Preparing the Next Generation of Landscape Professionals
By Doug Scott, Pavestone, LLC
The renovation of a visitor’s courtyard at UMASS provided an opportunity for landscape construction students to get some hands-on hardscape installation experience. The students worked with school staff and an installation crew to replace old, impermeable surfacing with 2,100 square feet of permeable interlocking concrete pavers.
University of Massachusetts (UMASS) staff handled the heavy equipment while the students worked with experienced operators, using transits and other tools to coordinate base depths, finished grades and other aspects of the project. Once the finished base elevation was installed, the students coordinated layout and installation of the pavers.
Universities across the country are preparing interested groups of students for a variety of roles within the landscape industry. The experience these students are gaining in the classroom and in the field is extensive, and will prepare them to contribute to landscape companies large and small as soon as they start their careers.
Thirty-eight years ago, Robert Callaway started an event for students of horticulture programs called the ALCA Field Days. Today, the competition continues and is hosted annually by PLANET (formerly ALCA) at a different college or university each year. According to their website, “In 2013, 65 colleges were in attendance, with 853 students competing in 28 green industry related events.”
Michael Davidsohn, a professor at the landscape construction program at the University of Massachusetts’ Stockbridge School, is an annual participant in PLANET events with his students. Every spring semester, the senior landscape contractor class designs and builds a project on campus with cooperation from the University Physical Plant and other professionals at UMASS. The students work through the site selection and design phases, a process that can last for several months. Installation typically requires 6-7 weeks, and must be completed in time for graduation ceremonies in May.
Both the school and the students benefit from such projects. “Not only do these opportunities further the University mission of providing a solid education for students, they also create beautiful, environmentally conscious places on campus that students, faculty and visitors can enjoy daily,” Davidsohn said. Recent projects throughout the campus include the installation of the first rain garden on campus in 2010. The bio-retention swale is 120 feet long by 25 feet wide and included plantings of 400 plugs, several dozen grasses and woody plants, and several weirs to impound stormwater and allow for infiltration. The project fit a need for the university and gave the students an opportunity to experience the design, coordination and implementation of a unique project. Construction was a big success and the project is still used today as a teaching tool.
With the assistance of the manufacturer and a local engineer, the students evaluated the soils, existing conditions and other factors to determine that an 18-inch base would be required with no sub drains. The sub-base is comprised of 10 inches of #2 stone, six inches of #57 followed by a two-inch bedding layer of #9 stone.
In coordination with the University, the students chose a granite blend color for the field, a charcoal border and a custom UMASS Maroon blend (Pavestone) for the inlaid logo. The students installed the custom cut University logo pavers themselves.
More recently, the UMASS students worked with the University Physical Plant staff and landscape architecture departments on a renovation of the school’s Visitors Center courtyard. The area was comprised of concrete pavers that had been in place for well over 20 years. Although it remained structurally sound, the area was in need of an update, as it is highly visible and used regularly by students, faculty, and is a meeting place for potential incoming student tours.
Davidsohn and his students worked in coordination with other university departments to develop a design for this area. The team crafted a list of project goals, and determined that any solution must consider aesthetics, functionality and sustainability:
1. The area is highly visible, so it must fit within the surrounding campus design.
2. The area must be serviced by snowplows and other maintenance vehicles, and must be durable enough to support such equipment.
3. Standing water caused by runoff from nearby areas must be eliminated.
4. The University’s commitment to sustainable practices should be incorporated into the project.
After reviewing the available options, Professor Mike Davidsohn and his students chose permeable interlocking concrete pavers (PICP). Made of durable concrete, they are an excellent choice for many reasons. Like interlocking concrete pavers, permeable concrete can support vehicular loading, withstand snowplows in winter months, and are available in a variety of colors and shapes.
PICP offers the additional benefit of allowing rainwater to be collected and filtered into a detention area below the pavement, which is comprised of crushed angular washed stone, satisfying the project’s hydrological and structural components. This is an especially important project for these students, as the use of permeable pavements is growing rapidly nationally and is an excellent opportunity for landscape contractors.