Creating well-planned play areas requires many decisions, from choosing play equipment, to defining activity zones, to selecting the proper surfacing. Designers are looking for alternatives to muddy fields, muggy asphalt and poured-in-place concrete slabs.
When selecting surfacing, the International Playground Contractors Association (NPCAI) recommends taking the time necessary to look into what will provide the best safety and value over the long term. Proper requirements and procedures for installing playground surfacing can be obtained from surfacing manufacturers, through the International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) and via the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards.
The Ryan Palmer Foundation Healing Garden at Northwest Texas Healthcare Systems in Amarillo, Texas includes play zones, a water feature, paver pathway and seating walls. The attractive 1,800-square foot space was installed next to the hospital’s cafeteria by Krause Landscape Contractors
Pavers on the Playground
Installations around play equipment are an equally important consideration, and designers looking for aesthetic form and superior function are turning to interlocking concrete pavers and permeable installations. These provide functional and ecological solutions. Whether for a family backyard play area or a city park, hardscape designs and products can be a part of a sustainable recreation zone for all ages to enjoy. Paver pathways, retaining walls, benches, seating walls, erosion control systems, and even permanent paver game board patterns can enhance playgrounds large and small. According to the Interlocking Concrete Paver Institute, the “superior physical properties of pavers provide longer pavement life, reduced maintenance costs and extend the replacement cycle while conserving the use of raw materials. The initial costs of segmental pavements over concrete or asphalt may be more, but it has been shown that the life cycle cost of an interlocking concrete pavement system over a 40 year period is actually less. This is because pavers make up a “maintenance free pavement.”
In addition, the use of permeable interlocking concrete pavers in projects, including recreational areas, “eliminates stormwater runoff and conserves land, while serving as a durable wearing course.”
Low-maintenance interlocking pavers are an attractive alternative to asphalt and poured-in-place concrete. The alternating colors and custom layout of these permeable Eco-Priora™ pavers provide game patterns and a functional drainage solution.
New Orleans architectural firm HMS Architects was picked to design the new school building for Andrew H. Wilson Charter School, following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Part of the new design included a new courtyard or playground for the children.
Checker and chess matches on large-scale “boards” created with alternating paver colors and patterns are an exciting option for play area designers. Children can combine mind gymnastics and physical exercise with some timeless childhood games, like hopscotch or foursquare, on permanent paver delineations. No need for chalk.
HMS Architects principal Charles Montgomery, AIA, ASLA, said, “we evaluated how we could define the space for various activities for elementary students, such as checkers and various games, then decided that the interlocking pavers were a better choice for designing patterns into the courtyard. The design team felt it needed to activate the space by giving it some patterns so it did not seem so monumental. It is attractive to look at when empty, but when the kids are playing on it the courtyard comes alive.”
Pavers laid into giant chess or checkerboard patters provide unique opportunities for active play. New Orleans architectural firm HMS Architects included a similar play area in the courtyard of the Andrew H. Wilson Charter School’s new building during renovations following
Functional Walls For Recreational Environments
Retaining walls can also serve a key purpose in a playground setting. Small walls can contain the soft sand and rubber mulch safety surfacing beneath equipment. Taller walls can convert severely sloped and erosion prone lots into level zones primed for any play apparatus. Segmental retaining and freestanding wall units offer low maintenance seating solutions for parks and playgrounds.