Artistry and imagination of today's pool and spa professionals.

Published in Pool & Spa News, December 2002

It's a good time to be a pool and spa designer. Consumers are investing more in their backyards, and the push for complete outdoor rooms has fueled increasingly complex projects.

It's easy to spot these trends in this year's winners of the National Spa & Pool Institute International Awards of Excellence. Although the winning aquascapes range from extravagant multipool lagoons to cozy hideaways tucked into small spaces, they all reflect consumers' wishes to get away without leaving their own backyards.

Selected from more than 700 submissions, a record 191 projects -- including those by 27 first-time entrants -- received special recognition. Of these, 57 projects received gold medals and one aquascape received a special judges award. Pool & Spa News features these works of art on the following pages.

While the awards highlight eye-catching aquascapes, the judges also took into consideration construction trends, the use of new technology and the quality of the workmanship.

That last item has become a point of contention recently as some professionals have raised questions about the projects' technical merits -- for instance, whether the structures are sound, the equipment is sized properly or the vessels leak.

Go to Gold Metal Recipients

NSPI maintains that all projects must adhere to ANSI/NSPI standards and/or applicable codes. However, the organization relies on the honor system to ensure that this requirement is met. For additional technical scrutiny, NSPI selects judges who represent a spectrum of industry experience -- from members of the Technical Committee and Builders Council to manufacturers and landscape professionals.

"Everyone looks for something different because of their specialty," says Marina Crockett, NSPI's awards manager. "The first things the judges look at are obvious signs of safety violations. We will also call the entrant if we do see something that requires further explanation.

"Once they get past the safety issues, the judges focus on beauty, the details, the creativity," she says. "They look for innovation. For example, with the judges award, we honored a project where a ballroom floor transformed into a pool."

To see these trends and more -- and, perhaps, get some inspiration in the process -- check out our showcase of award-winning projects on the following pages.