What if going green didn't mean sacrificing beauty? It turns out that eco-friendly design doesn't have to be crunchy — it can be gorgeous and sophisticated and come in any style. Perfect example: Proponents of natural beauty, Chris Paquette and his wife, Terri, of Hollis, Maine, have founded a natural-swimming-pool company, Robin's Nest Aquatics.
A natural pool does not use or need any harmful chemicals, and it looks like a pond. Each Robin's Nest pool features a defined swim zone whose periphery creates space for plantings. Paquette uses crushed rock and bare-root plants for filtration, similar to a hydroponic system, where water and organic matter feed the plants on a repeating basis. "It's like a perennial garden in the water," Paquette notes. These breathtaking forms, which look more like works of art than pools, are designed using indigenous plant life, most often already in place, along with other flora the customer prefers.
Paquette got into this line of work when he decided he had "much more fun playing in the dirt" than working in an office, and he began installing water features, like gardens and fountains, for local residences. This led him to develop one-acre ponds and then large-scale waterfalls at resort communities all over New England. His customers started asking for pools, and his business was born.
Differentiating Robin's Nest from some of the other companies that have begun to install these natural pools is the use of variable-speed-drive pumps. They allow the pump to be slowed down to about one-eighth the energy cost of a regular pool pump while slowing the pump itself by only 50 percent. "However, most important," says Paquette, "we build out of respect for the natural world, our customer and the future we wish to have for our children. Our intentions are to help heal all the above through composition of natural elements, using all of our senses as bearing."
One of Paquette's customers, Avery Pierce, longtime local landscaper and artist, chose 68 plants of all types on her property for Paquette to relocate so they would surround and feed her pool. Avery's pool is Paquette's largest to date, measuring 30 feet by 50 feet. "Every time we swim, we're swimming in a garden," Avery says with a smile. "Truth be told," laughs Paquette, "she built it for her dogs; they even have a special entry and exit." The pool is safe for Avery and her pooches because of the closed-loop system and healthy bacteria that is added to the pool once a week in lieu of chlorine and other chemicals.
Not only safe and stunning, the pools save energy and conserve water. Paquette has devised a way to capture rainwater from the roofs of homes, allowing it to flow into a filter canister and then into the pool. The pools can also irrigate one's lawn and other gardens, eliminating the need for well or city water. By using variable-speed-drive pumps that control the pace at which the water flows, the pools increase energy efficiency, especially during the off-season. Terri, Paquette's wife, points out, "You can stand around one for 20 minutes and feel like you've been on vacation for a week." And what could be better than that, knowing all the while that you're giving back to the environment in your own backyard?
Paquette loves his work, but it isn't without its short- and long-term challenges. He's careful not to waste water through poor construction, and he controls the pH with a precise balance of table salt and baking soda. "You just don't need the chlorine," Paquette says. Once people can give up chemicals and embrace a more natural approach, these pools could become standardized in the United States (they've been building them in Europe for more than 25 years). "Getting past the laws, codes and regulations governing pool installation will be the biggest hurdle," laments Paquette.
Commercial use would be the ultimate boon, contributing to two of the country's fundamental goals: energy efficiency and water conservation. With this in mind, Paquette is taking his message west, with his first stop in Sedona, Arizona. Without a doubt, installing these natural wonders is hard work, but as Paquette notes, "It's all worth it when you turn on the pump." That's when the pool comes to life, bringing enjoyment while preserving the environment - the ultimate win for "green." 207-727-3910, mygardenspa.com