Sophia (will also respond to Soph or Ace) has been designing with Total Habitat since 2013. She is originally from Wichita, moved to Bonner Springs in her teens, and has now called Lawrence Kansas home for the last decade. Sophia’s favorite work tools are Vectorworks for creating our construction detailed drawings, and Realtime Landscaping Pro to quickly visualize spaces in 3D. What Sophia enjoys most about working with Total Habitat is seeing her two-dimensional drawings coming to life in the world. She said it is extremely rewarding seeing people enjoying their completed project knowing it started out as a simple idea on a piece of paper.
Outside of work Sophia sings and plays in a band named Artful Darling, they play grunge folk music and perform around the Kansas City area. She is a member of the Kansas City Roller Warriors, the roller derby league in Kansas City. She is on the Victory Vixens team and they are Rink of Fire Championship winners as of July 2019!
Katherine (or Kat) has been with Total Habitat as our resident accounts person since the very beginning. As she said, "I remember when it was just a sparkle in my husband's eye". We were lucky enough to snag her as our Office Manager full-time after she retired from teaching in 2016. When asked about her favorite tool she said the old-school adding machine. She said she had a mishap with the memory save option on a paperless method and won't go back, stating comically, "crying at your desk isn't good for office moral!".
Outside of work Katherine enjoys getting together with friends and family, playing music, and painting. She plays guitar and dabbles in several other instruments. Katherine has been performing since she was young when she was in a band with her sister, and still continues to play with her family and friends at the Kit Kat Club in Bonner Springs.
Mick (Mickey or Flip) has been in charge of Total Habitat since he founded it in 1996. Mick has been in the zoo world for many years and was formerly the Curator of Exhibits at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita. He had his "ah-ha" moment when he witnessed otters playing in the new chemical-free, and crystal-clear swimming pool exhibit they built. He realized that people should get to enjoy this wonderful chlorine-free experience for themselves!
Mick grew up in Kansas City, and has lived in Lawrence and Wichita before moving back to Bonner Springs. One of his favorite projects was a Natural Swimming Pond in Tennessee. We rented an excavator that reached an extreme length of 60 feet so that we were able to use one large machine instead of several small ones to navigate around this huge pond project complete with water slide and swimming grotto!
Outside of running Total Habitat Mick enjoys spending time with his family and grand-dog Kona. He enjoys writing music and poetry. You can often find him playing music with friends at the Kit Kat Club at Lake of the Forest in Bonner Springs, Kansas.
Heading Back to North Carolina!
This summer we will be taking a crew and heading to build a number of new zoo exhibits: cassowary, pygmy hippo, chilean flamingos, sand cat, black-footed cat, serval, fishing cat, and red panda. Some of the exhibits will be upgrades to animals already at the zoo, while others will be for animals new to the Greensboro Science Center! We had a wonderful meeting with many of the zoo's employees where we were able to showcase the models we built. These models help give a visual example of what we hope to accomplish in an accurately scaled model, which also makes it easier for their experts to communicate the needs of the animals and feel comfortable in proceeding with the fabrication by Total Habitat.
Below you can view some of the original (V1) models we made for our first big showcase meeting.
Head over to the Greensboro NC website & read their article talking about their exciting new zoo expansion!
We can't wait to head back to the Greensboro Science Center and start making some new exciting exhibits for these animals! Check back here on our Blog or follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates on this project and more!
2019 In Review
We have had such a busy and wonderful year at Total Habitat! We wanted to take some time and share with our followers some of the great projects we participated in this year.
Kansas City Zoo
We did a lot of work in the Kansas City Zoo in 2019. We gave the hippos Cairo and Liberty a new sand pit to roll around in as well built in a sun shade for those sweltering Kansas summer days. We participated in the building of the new Tree Kangaroo Exhibit by constructing artificial trees for them to climb on, in both the inside and outside enclosures. And lastly this year we got to completely re-do the previous meerkat exhibit in the discovery barn to make way for Arnie the two-toed Sloth!
We love working with the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and usually have a project every year with them. This year we did a large amount of demolition work and rebuild in order to fit themed reptile enclosures in the 'Meadow' area of the zoo which features species native to the Maryland area. Check out an article showcasing the animals in the renovated exhibit here. We are looking forward to being back at the Maryland Zoo for a new project in early 2020!
We started a big project this fall for Kay's Garden at the Topeka Zoo, we are building all of the water features and we completed Phase 1 this winter! Below you can see the streams that will eventually connect to a large koi pond that will be completed in 2020. Read more about this project or take a virtual walk through of the future Japanese Garden at www.topekazoo.org/kaysgarden
Rock Climbing Wall: Prairie Schooner Girl Scout Camp
We finished a huge Rock Climbing Wall for Camp Prairie Schooner in Missouri in early 2019. We were happy to hear that a number of girl scouts reached the top of the climbing wall, but it was still a challenge! Go to our blog post here to read more details about this huge project, and don't forget its Girl Scout cookie season.
Hoop House for Wolf Park
We sent a team of two out to the Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana to build a large Hoop House named Grey Haven for foxes. Our team members had a wonderful time getting to know their interns and Wolf Park employees, and even got to have a meet & greet with some of their ambassadors wolves! See more details from this project as well as a very cute picture of one of our team members with a fox on their shoulder on our previous blog post here.
We had numerous natural swimming pool projects this year, as well as a decorative pond with a rock slab retaining wall in Kansas. We built two pools in Napa, California and Fort Bragg, California at the same time with two different teams. We also consulted with a team on an island off of Spain to make a beautiful Natural Swimming Pool that fit wonderfully into the landscape.
Looking forward to 2020!
We want to thank everyone for following with us on our journey this past year, we are looking forward to some big projects we have coming in the next few months and everything that we have coming our way for the year of 2020!
Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay updated on our current projects.
We are very excited to announce that we have been working at the Topeka Zoo along with other construction companies as well as Kogi Morimoto, a Japanese Garden Master to create the much awaited Kay's Garden! Total Habitat will be creating all of the water features within Kay's Garden. This project is a legacy gift for the former Kansas Supreme Court Justice Kay McFarland who established a living trust to build and maintain her dream of a world class Japanese Garden in the state & city she served for over 3 decades.
*Read more about Kay E. McFarland here
We are well into Phase 1 of the project which includes all of the upper level streams, 2 ponds, 7 bridges and 12 waterfalls! In the pictures below you can see some completed stream rock work, the large rock plates or weir plates are a vital part of the water falls creates that classic cascading effect.
Phase 2, which will begin in 2020, features a massive koi pond which will circulate over 250,000 gallons of water. The adjacent upper level streams will join back together after their separate journeys through the garden via a large waterfall into the koi pond.
Below you can see our model that was presented before beginning the project, there you can see the stream systems, the 2 upper ponds, and the large koi pond with walking paths throughout.
Building a Natural Swimming Pool in 7 days in Spain
Last week we put together a three person team from Total Habitat (Mick, Kathryn, Joanna) to consult for a Natural Swimming Pond with the a local crew and built it in just seven days. The Spain crew finished the excavation process before Total Habitat's contribution and were able to complete the Natural Swimming Pool in record time thanks to the dedication and efficiency of both crews working together. The Spain crew was amazing to work with and we had a great time getting to know Scott, Helder, Chris, Robbie, Miguel, Mario, and Valdi.
We were able to source materials almost exclusively from the island where the home was located. Having local materials helps the NSP harmonize with the surrounding landscape as well as keeping costs and environmental impacts lower. This particular Natural Swimming Pond is roughly 25,000 gallons (~94,600 liters) with a tall water fall feature nestled into the hillside of the property.
Which would you Prefer?
One of the biggest advantages a Natural Swimming Pool/Pond has over a Traditional Pool is that it is beautiful year round. You don't have to drain it or cover it in the fall or winter like a traditional pool, and, in most places in the USA you can leave your NSP running all year long. If you live in a cold enough climate, you can even let your pond freeze over and ice skate on it!
It's important when building a Natural Swimming Pool/Pond to know the requirements for winterizing depending on which climate the NSP is built in. For example, you need to bury certain parts of your plumbing underneath the frost line to prevent damage to your pumps or other parts of the mechanical filter system. Every climate has different and specific adjustments that need to be made to ensure it runs smoothly for years to come.
1. Better Views
A Natural Swimming Pool/Pond is a joy to see throughout the year... as long as it is visible! One of the best things about NSP's is that you don't need to cover or drain them over the winter. In fact, in all but the coldest places, you can run your pool/pond all year long, providing you with spectacular views of the waterfall(s), fish, plants, wildlife and crystal-clear water, even when you're not swimming! When designing a NSP onsite, we always consider the views from major gathering spaces, such as the kitchen or dining room window or a back deck or patio, often positioning waterfalls and other special elements so they are as visible as possible from these points.
2. Easier Access
Imagine it's a hot summer day and you are just dying to take a dip in your crystal-clear swimming pond! If your NSP is right next to your house, it is really easy to simply jump in and enjoy! Now, imagine you've built your pool/pond 50 feet or more away, in a back field or somewhere downhill from your house; enjoying your NSP becomes more of a day trip than a passing activity. Picture having to haul all your towels, water toys, refreshments, snacks, and sunscreen out to the pond every time you want to use it, corralling kids and pets along the way. Then, (inevitably) oops, you forgot something up at the house or you need to use the bathroom... time to hike again! Trust me, as someone who grew up at a lake and always had to endure at least 20 minutes of planning and organization before we could finally get to swimming, it is definitely worth it to put your NSP as close to your house as possible! Plus, if you have any family members or guests who are elderly or otherwise may have trouble getting around, it is much easier to include them in the fun if your NSP is near the house.
3. Better Site Drainage
Many people see a depression or a low spot in their yard and automatically think "that's the place for the swimming pond". This is a common misconception and couldn't be more wrong! A Natural Swimming Pool/Pond is not like any old murky, muddy farm pond; it is a closed system, meaning we filter the same water over and over again and we don't want any runoff from the yard to drain into the NSP. So, your pool/pond is actually best off if it is placed at the highest point in your yard, which is typically right next to your house. It is also best to place your NSP in a relatively flat spot, which is also usually next to your house, where the site has already been graded. Locating your NSP near your home can save you a lot of money raising/grading a new spot in your yard and/or having to create additional site drainage to keep dirty water from constantly running down into your nice, new swimming pond!
4. Creates a Central Gathering Space
A NSP is not just a swimming pool; it is also a focal point in your yard -- something you can design other elements around, like a patio, pergola, outdoor kitchen, fire pit, vegetable garden, treehouse, etc. Next to the pool/pond is where you will drink your morning coffee, host parties, read a good book, curl up with a glass of wine at sunset, where you will dangle your feet in the water after a long day and watch the kids discover frogs, turtles and dragonflies. Every well designed space needs a central focus, a main fixed element that everything else revolves around; that is what a Natural Swimming Pool/Pond can be in your yard!
5. Easier to Supervise Kids & Pets
With your Natural Swimming Pool/Pond right next to your house, you can better keep track of kids, pets and guests around your pool/pond. Instead of having to trek down to a pond every time your kiddos want to take a dip, you have the option of supervising from your back deck, patio or kitchen window.
6. Better Utility Access
The pump(s) for a Natural Swimming Pool/Pond will need to hook up to your existing electrical system (usually your house panel) and you will need access to water for the initial fill and for the occasional top-off. Typically, these utilities are easiest to access and cheapest to run when the NSP is closer to the house.
7. Less Maintenance Than A Lawn
If you dread the arrival of warmer weather because it means you have to start mowing your grass every single Saturday morning when all you want to do is relax after a long week at work, then ditch that boring expanse of lawn and install a NSP! A Natural Swimming Pool/Pond is much less maintenance than a manicured yard and is a whole lot more fun! Plus, a pool/pond placed close to your house allows you to create spaces around the NSP or between the pool/pond and the house for low maintenance landscaping, decorative rocks and/or mulched beds. You can also hardscape between the NSP and the house with a deck or patio, so that you don't end up with an annoying strip of grass that you have to constantly maintain between the house and the pond.
8. Provides Rainwater Harvesting Opportunities
When your Natural Swimming Pool/Pond is right next to a building with a large square footage of roof (aka your house), you can collect the rain water that drains off of your roof and use it to top off your pool/pond! This is called rainwater harvesting and can be done with relatively inexpensive collection barrels that are connected to your downspouts (some are even made to look like decorative pots) or with an underground rainwater harvesting tank. Adding a system like this is a really easy way to save some money and some water!
9. More Value For Your Money
Because placing your Natural Swimming Pool/Pond by your house provides you with easier, quicker access to it and better views of it, you will automatically get more use out of it. That means you get more value for your money and more return on your investment! Plus, it keeps you from needing to spend money building additional site features near a distant pool/pond that you probably already have at your house, like shade on a hot summer day or access to a bathroom. If you build a NSP far away from your house, you will inevitably find in time that you now need to build an additional pergola, patio or pool house near it in order to give you some place to store water toys or simply some place to sit and relax when you're not in the water. You will get much more value for your money if you instead build that pergola next to your home, where it can be used for any number of activities outside of just enjoying the pool/pond; visions of summer barbecues, starlit family dining and a gently swinging hammock spring to mind! Rather than spending twice the money to create two separate destination spaces in your yard, you can direct your hard-earned money towards one multi-use space that will also enhance your biggest investment, the space you spend the most of your time in already; your home!
10. Easier to Fence
Depending on where you live, you may be required to install a fence around any pool or pond you have built on your property. It is much easier and less expensive to fence a NSP if you can use your house as part of the barrier. Plus, it doesn't spoil any views of your beautiful new swimming pond!
Using dye in your Natural Swimming Pool/Pond is important because it helps protect the water from harsh direct sunlight. The sunlight doesn't harm the water itself, but is a large factor in algae growth. There are a few key times in the life of your NSP when dye is especially helpful. The first being when your NSP is first built. When you've filled the NSP and your pump system is going you need to introduce the dye to protect the water for the first few weeks when the biological filter is establishing itself. The beneficial bacteria needs time to grow into all the nooks and crannies to prevent an algae bloom. The second key time for dye is when you are most likely to experience an algae bloom in your NSP, which is early spring. Spring is the beautiful time when everything begins to grow back in, sadly this does include algae, which will be one of the first and easiet things to grow in your NSP. The dye helps prevent that spring sunshine from creating an algae party in your pool.
Check back with us each month for tips, new project pics, news, and more, here on our Total Blog!