a total body massage.
Spa jets, including bench and vertical massage varieties, can also be located in the main pool. Given the cooler water, bathers can safely enjoy these massage jets for an extended period of time.
Adding aerated spa jets to swim outs, benches, shallow lounging areas and custom loungers adds an entire new dimension in pool relaxation, especially when targeted to massage specific parts of the body (e.g. lower back, calves or shoulders). Vertical massages can be further customized by using interchangeable jet bodies, variable-flow pumps and automated air blowers.
Larger jet systems can be used to provide swim currents or as a method to power a meandering lazy river. The ultimate systems use high-volume pumps combined with large-diameter (e.g. 304-mm [12-in.]) plumbing to provide a ‘river’ of water to swim against. Less complex systems use narrower plumbing and provide a similar feel on a smaller scale.
Swim jets can be incorporated on pools of virtually any size. When incorporated into a perimeter overflow design, the swimming experience is greatly enhanced, as the bather is always located in smooth water. The lack of an edge on a perimeter overflow pool prevents waves from building up from the jetted current. As yards become smaller, these types of multi-use pools will become more favourable and practical. 
While esthetics are important, the ultimate luxury backyard retreat should also keep energy efficiency top of mind. Sustainable, smart and safe pools should be a priority of any high-end pool design professional. These designs, which take a long-term approach to backyard planning, will look great upon completion and provide years of trouble-free, energy-efficient enjoyment.
Automated covers provide both insulation for the pool and a level of safety for the body of water. By covering the pool, you automatically prevent roughly 70 per cent of heat loss. Combine this with an insulated pool shell and plumbing components and you will reap dramatic energy savings.
As opposed to their single-speed counterparts, variable-drive pumps automatically adjust to the demands being placed on the pool, resulting in more effective operation. Combined with engineered large-diameter plumbing, these pumps help provide safer, cleaner, more energy-efficient pools, spas and water features. Also, by simply returning the warm filtered water to the bottom of the pool, you can dramatically increase energy savings.
Pool entries and exits need to be properly lit, while water features, wet wall art work and pool walls can be lit from below for stunning effects. Multiple lighting zones allow for varied nighttime effects. By choosing LED lighting, which is both energy-efficient and esthetically pleasing, you do not have to sacrifice beauty for savings.
Automation is an absolute must-have feature for any high-end installation, as it will enable you to control your pool, spa and water features from a remote location or via the Internet. Automation allows you to save energy by controlling the speed of variable-drive pumps, timing lights and jet pumps and adjusting the temperature of pools, hot spas and chill pools as needed.
Underground equipment bunkers provide a safe, quiet, secure, energy-efficient location to house pumps, filters, heaters and automation equipment, while also providing added storage space. Bunkers can also be insulated for both noise and heat loss. Locating them next to the pool shell or as a basement to a cabana will save you money, energy and space.
When it comes right down to it, your ultimate backyard can be whatever you dream it can be. A well-planned, expertly designed and constructed high-end retreat will not only provide you and your family with years of enjoyment, it will also increase the value of your home should you ever decide to sell. By choosing a design that reflects your home’s architecture without being overwhelmed with ‘bells and whistles,’ your dream oasis can become a reality.
Barry Justus is the owner of Poolscape Inc., a landscape contractor and pool designing and building company based in Burlington, Ont. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.poolscape.com.
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