Title:
Integrated poolscape comprised of pre-fabricated elements and related methods
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A poolscape is disclosed that comprises at least two of a plurality of pre-fabricated shell elements, each of said shell elements having a wall that conforms to a wall of one or more other shell elements comprising said plurality, wherein said at least two shell elements are conformably combined, and where the shell elements may be one of a swimming pool, a tanning ledge, a hot tub or spa, a fountain, a sun shelf, and a thermal ledge or variants thereof. The poolscape may include in-pool features, such as a pre-fabricated bench or pre-fabricated stairs.



Inventors:
Cronise, Raymond J. (Madison, AL, US)
Baudendistel, Theodore F. (Hampton Cove, AL, US)
Black, Richard E. (Fayetteville, TN, US)
Application Number:
11/342891
Publication Date:
06/12/2008
Filing Date:
01/30/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H4/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20080189843Toilet Seat Lifter and DropperAugust, 2008Isaac
20020002735Stench eliminating apparatus of a toilet bowlJanuary, 2002Moon
20070199141COVERED SWIMMING POOL AND FRAMEAugust, 2007Johnston
20060272083Pool stair assembly for use by small animalsDecember, 2006Kruger
20090070924Multifunctional odour-free, water-saving, clog-free, environmentally friendly toiletMarch, 2009Montgomery
20080086802Toilet-floor shieldApril, 2008Thomas et al.
20070107120Portable shower deviceMay, 2007Ingraham
20090084063SECTIONAL SWIMMING POOLApril, 2009Chang
20070245480Spa with waterfallOctober, 2007Sorensen et al.
20080127406Plumbing fixture enclosureJune, 2008Hammond
20050091742Infant bath support systemMay, 2005Bennett



Primary Examiner:
FETSUGA, ROBERT M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LANIER FORD SHAVER & PAYNE P.C. (P O BOX 2087, HUNTSVILLE, AL, 35804-2087, US)
Claims:
We Claim:

1. A poolscape comprising: a. at least two pre-fabricated shell elements selected from a plurality of pre-fabricated shell elements where each of said plurality of shell elements includes a wall portion that conforms to a wall portion of one or more other shell elements within said plurality, said at least two shell elements being conformably juxtaposed; and b. a circulation system for circulating water among each of the elements within said poolscape; and wherein said pre-fabricated shell elements are one of a swimming pool, a tanning ledge, a hot tub, a spa, a fountain, a sun shelf, and a thermal ledge.

2. The poolscape of claim 1, wherein walls of each of said plurality of shell elements are assigned indicia corresponding to indicia assigned to walls of other shell elements that conform therewith.

3. The poolscape of claim 1, wherein said at least one shell element comprises an arcuate wall.

4. The poolscape of claim 3, further comprising at least one pre-fabricated in-pool feature, said in-pool feature having a side that conforms to a portion of an inner wall of at least one of said pre-fabricated shell elements.

5. The poolscape of claim 4, wherein at least one of said shell elements comprise walls configured such that between about 8 to about 10 inches of the top of the walls are substantially vertical.

6. The poolscape of claim 5, wherein walls of each of said plurality of shell elements are assigned indicia corresponding to indicia assigned to walls of other shell elements that conform therewith.

7. The poolscape of claim 1, wherein said at least two shell elements is three or more shell elements, said three or more shell elements being conformably juxtaposed.

8. The poolscape of claim 7, wherein each of said plurality of shell elements includes a wall portion that conforms to a wall portion of two or more other shell elements within said plurality.

9. The poolscape of claim 8, wherein said at least one shell element comprises a wall where at least a portion of which is arcuate.

10. The poolscape of claim 9, further comprising at least one pre-fabricated in-pool feature, said in-pool feature having a side that conforms to a portion of an inner wall of at least one of said pre-fabricated shell elements.

11. The poolscape of claim 10, wherein at least one of said shell elements comprise walls configured such that between about 8 to about 10 inches of the top of the walls are substantially vertical.

12. The poolscape of claim 11, wherein walls of each of said plurality of shell elements are assigned indicia corresponding to indicia assigned to walls of other shell elements that conform therewith.

13. A method selling poolscapes comprising the steps of: a. obtaining a plurality of pre-fabricated shell elements, each of said shell elements having a wall that conforms to a wall of one or more other shell elements comprising said plurality shell elements; and b. offering for sale at least two of said plurality of shell elements; and wherein said shell elements are one of a swimming pool, a tanning ledge, a hot tub or spa, a fountain, a sun shelf, and a thermal ledge.

14. The method of claim 13, further comprising the step of providing said poolscape by conformably combining said at least of said plurality of shell elements.

15. The method of claim 14, wherein said obtaining step further comprises obtaining at least one pre-fabricated in-pool feature, said in-pool feature having a side that conforms to a portion of an inner wall of at least one of said pre-fabricated shell elements.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein said at least one shell element comprises a wall where at least a portion of which is arcuate.

17. A method of providing poolscapes comprised of two or more pre-fabricated conformably juxtaposed shell elements comprising the steps of: a. obtaining a plurality of said pre-fabricated shell elements, each of said plurality of shell elements having a wall portion that conforms to a wall portion of one or more other shell elements within said plurality of shell elements wherein said shell elements are one of a swimming pool, a tanning ledge, a hot tub or spa, a fountain, a sun shelf, and a thermal ledge; and b. installing at least two of said plurality of shell elements such that said installed shell elements are conformably combined and have a common water circulation system.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein walls of each of said plurality of shell elements are assigned indicia corresponding to indicia assigned to sides of other shell elements that conform therewith.

19. The method of claim 17, wherein said plurality is assigned an indicium which indicates the shell elements comprising said plurality.

20. The method of claim 17, wherein said obtaining step further comprises obtaining at least one pre-fabricated in-pool feature, said in-pool feature having a side that conforms to a portion of an inner wall of at least one of said pre-fabricated shell elements.

21. The method of claim 20, wherein said at least one shell element comprises a wall where at least a portion of which is arcuate.

22. The method of claim 21, wherein walls of each of said plurality of shell elements are assigned indicia corresponding to indicia assigned to sides of other shell elements that conform therewith.

23. The method of claim 22, wherein said plurality is assigned an indicium which indicates the shell elements comprising said plurality.

Description:

BACKGROUND

1. Field

The present invention relates generally to a poolscape formed by combining two or more pre-fabricated pool shell elements, and, in particular, it relates to a poolscape formed from shell elements that are a member of a set of shell elements such that a shell element in the set has a wall configured to be conformable with a wall of another shell element in the set.

2. Description of the Related Art

The desire to create artificial bodies of recreational water for swimming or landscape aesthetics has existed for centuries. The general concept of building a vessel in or above ground that can be used for swimming and other water sports has been a part of nearly every recorded society. Today, there are three basic categories of swimming pool construction methods. The oldest and largest method involves forming a concrete shell in an excavated hole. The concrete may be poured as a monolithic slab, sprayed onto a reinforcing steel cage using a “shotcrete” method, or can be hand packed. This concrete is in turn made water tight through a plaster or other surface coating. Alternatively, a hole can be excavated and polymer, steel, or wood walls installed along with a vinyl membrane, which lines the interior surface of the entire pool. Finally, the most recent construction method involves producing a fiberglass reinforced plastic (“FRP”) pool shell, which is transported to the excavated site by truck and placed in the hole in one piece. It is the latter method of pool shell construction on which the present invention concentrates.

One of the key advantages of installing FRP composite pool shells is that the construction schedule is significantly reduced. The shell is transported to the jobsite in one piece and can be installed with minimum job site construction. This allows for a lower barrier of entry into the pool installation business for related industry professionals such as homebuilders, landscape designers, and excavation professionals. Because the pool shells are designed by manufacturers, many of the difficult aesthetic issues related to shape and layout are alleviated. This allows a new entry into the pool installation business the opportunity to focus on other elements of the sale and helps potential customers narrow down pool design choices.

With this ease of construction, comes some design limitations. First, there is a practical maximum limit on the width of the pool shell due to federal and state highway regulations. Because of this width limitation, a limitation on length is created by the nature of what is considered generally accepted aesthetics for various aspect ratios. With this imposed limit, there are only so many configurations that can be achieved in a practically imposed transportation limit of a 16 ft×40 ft rectangular box. Consequently, composite pools are typically a monolithic shell and are sometimes referred to as “one-piece” construction. This was to differentiate from earlier construction methods whereby sections of pool shells were seamed in the field, thus allowing easier transportation and larger shell sizes.

Because of these design limitations placed by transportation, the FRP industry niche has received undue negative attention due to limited size and shapes and thus the market has not grown significantly in the past 40 years; composite pools represented only about 5.4% of the total inground market in 2004. At the same time, vinyl lined packaged pools have grown significantly in a once concrete dominated market. Many of the vinyl lined pools are similar in size and shape to what has been offered in concrete.

Further, because the inherent cost of a mold for a composite pool is so high, only a limited number of designs and shapes can be offered at any one time. This is also compounded by the large size of the parts. For example, if one has 50 molds and 6 different colors, this results in a basic inventory of 300 units just to have one of each pool color and design on hand. Since concrete and vinyl lined pool builders have unlimited shapes and typically 3-4 times the color selection, one can begin to understand why the FRP market niche has not grown significantly in almost half a century. Equally important is the significant cost associated with pool and spa molds. Each can cost 3-5 times a pool shell and has only a limited life expectancy.

Also, because the pool shells must be pulled off of a mold, they typically require an overall angle, or draft, of 3-5 degrees from plumb to facilitate removal. This causes a visually distinct angle on the pool tile line, which is considered unaesthetic to many pool owners. It is therefore desirable to create the illusion of plumb walls, in particular the area above the waterline where tile is affixed to the pool.

Various patents purport to teach molds for both cementitious products and fiberglass parts. Examples include U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,948,296; 2,910,759 to Lifter et al.;

4,060,946 to Lang et al.; 4,074,481 to Lang et al.; 4,090,266 to Price; 4,015,379 to Colson, Jr.; 6,637,162 B1 to Holland. However, none of these overcome the problems associated with the manufacturing of large one-piece fiberglass pool molds and none address the range of sizes and shapes that can be achieved with the invention described here.

Traditional one-piece construction of pool shells feature integrated bench seats and steps. By eliminating seams, the pool shell will not develop a leak and no special knowledge is required to attach steps or seats to the shell. In contrast, vinyl liner package pools feature step packages and benches which are installed in the field requiring a seal with the liner. They may also be installed as forms under the water-tight liner. Step or bench forms are installed in the excavated hole and the water tight liner is draped over the form. This allows flexibility in step and bench placement and sizes not found in fiberglass pool construction.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,186,874 to McLaughlin addresses forms to be used in casting arcuate concrete stairs, but does not teach the art described in this invention. U.S. Pat. No. 5,228,148 to Weir describes the addition of a seat and or stairs in the wall panel of a vinyl pool modular wall system, but this does not address the addition of elements within the pool geometry nor specifically transportation and limited pool geometry limitations that may be overcome with the invention described here. Finally, U.S. Pat. No. 4,238,859 to Badon, Jr. teaches a pre-fabricated spa to be used with an existing swimming pool. Nevertheless, it does not address the concern of providing the wide variety of designs, nor the positioning of in-pool features, among other shortcomings.

SUMMARY

For purposes of summarizing the invention, certain aspects, advantages, and novel features of the invention have been described herein. It is to be understood that not necessarily all such advantages may be achieved in accordance with any one particular embodiment of the invention. Thus, the invention may be embodied or carried out in a manner that achieves or optimizes one advantage or group of advantages as taught herein without necessarily achieving other advantages as may be taught or suggested herein.

The present disclosure is directed to an integrated poolscape made from a collection of composite pool shells. These pool shells share common geometry and as such create an almost unlimited number of backyard poolscapes, using a fixed number of composite pool molds. As one designs a collection of pool molds, careful consideration is given to pool geometry such that two, three, or even four pool shells can be installed concurrently in the backyard. This creates the illusion of a larger pool, especially in width, but still satisfies the restrictions imposed by transportation. Further the present disclosure describes a similar modular approach of adding features within the pool geometry, such as bench seats or stairs, using components that do not require seals and are contained within the watertight geometry of the pool shell.

A primary objective is to provide a method and components to create a family of molds for creating pool shells such that the resulting pool molds can be mixed and matched in the field to create an almost unlimited number of backyard aquascape designs.

A further objective is to provide a method and components to create shallow bodies of water, more commonly referred to as tanning ledges, sunshelves, or thermal ledges, which do not have to be contained within the pool shell geometry or that require a fiberglass shell seam to be completed in the field.

Still another objective is to provide a method and components to produce a family of pool designs, each pool design within the family having mutually compatible geometries and identified by a coding system. Each design may be individually marketed as a stand alone pool shell, or the family of designs may be marketed in groups of two or more as integrated backyard poolscapes. A pool builder can easily determine which pool shell geometries can be used together by unique coding of shell elements.

Yet another objective is to provide a method and components for the top 8 to 10 inches of the pool shell to be completely vertical, hence replicating the look of a concrete tile line, which vertically enters the water, in a composite pool that must have a draft angle of 2-5 degrees in order to be removed from the mold.

A poolscape according to an embodiment of the present invention comprises at least two of a set of pre-fabricated shell elements where each of the shell elements has a side that conforms to a side of one or more of the other shell elements that comprise the set. One or more of the shell element walls, or portions thereof, may comprise arcuate segments, vice linear.

In another embodiment the poolscape is configured with a common circulation system, and in yet another embodiment, the shell elements are one of a swimming pool, a tanning edge, a spa, a fountain, a sun shelf or a thermal ledge.

A method according to one embodiment of the present invention comprises the steps of obtaining a set of pre-fabricated shell elements where each of the shell elements has a side that conforms to a side of one or more other shell elements of the set; and installing two shell elements from the set such that the shell elements are conformably combined.

These and other embodiments of the present invention will also become readily apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description of the embodiments having reference to the attached figures, the invention not being limited to any particular embodiment(s) disclosed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention is described with reference to the accompanying drawings. In the drawings, like reference numbers indicate identical or functionally similar elements. Additionally, the left-most digit(s) of a reference number identifies the drawing in which the reference number first appears.

FIG. 1A is a perspective view of a poolscape according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 1B is an exploded view depicting the elements of the poolscape of FIG. 1A according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2A & 2B are a top plan view of two different configurations according to embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a flowchart illustrating a method according to an embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 4 is a flowchart illustrating another method according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a top plan view of a pool shell element having placeable in-pool features according to an embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 6 is a top plan view of a poolscape having elements with arcuate walls.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The various embodiments of the present invention and their advantages are best understood by referring to FIGS. 1 through 6 of the drawings. The elements of the drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon clearly illustrating the principles of the invention. Throughout the drawings, like numerals are used for like and corresponding parts of the various drawings.

Before explaining the disclosed embodiment of the present invention in detail it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of the particular arrangement shown since the invention is capable of other embodiments. The detailed description set forth below in connection with the accompanying drawings is intended as a description of the presently preferred embodiment of the invention, and is not intended to represent the only form in which the present invention may be implemented or utilized. Also, the terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and not of limitation.

An exemplary poolscape 100 according to the present invention is depicted in FIG. 1A and includes at least two pre-fabricated shell elements which, in this example, are a swimming pool 102, a spa 104 and a tanning ledge 106. FIG. 1B depicts the exemplary shell elements 102, 104, 106 in an exploded view. The exemplary poolscape is created by selecting at least two shell elements from a set of mutually combinable pre-fabricated shell elements. The set consists of at least two pre-fabricated shell elements where each shell element is configured with at least a portion of at least one wall that conforms to at least one wall, or portion thereof, of at least one other shell element in the set. For example, a shell element having a concave wall may be conformingly combined with a suitably dimensioned shell element having a convex wall. Shell elements may be of any suitable shape, having arcuate or linear shape components, and preferably, an individual element's size should not exceed roadway transportation restrictions.

Material comprising shell elements may be FRP, but may also be any cementitious or polymeric material that is suitable to create a pre-fabricated, substantially rigid shell. In other words, the present invention is not contemplated to include structures that may be non-rigid before installation. Any suitable construction method may be used in the fabrication of the shell elements. A preferable method is disclosed in the co-owned and co-pending U.S. patent application No. 11/128,715, entitled “Method of Rapid Mold Development for Pools, Spas and Ponds,” filed May 13, 2005 which is incorporated by reference herein. Typically, a shell element should have a draft angle of 2-5 degrees in order to be removed from the mold. However, for aesthetic reasons it may be preferable for at least one shell element to be configured such that the top approximately 8 to approximately 10 inches of the shell walls are generally vertical to replicate the look of a concrete tile line.

Shell elements are combined by simply installing them in the area in the relative positions that is desired. The entire poolscape is preferably fitted with a common circulation and filtration system. The figure depicts the poolscape being installed in ground which is achieved by excavating a void in the ground of a shape and depth suitable for receiving the combined shell elements. It should be noted that a poolscape according to the present invention may be created in the same manner above ground as well as would be appreciated by those skilled in the relevant art. Shell elements may be combined in any suitable configuration and may, for example, be installed with a vertical differential between shell elements. The joint between shell elements may be covered with a decorative coping wall (shown in FIG. I as 115). The coping wall 115 may further provide spillways 117 between pool elements to allow communication of water, and enhance aesthetic quality.

Shell elements may be configured with recesses 111a, b to conformingly receive a smaller shell element, for example a spa 104 therein. The shapes of the recesses correspond to the shapes of the spa, or fountain, that is to be received within the recess. For example, FIGS. 2A and 2B illustrate two exemplary combinations in top plan view. FIG. 2A shows a view of a generally circular spa 201 placed between two opposing shell elements 205, 207 which could be swimming pools, tanning ledges or the like. The opposing shell elements 205, 207 are configured with generally circular recesses 204a, b corresponding to the generally circular spa 201. Likewise, FIG. 2B shows a generally square spa element 211 placed between two opposing shell elements 205, 207 which are configured with generally square recesses 214a, b to receive the spa element. Another possible poolscape design may include generally rectangular swimming pool elements adjacent to each other along their respective long. sides. The swimming pool elements may be configured with recesses where the comers would meet to receive a spa element in between.

It should also be noted that although the position of a spa or fountain element has been shown between other shell elements, a spa or fountain element may be placed in any position relative to other shell elements. For example, the spa element does not have to be placed between elements, but may be placed on the periphery of the poolscape.

Further, shell elements are configured with recesses to receive the spa or fountain element at any such other position, or the spa or fountain element may be configured with an arcuate wall that conforms to an arcuate wall of other shell elements. For example, FIG. 6 illustrates a poolscape having swimming pool element 603 with arcuate walls.

The opposing ends 604, 606 of swimming pool 603 describe curves of radius “R1” and “R2” respectively. Positioned about the outer walls of opposing ends 604, 606 are spa/fountain elements 605,607 respectively. Spa/fountain elements 605, 607 are configured such that the abutting walls may be conformingly juxtaposed to the opposing ends 604, 606 at any position along the curve of radius R1 or R2, respectively. Similarly, the same design principles may be applied to other shell elements as would be appreciated by those skilled in the relevant arts. It will, therefore, be appreciated that employing this inventive method there are more design choices for the layout of a poolscape.

Shell elements may be any water reservoir suitable for use in a poolscape. A complete poolscape according to the present invention may include any two of a swimming pool, a tanning ledge, a hot tub or spa, a fountain, a sun shelf, and a thermal ledge or variants thereof.

In a further embodiment described with reference to FIG. 5, suitably dimensioned shell elements may include pre-fabricated in-pool features, such as bench seats or steps, that may be installed at various locations within a pre-fabricated pool element to further provide a variety of aesthetically pleasing pool design options. For example, in FIG. 5, the top plan form of a pre-fabricated shell element 503 includes arcuate wall segments. The opposing ends 504, 506 of shell pool 503 describe curves of radius “R1” and “R2” respectively. In-pool feature 505a may be pre-fabricated, using the same or similar techniques described above, known in the art, or hereafter developed, such that the feature comprises a shape that conforms to a given arc segment. The feature may then be positioned at any location within the pool where its abutting side conforms to the inner wall portion of the pool shell element. For example, in-pool feature 505a is configured with a side that conforms to the inner wall of the first end 504. Thus, the ultimate installed position of the in-pool features may be anywhere along the inner walls with which the outer sides of the in-pool feature conforms, as shown by the dash-outlined features 505b. The in-pool feature 505a is shown in the diagram as a bench seat, however, it will be understood that the same principles apply to similar in-pool features, such as steps. It will be appreciated that pre-fabricated in-pool features may be created for pool elements having linear walls as well, where the shape of the in-pool feature may be accommodated anywhere along such linear wall. In-pool features are installed within pool elements by attaching abutting sides to the walls and floor of the pool element with structural adhesive and blending the seams with a matching grout or other fill material.

Thus, a manufacturer of FRP poolscapes may advantageously maintain an inventory of shell elements and in-pool features that are combinable therewith and provide a wide variety of poolscapes without developing as many differing molds.

At the same time, a manufacturer may provide further design variety by being able to provide in-pool features for any of its shell elements at any position therein desired.

For example, in FIG. 5, in-pool feature 507a is provided on one side of an exemplary pool element 503 having arcuate walls. In-pool feature 507a is installed abutting a wall with a set of two curves having two different centers of curve. However, in-pool feature may be configured to abut another wall (shown at 507b) and installed there using the same techniques described above, thus, providing greater flexibility in the appearance and use of the ultimate poolscape. Again, in-pool feature 507a, b could be steps, a bench, or other suitable in-pool feature.

A method for providing a poolscape according to an embodiment of the present invention will now be explained with reference to FIG. 3. First, a plurality of conforming pre-fabricated shell elements is obtained 302, where the shell elements are designed such that at least one shell element may be conformably combined with at least one other shell element of the plurality to form a poolscape. Next, at least two shell elements of the plurality are offered for sale 304.

Another embodiment of the inventive method is discussed with reference to FIG. 4 where first, a plurality of conforming pre-fabricated shell elements is obtained 402. Again, the shell elements are designed such that at least one shell element may be conformably combined with at least one other shell element of the plurality to form a poolscape. Next, at least two shell elements are installed such that the installed shell elements are conformably juxtaposed 404.

According to another embodiment, a group of conformable shell elements is given a code so that a pool installer may select shell elements that are designed to be combined. In a further embodiment, codes may be assigned to the sides of mutually conforming shell elements so that conforming sides or other shell elements in the group may easily be ascertained by the pool builder.

Using this set of standard building blocks of water, a pool builder may use multiple bodies of water to create the illusion of a much larger pool installation. Each body of water is now a distinct element of a larger pool installation. The pools are installed at the jobsite in the correct orientation and with proper alignment. The result is that with a significantly reduced inventory of pool shells, and almost unlimited array of pool designs can be built. Advantageously, shell elements may be designed in such a way that they can be nested for transport. In this way, and two or three entire backyard poolscapes can easily be transported simultaneously on a single truck.

As described above and shown in the associated drawings, the present invention comprises an integrated poolscape comprised of pre-fabricated elements and related methods. While particular embodiments of the invention have been described, it will be understood, however, that the invention is not limited thereto, since modifications may be made by those skilled in the art, particularly in light of the foregoing teachings. It is, therefore, contemplated by the appended claims to cover any such modifications that incorporate those features or those improvements that embody the spirit and scope of the present invention.