I receive phone calls and emails just about every day from universities, municipal planning committees, swimming coaches, and architects asking for “ballpark” construction costs for a proposed swimming pool. While there are literally thousands of items that would need to be researched and priced to develop a true construction cost estimate, there are just a few that are needed to produce a rough opinion of probable construction cost. An in depth understanding of the aquatic industry combined with years of experience also helps. One could say that this is an exercise in ART (Opinion of Probable Construction Cost) vs. SCIENCE (Detailed Construction Cost Estimate).
Type of pool – Today’s pools come in every size, shape, and depth. They are often specialized for each particular user group…..warm shallow water for toddlers and cool deep water for competitive swimmers. The area of the pool is a significant factor in determining an opinion of probable cost as is the depth of the pool. The deeper the pool the higher the construction cost will be as pool and building foundations get upsized to handle the additional loading. As you might expect, rectangular competition pools are less expensive to construct than free form recreation pools with integral lazy rivers, play features, and seating areas.
Location – As with a lot of products and services, the West and East Coasts traditionally are more expensive to build swimming pools. Places like Los Angeles and New York could carry a 25-30% construction cost premium over projects located in the Midwest. Projects located in colder climates also tend to have higher construction costs due to the short building season while swimming pools constructed in the south and southeast see considerable construction cost savings over other parts of the country.
Economic Conditions – When the economy is good, construction costs are traditionally higher. Consumers are active with construction projects causing supply of materials to be in short supply. Municipalities also tend to be move forward with more construction projects when the economy is booming. Elected officials find it easier to fund projects that would come under criticism when times are tough. Contractors are busy and tend to price their services higher during positive economic conditions. During declining economic times, goods and services can be had at 20 – 25% savings. This was evident three to four years ago during the great recession. Very stable institutions such as universities were able to capitalize on these cost savings and construct large aquatic centers while municipalities found it harder to pull the trigger on capital intensive projects.
Understanding these three key factors are paramount in developing an opinion of probable construction cost. The quality of finishes and amenities included in the swimming pool could also significantly impact the cost of construction. A tile finish is almost double the cost of a plaster finish while play features and waterslides could add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of a project. With all these disclaimers in place, an opinion of probable cost for pool construction typically lands within the following costs:
Competition Pool - $160 - $180 per Sq. Ft.
Leisure Pool - $200 - $250 per Sq. Ft.
Spa - $600 - $700 per Sq. Ft.