Harnessing The Power Of Fog

HARNESSING THE POWER OF FOG

BY ROBERT MIKULA

In the summer, well-designed public spaces serve as gathering points for people of all ages. Among the various elements contributing to their vibrancy, water features stand out for their ability to foster joy and interaction among visitors. A captivating addition to water features has emerged in recent years – Fog.

As a Water Feature Designer or Landscape Architect, have you explored the aesthetic and practical benefits of integrating fog into your upcoming project? Drawing on my experience as Creative Design Director at Crystal Fountains and with extensive data and expert insights from Bryan Roe, President of Koolfog, we delve into the critical aspects of fog systems, equipping you with the knowledge to make informed design decisions.

A. WHY DESIGN WITH FOG?

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One of my favourite features of fog nozzles, which adds a layer of visual intrigue, is how they can be dynamically lit with LED lighting. As fog particles rise, they catch and uniformly scatter light emitted from LEDs within the water feature. The tiny droplets produce a soft, diffused glow, creating an immersive lighting effect.

In addition to blending light, fog nozzles can also be sequenced via DMX programming, transforming a fog feature into an interactive attraction for patrons of all ages. We often sequence fog features with activation sensors (such as foot or bollards) to create unique spatial experiences or increase foot traffic. Our Via Bloor Parkette project in Toronto, Canada, is an example of an interactive experience we created using sensors.  

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When I think of ways in which a water feature can fulfill different aesthetic preferences, the versatility provided by fog nozzles immediately comes to mind. These nozzles can be used vertically, horizontally, overhead, within a splash pad (foot-friendly and flushed finish) or with art structures. An example is Waterloo Park’s feature, where fog nozzles were vertically integrated with a metallic art structure shaped like a tree. The artistic goal was to use fog to create cloud-like formations which hover over the tree and float out over the adjoining lake. Visually, the fog nozzles are non-intrusive, carry light beautifully and are strategically positioned to provide a cooling effect to patrons seated at nearby benches.

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I’m always fascinated by the inclusivity that fog features create within a space, which makes them accessible and engaging to people of all ages and abilities. Unlike traditional water jets, fog can be more approachable. For example, a person interacting with fog is not as concerned about getting soaked (extremely wet), or facing intense water pressure. Essentially, through fog features, patrons can interact with water that is softer, friendlier.

B. PRACTICAL BENEFITS OF FOG

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Fog systems provide a practical solution for hot summer days, offering a cooling effect for visitors, especially in hardscape terrains. Billions of tiny fog droplets absorbed by the air can lead to a significant temperature drop. For instance, on a hot day with 96°F (35°C) and 20% humidity, a fog system can create a 20°F (11°C) drop in temperature that can create a more comfortable microclimate that benefits patrons. This “evaporative cooling” effect is like the refreshing sensation experienced near waterfalls or lawn sprinklers.

Crystal | Harnessing The Power Of Fog

Fog-based water features consume significantly less water than traditional interactive splash pads. The fog products we use from Koolfog in our designs consume approximately 1/10th of the water compared to conventional water jets within the same footprint. Additionally, water consumption can be further reduced using DMX show programming.

When a client approaches me about refurbishing a traditional jet fountain in a water-rich area, like Texas, I propose converting it into a fog feature. The benefit for clients is that the feature will require less infrastructure and space to operate while maintaining the same visual appeal. This is because fog systems connect directly to a municipal potable water source, eliminating the need for a reservoir, water treatment, or large dry pumps typically required by traditional jets. Additionally, the supply lines for fog systems are much smaller in diameter compared to those of conventional jets.

Kaiserslautern Square’s successful refurbishment from a traditional splash pad to a fog feature.

C. CONSIDERATIONS WHEN DESIGNING WITH FOG

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When designing, it is important for me to consider various environmental factors which impact fog effects. Wind, temperature, humidity, surrounding physical context (buildings, structures, etc.) and elevation, among other elements, shape what we see and how we experience fog in a water feature. For instance, a fog niche can output a robust, rising cloud on a day with no wind, high humidity level, and a lower temperature, say 68°F (20°C). This may be experienced in Fall or Spring, in Toronto. That same effect can change into a less robust massing with less visual impact on a day with high wind, low humidity level, and a higher temperature, say 86°F (30°C). This may be experienced in the Winter, in Toronto.

While fog and mist are similar, there is a distinction in their effects. Mist is a heavier particle that wets the immediate area more, while fog is a lighter and smaller particle that creates a more defined, extensive, and voluminous visual. These two effects also illuminate slightly differently. Combining fog and mist can create an alternative user experience, offering diverse interactions within a single water feature. Generally, fog particles are smaller than 50 microns, while mist particles are in the 50–100–micron range. Most fog nozzles produce average particles in the 10–20-micron range, with some smaller and some bigger.

Mist (left) vs. Fog (right)

Fog is one of the assets in my design arsenal. However, knowing when I should utilize this asset is essential. Fog systems are best suited for outdoor public spaces in warm climates. When incorporating fog features, it’s important to consider that they reduce visibility. This could be challenging in a few ways. Firstly, it may pose safety hazards in areas with high foot traffic. Secondly, security cameras may not be able to capture people walking through an area with a fog feature, which may be considered a security issue. Also, when using fog nozzles in regions with harsh winters, additional considerations should be given to winterization procedures that protect the systems from freezing temperatures. Landscape Architects should evaluate local climate and safety regulations to ensure the optimal use of fog in their designs.

The Gravity Mist fog feature at Expo 2020 in Dubai, UAE provided visitors with a much-needed cooling. Patron-centric and affective fog designs are ideal for regions like Dubai, where temperatures can average 40°C to 45°C (104°F to 113°F) and humidity levels can exceed 80%, during the summer.

Fog fountains blend beauty, innovation, and sustainability in public spaces. Designers and Landscape Architects can use the data and information presented above, to make informed decisions about fog-based systems, knowing they contribute to water conservation while creating engaging community spaces. As cities seek innovative urban solutions, fog fountains exemplify how creativity and sustainability can transform ordinary spaces into extraordinary experiences.

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