Our Unique Approach to Fountain Design

CMS acts exclusively as a design consultant, and like most architectural firms is structured for consultation, design development, construction document production,  and construction administration. As such, we are dedicated advocates for architects and their clients. By not providing installation services, component supply, or proprietary designs, we are able to utilize a wide range of options to unique challenges. We produce discrete sets of biddable fountain mechanical and electrical drawings. Our documentation is noteworthy for its comprehensive approach and unique style.


Repeat clients provide more than 80% of our work, clients who recognize the difference a truly complete set of construction documents can make, by easing communication among team members and reducing costs in the field. As industry standards evolve, design requirements place more importance on environmental protection. Using innovative technology, CMS continues to develop creative solutions that raise the standard for green water feature designs. We are well-versed in LEED and SITE specifications relating to water feature design.


Scope of Services


Our available Scope of Services meshes well with the professional services of our clients. With decades of experience in the architectural community we are conversant with the issues, interests, and methodology of our clients. CMS has helped pioneer everything from in-house production techniques to water reclamation and LEED certification.

Design Development

If required by the project, CMS produces a Design Development package to assist with coordination and pricing. In some cases our Design Development package contains information and detail that exceeds that found in other fountain firms’ final CD set. Design Development documents usually include:

  • Schematic piping diagram
  • Equipment space layout plan
  • Pool fitting location plan
  • Site electrical lighting layout plan (if required)
  • Single line electrical power diagram
  • Performance specification for fountain control system
  • Fountain Plumbing and Electrical specifications comprising 40-60 pages

International Design Development

For our international projects, we have created an Expanded Design Development package that blends our design services with local engineering. CMS acts as the liaison between the design team, local engineers and contractors. We design water features comprehensively and economically, while emphasizing the importance of long-term viability and natural resource conservation.
CMS produces piping schematics and electrical documents, details, and specifications that are utilized by the local engineering team to produce the final construction documents. Thereafter, CMS is readily available throughout the construction documentation review process to insure an orderly transition to the local team.


Some projects present challenges where the behavior of water may not be completely predictable in regard to the site’s tolerance for splash, wind, sound, or lighting. And often a client may want a demonstration of an effect that can’t be easily conveyed by other means. A mock-up can help fine-tune design parameters or sometimes lead to unexpected alternatives.

When these challenges arise, CMS can design, observe and document mock-ups. These typically happen at a vendor’s facility or at the project site and we work closely with the architect and/or landscape architect to create the design. We attend the mock-up for observation and fine-tuning and follow up with a report.


CMS can create 3D Revit models of both the water feature equipment space and its associated site piping. Use of our piping models allows the design team to identify potential piping conflicts instantly, eliminating the need for much interdisciplinary, in-person coordination while producing more accurate plumbing documentation. The end result is greater design efficiency and a more trouble-free construction process. In addition to the elimination of conflicts, the equipment space model permits CMS to produce multiple plans, sections and isometric views of the room. This in turn allows both client and contractor to more easily understand how the room is to be assembled-further lowering the potential for mistakes during construction and thereby helping to achieve an on-time/on-budget installation.

Construction Documents

Our construction document package is designed to mesh perfectly into the project document set, taking its place with those of the mechanical, electrical, structural, acoustical, and other drawings. However, fountain design is somewhat prototypical in that familiar mechanical and electrical components are incorporated and arranged in ways that may be unfamiliar to other trades. For this reason, our drawings are unusually comprehensive and detailed. This approach eliminates many clarifications and RFIs, and simplifies the contractor’s pre-construction work. The straightforward and inclusive nature of the documents allows any competent contractor to provide an excellent installation even if they don’t have specific fountain construction experience. Construction Documents usually include:

  • Schematic piping diagram
  • Equipment space layout plan and sections
  • Pool fitting location plan and coordinated piping plan
  • Installation and fabrication details for all subassemblies and pool fittings
  • Site electrical plan with lighting layouts (if required)
  • Single line electrical power diagram
  • Electrical equipment elevation
  • Equipment space power and control plan
  • Fountain control system wiring diagrams and details
  • Fountain Plumbing and Electrical specifications comprising 40-60 pages

Construction Administration

Our Construction Administration services include the review of fountain mechanical and electrical submittals, plus assistance with RFIs, clarifications and change orders. We provide on-site review of construction, assistance with adjustments, troubleshooting, and instruction of maintenance personnel. Site visits are always followed with a comprehensive report and punch list.

Who We Are

Over the years, the CMS office environment has been a comfortable place to work in a San Francisco area beach town. We feel that an environment without a rigid hierarchy promotes discussion and rethinking of design and administrative issues, and our combined talents offer the best solutions.

The roots of CMS are traced back to 1964 when Richard Chaix oversaw the fountain division of the engineering firm Beamer Wilkinson. In doing so, Dick effectively established the concept of an independent fountain consultant, providing an unprecedented level of expertise and professionalism to the architectural community. Dick’s open personality and genuine interest in advancing the state of the art allowed a free exchange of ideas with industry professionals and clients. This open approach is still very much part of the CMS philosophy. In 1981, with the addition of Tom Mallonee, Richard Schuder, and Diane Schuder, the partnership of CMS Collaborative was formed, bringing enhanced design, technical, and coordination abilities to the firm. In 2001, with the retirement of Richard Chaix, Richard Schuder, and Diane Schuder, the firm continues as CMS Collaborative, Incorporated.

CMS Stewardship

Tom Mallonee
Partrick Horn
Geno Viscuso
Patrick Devine

Continuing Education

Four decades ago our founder, Dick Chaix, established the concept of an independent fountain consultant. He had a genuine interest in exchanging ideas with industry professionals and fostered an educational approach to working with clients. Following this philosophy, CMS offers courses registered with LA CES that are designed to share the technical and aesthetic experience we’ve gained through 30 years of designing architectural water features.

Our presentations are typically 35 minutes followed by 20 minutes of Q&A, and offer one hour of continuing education credit through either the LA CES or AIA system. They also meet HSW standards.

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Each session provides an in-depth discussion concerning the inclusion of water features in your design by considering factors that advance Sustainable Sites and LEED credits, overall feasibility, budget, safety and maintenance. CMS provides lunch for the attendees and we enjoy brainstorming your designs with you especially as they relate to architectural and environmental concerns, and how the designs might promote LEED and Sustainable Sites points. CMS offers two Sessions:


Less is More: New Aesthetics and Engineering
of Green Water Features in Architectural Design

As cultural paradigms shift from flamboyance to conservation and stewardship, water feature designs must adapt to these rediscovered sensibilities. This adaptation may soon be required to justify the building of new water features. Through case studies, theoretical discussions, examination of “living systems”, and from an engineering as well as an aesthetic perspective, we will compare various water effect types in terms of energy and water consumption, light pollution, chemical use and discharge, and construction budgets.

Natural Water Features – What are They and Why Should I Care?

As the concept of sustainable sites becomes increasingly important, the Natural Water Feature provides the rejuvenating and life-affirming elements of water, while maximizing a site’s sustainability factor. We will provide strategies for designing water features that maintain aesthetic integrity, while at the same time being stingier resource users. Water effects using green systems will be compared from an artistic perspective, but viewed through the lens of how these aesthetics relate to LEED and Sustainable Sites advancement.

Giving Back

Through Engineers Without Borders (EWB-USA), we hope to make a difference by supporting sustainable engineering projects in developing rural areas. CMS is also working with Water.org to bring awareness to the world’s #1 health problem and create accessible, safe water supplies to communities world wide.

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“CMS has been proactive in modifying designs to match both budget and artistic changes as the projects evolve. They have also worked with the team to identify energy and water conservation technologies that further enhance the water feature’s long-term viability. We definitely recommend using CMS Collaborative services and enjoy their creative and professional approach”

Kathryn Gustafson
Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, Ltd.

“Our studio has had the good fortune to have been able to work with CMS for the last 25 years. Dick Chaix was my friend and mentor, and his understated manner, talent, curiosity and quest for quality in all things continues to be a strong presence at CMS. These guys are the real deal and our projects are always better when CMS is involved.”

Wm S Burton, FASLA
Burton Landscape Architecture Studio

“CMS designed a number of water features for one of our firm’s mixed-use projects in Hong Kong. CMS collaborated with the design team (with key members based in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia) in a positive and creative manner, developed prototypes to illustrate and test unusual features, and ultimately produced high quality details and documentation for the client to tender.

CMS was adaptive to the inputs and limitations of the project, responsive to clients, and timely in the delivery of designs and documentation.”

Harold Guida, LFRAIA AIA, Partner
Guida Moseley Brown Architects

“CMS has served as our fountain mechanical and electrical consultant for over 25 years. This ongoing relationship has evolved because of their technical strength, their responsiveness, and their ability to meet our high standards for desired aesthetic results and long term durability.”

Dee Mullen, Partner
The Office of Lawrence Halprin

“I am very pleased to recommend CMS Collaborative to prospective clients. The design and engineering tasks (for the National World War II Memorial) were exceptionally complex and demanding. CMS’ work was first rate, highly professional and on time. Everything worked the way we envisioned it. The credit for this goes to CMS for work well done.”

Friedrich St. Florian
Friedrich St. Florian Architects

“I am very pleased to affirm on behalf of Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC CMS Collaborative’s high level of creativity, technical competence and teamwork skills related to the design of water features.

CMS provided vital information related to health codes, pumping and vault requirements, aesthetic effects, and cost and maintenance implications. The Design Guidelines for the project won a 2009 Honor Award from ASLA.”

Ignacio F. Bunster-Ossa, ASLA, LEED AP
Wallace Roberts & Todd

“We have been working with CMS for 40 years on dozens of projects all over the world. Besides being thoroughly professional, technically innovative and precise, plus on time and on budget, the quality I most value is their creative collaboration.

CMS is a rare combination of engineering expertise and design talent. They are passionate about water. I can heartily recommend them to potential collaborators and owners alike.”

William Callaway, CEO
SWA Group