Crystal Fountains

Fewer but more unique water features is the answer to sustainable water feature design, says Michael Denman, director of overseas operations for Crystal Fountains.


Fewer but more unique water features is the answer to sustainable water feature design, says Michael Denman, director of overseas operations for Crystal Fountains.

Since opening an office in Dubai at the end of last year, Canadian water feature specialist Crystal Fountains has seen its business grow rapidly in the region.

The firm has garnered several large contracts, including work on Emerald Gateway in Abu Dhabi, and is now planning to expand its regional base. Michael Denman, director of overseas operations for Crystal Fountains, talks with Commercial Outdoor Design.

What services does Crystal Fountains offer?

There are two aspects to the company: the consultancy side of the business, and the manufacturing component, where we sell to fountain contractors around the world.

The consultancy side focuses on high-level projects. Often these are projects where there is a custom element to it, where the client is seeking to hire a design specialist who can really take the water feature to another level.

What projects are you working on in the region?

The Dubai office is primarily focused on the consultancy side of things. Development of water features around the Burj Dubai is one example. We're also working with Aldar on Central Market in Abu Dhabi, with KEO on Emerald Gateway, and with the Tourism Development and Investment Company on the Abu Dhabi Golf Club hotel.

What is the typical request from a commercial client?

There has been a shift towards water features that are unique, with more sophisticated elements. Most of the projects that we are involved in are high-end projects. Plazas are becoming popular, where kids can interact with water.

Regional developers are very keen to look at unique and interesting ideas.

How can water feature design become more sustainable?

A lot of developments have huge bodies of water that in themselves are expensive and difficult to manage. We are probably going towards having fewer water features, but having water features that really are attractive.

A lot of the projects that we are involved with have up to 30 water features, and there is more awareness that we need to use water more sparingly as a design expression. Using it more sparingly does not mean not using it in an intelligent and interesting way. Creating different experiences - that's the direction in which we're going.

How does planning fountains in this region differ from elsewhere?

There is a lot of discussion on how we can use water. From a design perspective we're looking more at alternative sources, like using treated sewage effluent (TSE) and seawater.

We have to look at how we can find more interesting ways of being able to use that water for the benefits of water features. Sand is a big issue, so we avoid at all costs using submersible pumps because they don't operate very well in sandy conditions.

We design water features with surge tanks and large reservoirs so that the sand can be contained and removed, to avoid the nozzles getting clogged up.

How do you see the market developing here?

If it was just Dubai, a big flash in the pan, it would worry us. [But] Abu Dhabi will probably be a better market than Dubai. This whole region is very active.

A lot of the UAE developers are starting to invest in other areas, such as northern Africa, and also further afield. India shows a lot of potential. We're experiencing something here that historically we've never seen before. It's very challenging and exciting.

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