How safe are rooftop swimming pools?

A rooftop swimming pool. [iStockphoto]

Kenyan cities are fast replicating modern architectural designs including having a swimming pool on the rooftop of commercial buildings. 

Africa’s best economies such as South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt were among the continent’s countries to adopt this trend. 

Lack of ground space, aesthetics and clients’ preference for privacy are some of the reasons for the construction of swimming pools upstairs, according to Moses Gitau, the lead structural engineer of Newgen Construction.

On the safety of swimming pools constructed upstairs, engineer Gitau said proper structural calculations and design are paramount for proper load transmission from whichever floor it (the swimming pool) is built from the ground.

“And these plans must be incorporated in the initial architectural designs but should not come as second thoughts design when the building is fully built,” he told Real Estate.

Some of the three and five-star hotels in Nakuru’s central business district (CBD) adopted this advanced technology that has assured them of a certain clique of their clients who prefer privacy in their swimming habits whenever they are on holiday.

Although Bontana Hotel, a Nakuru establishment that is adjacent to Kenyatta Avenue, has enough parking space, their reason to have their swimming pool built on the first floor was for similar reasons according to General Manager Chris Komen.

A rooftop swimming pool. [iStockphoto]

“Some of our customers don’t like swimming pools in open places and therefore they particularly come here for their swimming services because they also enjoy as a result of a heater installed by us whenever on holidays,” he said.

Taidy’s Hotel located along Oginga Odinga Road, a three-star hotel in Nakuru’s CBD is another facility having its swimming pool on the seventh floor.

The pool has a depth of between 1.25 metres to 1.35 metres and its designers said the facility is permanently safe and has never had leakages.

It was built there because they lacked space for expansion.

Therefore, they involved Chinese and Kenyan engineers in the whole process that had it fitted on the seventh floor and a vertical car packing bay of 24 vehicles also fitted internally from the ground to the seventh floor.

“Mechanical aspects should enhance proper drainage, water circulation and purification,” said Gitau.

Taidy’s Hotel manager Sylvester Muli agrees with the engineer’s sentiments saying they are keen on safety of their swimmers and for the pool to avoid leakages.

Eng Gitau said the use of the right waterproofing materials in upstairs swimming pools guarantees zero leakages and therefore proper adhesive should be used to avoid such risks.

A rooftop swimming pool. [iStockphoto]

Architect Paul Muteru who designed the eight-storey Taidy’s building said the swimming pool was integrated into their initial architectural designs in a process that involved structural and mechanical engineers.

“When the right materials and accurate physics is used in the construction of swimming pools upstairs, the weight of the pool and that of water is rightly transferred to the foundation of the building and leakages will never occur,” Muteru told Real Estate.

He said if construction of the pool is done poorly, it’ll suffer from leakages.

“Mechanical engineers are required to work on water piping that leads to water treatment and drain-ageing systems whether the swimming pools are built upstairs or downstairs”.

“This one (Taidys) is well done with accurate specifications by a hybrid of engineers with the right specifications of architectural designs, which makes it one of the best upstairs swimming pools in Nakuru County,” he said.

In Nairobi, commercial buildings like the Sankara Hotel are among those that have had their swimming pool built upstairs on the rooftop.

Despite having enough space for expansion, some palatial homes in Nairobi also have swimming pools built upstairs in residential apartments for prestigious reasons.

Muteru said palatial residential homes in Kileleshwa in Nairobi are the best examples of apartments that host swimming pools in Kenya’s capital.