Ever stroll around a zoo and wonder who makes all this stuff?: The answer is we do! The goal of zoo exhibit design is to immerse visitors in the animal's natural habitat while still catering to the needs of the animal and its keeper. Each animal has special requirements, which can include major exhibit features like caves, streams or pools, dens, hollow logs, jungle gyms, etc., as well as things like special lighting or temperature regulators. For example, these small reptile enclosures, which we created for geckos at the Micke Grove Zoo, include integrated lighting and hidden keeper access doors. These museum-quality, hand-sculpted enclosures were themed (masterfully carved and painted by Allan) to look just like the geckos' natural habitat! Below is a glimpse into our process from concept drawing to finished product:
Top Left: Initial enclosure concept rendering Bottom Left: During construction Right: Finished gecko enclosure
Left: Enclosure in progress Right: Finished gecko enclosure
Total Habitat is proud to share this spectacular backyard transformation! We designed and built this space for a very special client who grew up swimming in a Total Habitat Natural Swimming Pool/Pond and is now ready for one of her own! This custom backyard oasis features three terraces, 200 linear feet of stacked stone retaining walls, steps made from local limestone slabs, an upper origin pool with waterfall and 80-foot long stream! The centerpiece of the space is a 95,000 gallon chemical-free swimming pond, featuring our signature crystal-clear clean water and built-in biological filtration system.
Check out the full video HERE
Designed and built by Total Habitat, this 12 foot deep, spring-fed Natural Swimming Pool/Pond is nestled in the heart of the rolling Tennessee hills. Completed this summer (2017), this swimming hole offers unlimited fun with an 18 foot waterslide, gentle-entry pebble beach, and waterfall with hidden grotto!
2012-2013 Total Habitat Natural Swimming Pond at meditation & healing retreat in Georgia! The Elohee Center, in the mountains of North Georgia, provides a beautiful retreat space in Nature to allow for self-exploration, individual growth, and mind/body healing. Like the retreat's Fire Ring, lush forest, and spectacular mountaintop views, the Swimming Pond has become an integral part of the natural healing experience. Click here for more information about the Elohee Center as well as upcoming programs and retreats.
This gorgeous new Natural Swimming Pond, tucked deep in the forest near Seattle, Washington, is both a peaceful retreat for its owners and a never-ending source of fun for their Australian Shepherd, Indie! Constructed of big, beautiful, locally-sourced boulders, this NSP also features a weather-proof TimberTech and cedar jumping pier. As always, this NSP is completely chlorine (and salt) free, cleaned instead with our powerful built-in biological filtration system (tucked behind the boulder walls and under the river rock floor)!
Indie, surveying his new chemical-free Natural Swimming Pond!
We are excited to announce that after many hours of hard work by our dedicated NSP design & build team, Total Habitat is now offering downloadable Natural Swimming Pool/Pond construction plans!
The Essential NSP Plans are a guide to our most basic, most affordable style of natural pool. If you are looking for a simple yet fully functional and beautiful NSP for your family, then these plans are for you! This 50FT NSP features a powerful built-in biological filter, jumping pier with ladder, low profile waterfall, zero-entry pebble beach and 700 square feet of swimming space!
What size is the Essential NSP? The pool is about 50FT overall with a roughly 30FT (approx. 630 square ft) swimming area surrounded by a powerful built-in biological filter. The Essential NSP holds about 50,000 gallons, is 7FT-8FT deep in the center and is spacious enough for most families to enjoy.
What shape is the Essential NSP? You can choose between an oval shaped pool (50FT x 40FT overall) and a round shaped pool (45FT x 45FT overall). Both shapes work out to be about 50,000 gallons.
How much does the Essential NSP cost to build? Most of the time, our Essential NSP model is built for around $50,000 - $55,000. The plans include instructions for the optional addition of a waterfall and large edge boulders (aka the "Essential PLUS"). The Essential PLUS is typically built for $60,000 - $65,000 given the extra 20T load of boulders needed to create that design.
Note: These costs are turn-key which means they include all the material, equipment rental, and labor costs needed to build the Essential NSP. For a DIY build: The materials alone typically cost $24,000 - $29,000 and equipment rental is often $5,000 - $10,000.
How long does it take to build an Essential NSP? Our experienced NSP construction team (we travel often all over the US) can typically build an Essential NSP in just 2-3 weeks! We have over 15 years experience building NSP's, so we've had a lot of practice with things like plumbing the biological filter, timing material deliveries just right, transforming a pile of boulders into a perfectly natural-looking waterfall and working with local tradespersons like excavators and electricians.
What is included with the Essential NSP Plans? The Essential NSP Plans are a comprehensive set of construction plans that include detailed dimensional drawings and instructions for everything from the dig itself to the biological filter plumbing, laying of the pond liner, underwater wall construction, and pier and ladder assembly.
Included with the plans is a copy of our well known how-to guide eBook, Natural Swimming Pools & Ponds: THE TOTAL GUIDE, 2nd Edition. Throughout the plan pages, you will see references to the included eBook for more information about a particular construction step or system concept.
With the Essential NSP Plans, you also get an itemized Materials List & Estimate Worksheet, complete with quantities, to help you get an idea of where your money is going and what materials and equipment you will need to source locally (if a DIY build).
Who can build my Essential NSP? Some handy folks with construction experience and/or access to heavy equipment, can DIY an Essential NSP. Many local pond or water garden building teams are well equipped to take on the construction of an Essential NSP (this NSP is more similar to a pond in construction than a traditional concrete pool). To save on construction time and for added peace of mind, many folks still choose to bring our experienced building team out to their site -- we work all over the US! We typically build an Essential NSP in just 2-3 weeks by a team of 3, which saves you a ton on travel and lodging costs for our crew!
If you've already found a local building team or have decided to take on the construction of an Essential NSP yourself, we can also send one of our experienced Project Managers to your site for the entire build or just for a few crucial steps (like excavation, liner-laying, and plumbing of the biological filter). We are here to help!
Check out this new article about one of our Natural Swimming Pool/Ponds in Connecticut! Thank you to Julie, Carl and Eli -- it was truly a privilege to work with such a lovely family-- and to writer Martha Mintz for her diligent work on this article!
We are proud to announce that this week Total Habitat was awarded a Building Congress and Exchange Craftsmanship Award for our Exhibit work at the Baltimore Zoo! Using shotcrete (a type of concrete that is sprayed onto an armature then artistically carved/stamped and colored) we created a stream for the zoo's Marsh Aviary habitat.
Photo credit & info about other award winners:
In Progress: Mick & Dale finalizing the overall stream shape in preparation for shotcrete.
In Progress: Structure coat underway (structural concrete layer over rebar w/ shape roughed out). Next, will be "theme" coat (top layer of concrete that will be artistically carved/stamped).
In Progress: Stamped mud texture (left). Stream with "theme" coat applied and carving underway (right photo).
Check out these stunning pics of the animal habitats we created for the brand new Bugarium at the ABQ Biopark!
At the Bugarium, which is home to such spectacular specimens as tarantulas, centipedes, scorpions, giant katydids, naked mole rats, and giant roaches, we were tasked with the challenge of creating several distinct exhibits within one large open area. We created these exhibit areas-- Desert, Tropics (including a living wall, waterfall, and indoor pond), Ant Island w/ "Highway" Vine, and Nocturnal Forest/Riverbank-- to accommodate our "bug" residents and immerse visitors in their natural environments. Here are photos from the exhibit opening:
In the Tropical Area, we created a living wall that features a carved "rock" waterfall with boulder-edged pond below. Check out our project photo gallery for in-progress pics!
The Desert Area was designed to house desert floor dwellers like tarantulas, scorpions and Honeypot Ants. In order to display these specimens in an accessible way, we brought the desert floor up to the visitor and themed the display like an eroded desert ridge.
Entrance to the Nocturnal Forest
Nocturnal Forest in daylight (90% completed)...
Here in the Nocturnal Forest, we created an immersive experience for visitors, complete with a carved concrete buttressed tree and fallen log (which house the "bugs"), a leafy canopy above, and eery sounds of the forest at night which echo around the dimly lit space.
Nocturnal Riverbank in daylight (90% completed)...
In the second Nocturnal room, we created an eroded riverbank, complete with themed mud and tree roots, in order to bring our underground and rainforest floor specimens up to eye level. Here, visitors move through semi-darkness toward backlit displays cut into the side of the riverbank, while listening to the (sometimes eery) sounds of the rainforest at night.
Water-bug Area: Here we created space for the water-bug aquariums with visitor seating in between. We themed these bench seats like a muddy riverbank with roots poking through and a cracked mud texture on top.
Ant Island: On this octagonal island, we erected three 15ft trees (dead trees but with a silk leaves) surrounded by a mote, to house the Leaf Cutter Ants. We also created an artificial vine (kept moist for their comfort) that runs from the trees on this island to their home base on the other side of the room, allowing the ants to collect leaves from this island to bring back to the rest of the colony. So cool!
A close-up of the Leaf Cutter Ant "Highway" vine
Finally, using much of the same processes as our Natural Swimming Pool/Ponds, we created a pond for catfish and dragonflies at the entrance to the Bugarium.
Here is an underwater view of the pond (to the left you can see one of our built-in hiding places for future catfish) -- as always, crystal-clear water with no chemicals!
Check back with us each month for tips, new project pics, news, and more, here on our Total Blog!