On Friday, at 10:30 a.m. EDT, a Kickstarter campaign will end for the second stage of the Plus Pool. The project’s designers aim to build a floating pool in New York’s East River, one that will “act like a giant Brita filter” for swimmers in New York.
Update at 10:48 a.m. EST: The Plus Pool Float Lab has raised $273,114, which is more than 100% of its funding goal.
Using a triple-layered filtration process, the Plus Pool will filter out pollutants found in the East River, both inside of the pool for swimmers as well as flushing out 500,000 gallons daily. The most dangerous contaminant is E. coli, the bacteria found in human fecal matter, which finds its way into NYC waterways due to the billions of gallons of sewage that overflows into freshwater each year. The water in the Plus Pool will be “as clean if not cleaner” than other public pools, according to project designers. They are also looking to make it free of cost.
“We're hoping to keep it as free as possible and look for other ways to make up the seasonal operational costs,” said Dong-Ping Wong, Plus Pool project designer.
The pool is in the shape of the mathematical plus sign, which allows it to function as four pools, with the center and one leg utilized for laps, while the others serving separate functions, such as a kiddie pool and free swim area. Plus Pool successfully completed a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter to raise $41,647 for a test tank in 2011. However, a campaign last year failed to raise $1 million.
Plus Pool’s creators are now looking to raise $250,000 to manufacture a 35-foot test facility they call the Float Lab. They are offering a variety of rewards to anybody willing to back the project on Kickstarter, including personalized tiles that will line the Plus Pool with names, phrases and even one-color images of a backer’s choosing. The catch on Kickstarter, a "crowdfunding" website, is that if the target goal is not reached within 30 days, the funds are returned to backers and campaigns, such as the Plus Pool, receive none of the proceeds.
Wong said it felt “pretty amazing” to have had an idea that has ignited the imaginations of so many.
“I think [Plus Pool] is one of those projects you always want to work on, whether it’s yours or someone else’s idea,” Wong said. “We pushed ourselves, and built such a huge support. ... It’s rare that projects are able to build that kind of support.”
Wong said that the project’s financial backers, who currently number almost 2,000, will help them reach their goal of $250,000. At the time of this writing, Plus Pool currently has close to $187,000.
“Kickstarter usually has a big push at the very beginning and a big push at the end,” Wong said. “We are hoping that the big push at the end will help us finish.”
As he appeals for funding for the Plus Pool’s Float Lab, Wong said interaction with the necessary agencies has been “really positive.”
“There is sort of a pattern that we’ve noticed with almost every agency on the governmental side. It starts with generous skepticism for the first minutes,” Wong said with a chuckle. “They’ve got a job to do, but they’re willing to hear us out.”
“We are coming from sort of a non-typical channel. We are knocking on doors and trying to talk to people. They are fairly skeptical at first, at almost every single meeting that has happened,” Wong said. “When they are finished doing their job, they see the project on a more personal level and tell us ‘You should talk to this person, you should do this.’ It is just a matter of getting over the initial hump of ‘who are these people?’”
After getting over that first hurdle, agency officials warm up to Plus Pool, and what it could mean for the city. They realize that Plus Pool has support from many people, and might just work.
Since it will be a temporary structure, the only permission the Plus Pool team still requires for the Float Lab is one from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Wong said he and the project’s other designers were in the process of getting a permit for the floating test facilities from the Army Corps, and already have approval from the Brooklyn Bridge Park, where the Plus Pool's Float Lab would dock.
In the test tank following the first Kickstarter campaign, the team behind Plus Pool learned that with a preliminary pass through the materials being studied, water quality is improved “dramatically, even on the worst days,” Wong said.
“Basically, the materials performed even better than expected and we've got data now to prove it,“ he said.
The floating laboratory will begin construction “as soon as the fundraising campaign is finished,” as Wong says that fabricators and manufacturers are lined up and ready to go. Should the project not complete its funding, he said Plus Pool has potential partners that they can turn to “to get to the next leg.”
“We don’t really want to abandon it, for the finished product but also as a model for other projects in the future,” Wong said. “Crowdfunding fits what we like to do. It is such a new model, and there are a lot of things to test out.”
Cities all across the world have expressed interest in the Plus Pool, and backers have asked for versions from Bangkok to Tennesee. How does Wong feel about the interest that Plus Pool has developed across the globe?
“We're all for it. + POOLs for all.”