All month long, we’ve revealed the winners of APSP's Awards of Excellence — and today, it’s finally time to get to the best of the best, the crème de la crème: the gold award winners.

For each gold-winning project, we'll share an inside look at the construction, including product and material choices, as well as the behind-the-scenes details about the construction process. (After all, just about every project has a great story behind it.)

Below, we take a look at the first half of this year’s honorees. Be sure to come back Thursday to see the rest.

Missed the other winners?
2016 AOE: Silver Winners
2016 AOE: Bronze Winners

One last thing: Don't forget there's one last award up for grabs in this year's AOE — the Fan Favorite award. Be sure to vote for your favorite project!


 

Clearwater Construction Group

Burlington, N.C.

Tile: Mosaicists
Decking: Quarried Turkish travertine
Lighting: Savi
Fire Feature: Bobé
Sanitizer: Chlor King, Clearwater Tech
Circulation: Jandy
Automation: Jandy, CES

This project is more than stunning — it's a bona fide technical achievement. The Lautner knife edge on the inside of the pool and the vanishing edge on the other three sides is challenging enough, but the pool is also suspended 50 feet in the air, requiring the team at Clearwater to cantilever the pool. Designer Brian Van Bower wanted the pool to serve as a transition point between the home, which features strong lines, and the gentle curves and slopes of the scenery. To help, the pool is fully lined with black tile to creative a reflective surface that helps integrate the stunning view into the backyard space.

 


 

Aloha Pools

Burnaby, British Columbia

Decking: Custom cedar
Lighting: Jandy
Circulation: Pentair

According to designer Marco Rizzo, "Everything about this project challenged our approach to building pools." The client and architect wanted a concrete infinite-edge spa comprised of a series of non-concentric rings, starting with a glass-covered light pit below the foot well and a tanning ledge inside the vanishing-edge gutter. The shape and size of each ring was specific and required complex formwork to achieve the appropriate structure. The spa was completely tiled with individual half-inch Mexican tiles and had to achieve perfect spillover with minimal water flow. As an added challenge, the spa had to be portable due to load support limits. As a result, the spa was built with a number of lightweight features and a series of lift points that would allow for easy access to a crane.

 


 

Caviness Landscape Design

Arcadia, Okla.

Decking: Natural Oklahoma flagstone
Tile: Master Tile
Lighting: Philips
Water Feature: Bobé
Interior Finish: Plaster
Fire Feature: Bobé
Sanitizer: Zodiac
Cleaner: Zodiac
Circulation: Zodiac
Automation: Zodiac

Everything about this project, from the large-scale home to the personality of the family/clients, called for an epic design. To answer that call, the Caviness team created a three-level paradise: at the top is a patio and spa; in the middle is a pool, flagstone beach entry, sunken fire pit and swim-up bar; and the lower level has a pool separated by a large natural boulder waterfall and a swim-through grotto. To cap it all off, there's a rope swing made with repurposed cedar trees from the property. All told, there's truly something for everyone.

 


 

Dal Pino Quality Pools

Auburn, Calif.

Decking: Precast stone
Tile: Golden Plains quartzite
Decking: Mantell Masonry
Lighting: Pentair, Roman Fountains
Interior Finish: Plaster
Sanitizer: Paramount, King Technology
Cleaner: Paramount
Circulation: Pentair/Sta-Rite
Start-Up Chemicals: Hasa
Automation: Pentair
Cover: Aquamatic

This homeowner had a specific vision for their backyard: an outdoor living space that harmonized with the rural surroundings in a symmetrical fashion. While this sounded like a simple request, the team at Dal Pino learned it was anything but. Every inch of the design, from retaining walls and lighting to precast stones and statues, had to be perfectly positioned to create balance from all angles. Their painstaking precision paid off, however, with a design that achieved everything the client hoped for.

 


 

Premier Paradise

Gilbert, Ariz.

Tile: Oceanside Glass Tile
Decking: Monterrey Tile limestone
Lighting: Pentair
Water Feature: WaterShape
Interior finish: Wet Edge
Fire Feature: HPC
Sanitizer: Pentair
Cleaner: Paramount
Circulation: Pentair
Start-Up Chemicals: Hasa, Beautec
Automation: Pentair

For designer Jeromey Naugle, a beautiful outcome wasn't the only goal — energy efficiency was equally important. To that end, the pool and spa's circulation system boasts carefully planned hydraulics designed to operate as efficiently as possible. To allow for proper velocities, 4-inch plumbing was used throughout the project, and 2,500 square feet of artificial turf was installed to conserve both water and energy. Because of the careful selection of turf and succulent plantings, the home's irrigation system can be shut off after two years.

 


 

Austin Water Designs

Austin, Texas

Decking: Natural stone
Tile: Murano glass tile
Coping: QDI travertine
Lighting: Jandy
Water Feature: Jandy, Pebble Tec
Fire Feature: Pebble Tec
Sanitizer: Delta
Cleaner: Polaris
Circulation: Jandy
Automation: Jandy

David Howe and the team at Austin Water Designs was tasked with a tricky job: To create a jaw-dropping poolscape that wouldn't overwhelm the limited space. To accomplish that feat, the team created an all-tile pool with elevations highlighted by multiple negative edges, which work to draw the eye and add dimension to the property. Multiple fire bowls, LED laminar jets and nicheless LED lights help create a spectacle for evening entertainment throughout the year.

 


 

Premier Paradise

Gilbert, Ariz.

Tile: Oceanside Glass Tile
Decking: Monterrey Tile limestone
Lighting: Pentair
Water Feature: WaterShape
Interior finish: Wet Edge
Fire Feature: HPC
Sanitizer: Pentair
Cleaner: Paramount
Circulation: Pentair
Start-Up Chemicals: Hasa, Beautec
Automation: Pentair

For this project, "big budget" is an understatement — in the end, what you see here cost $2 million dollars and took 14 months to construct. Many details are one-of-a-kind, including the Inter-Fab BYOS slide, which was wrapped in a steel frame and then given a stucco treatment for a clean finish. The pool had to be built 48 inches above grade, and required more than 350 feet of hard forms that took three weeks to install. The interior is finished with $190,000 of glass tile installed over the course of six months. While the project was a long time in the making, the result is a backyard escape full of fun features, but with a grown-up, luxurious feel.

 


 

Pool Environments

Plano, Texas

Decking: Lueders
Tile: Knoxtile
Lighting: Pentair
Water Feature: Custom
Interior Finish: Wet Edge
Sanitizer: Rainbow
Cleaner: Pentair
Circulation: Pentair
Start-Up Chemicals: Start Up Tech
Automation: Pentair

The client purchased this property intending to renovate it from the inside out. While the inside canvas was generous, the outside space was rather restricted. The first plan for the backyard was to squeeze in as much seating as possible without encroaching on the pool. To achieve this, the team removed trees and bushes that separated the house from its zero-lot-line neighbor. With the addition of Lueder limestone pavers, this new area alone would free up nearly 120 additional square feet, which happened to be the perfect amount of space for a mobile gas fire pit and sectional sofa. It's the perfect place to unwind and watch the sunset.

 


 

Splash Pools & Construction

Chino, Calif.

Tile: Arizona Tile
Lighting: Hayward
Interior Finish: Pebble Tec
Circulation: Hayward
Start-Up Chemicals: Black Magic

This homeowner asked for a raised overflow pool with glass walls to allow guests to see underwater from outside the pool. Instead of glass, team at Splash Pools and Construction opted for 2.5-inch acrylic sheets, which had to be craned over the house due to their weight. With a vanishing edge on the front three sections of the pool, and a negative edge along the back, it was imperative that the pool was exactly level; it was equally important that the filtration system operated perfectly to provide an even flow of water over each wall. Topping off this project is an elegant work of art that frames the back of the pool.

 


 

Valley Pools & Spas

Burnsville, Minn.

Decking: Slate tile
Portable spa: Marquis
Start-Up Chemicals: BioGuard

When renovating this space, the homeowners wanted a few things. First, they wanted an easy-to-maintain portable spa with a lounge. Second, they wanted it to look built-in, without it actually being built-in. And third, they wanted a great shell color to match the rest of the space. Valley Pools & Spas delivered on all three counts with a Marquis Spas 545 E-Series in the color Tuscan Sun, which perfectly matches the reclaimed stone and wood materials that surround the tub. A final cool detail: To reach the equipment panel, the service tech pulls away the custom steps, which are secured to the wood panel.