Archive for April, 2009

City Beautification

April 28, 2009

Not only is California hurting financially, it is also aching for a change of face. We hear about gum stuck to the sidewalks with little money in the budget to clean the problem up. And in city squares, cracked bricks will have to wait out the recession for a face lift. However, in other places, old age is being taken on from the ground up. The Dirt Blog in the ASLA website posted that in Chicago, two new pavilions are in the works. The post speaks about the projects in terms of “urban development” and art, as well as recycling.

These pavilions are principally meant to benefit those people who visit them, as the April 7th article in the Chicago Tribune pointed out—this article is linked to by the Dirt Blog. In these hard financial times, ventures such as these can stimulate a city’s economy immediately by way of new jobs in the planning and construction stages. In the long term, urban development centered in beautification can motivate tourism and migration. Also, it can encourage existing citizens to get out of the house and experience their local environments in a more upbeat way. In all time frames, positive effects can outweigh, and even repay, the spending.

Legacy Heritage Park Bench

Legacy Heritage Park Bench

Projects like these don’t have to be as grand as entire new pavilions either. Although big spending can bring about bigger projects, smaller projects can still change perceptions—and at a lower price. Specifically, scaling down beatification to new benches or surfacing will nonetheless produce noticeable changes. In the end, cities need clean, open spaces to be truly appreciated.

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The Encroaching Summer and Slide Fun

April 25, 2009

RAINBOW BEND TUBE TO OPEN FLUME SLIDES

Summer is almost here and the sun is already peaking through. An excellent way to stay cool and keep the heat at bay is to stay close to the water. If a pool is your water-play source, than a slide can be an amazing asset for entertainment and an easy cure for boredom on long, hot days. Slides these days come in all sorts of shapes, any of which can make your destination a remarkable one.  Banks and turns are the trademark of modern water slides.  These colorful additions have the ability offer a few choices of runs within a single piece and can turn a standard lap-swim pool into a distinct outdoor haven.

Also available are pool slides. Although a bit smaller in scope, multiple chutes attached to the deck can still cater to a big group of children. Most of these slides are built for kids aged two to twelve, but some are meant for younger ages so be sure to check weight specs on any slide or play equipment before purchase and installation. Whether a single or a quadruple slide setup will best fit your needs, the pleasure of water-play close to home is something you’ll want to have as an option.

4 FLUME/1 ROOF POOL SLIDE (3)

4 FLUME/1 ROOF POOL SLIDE (3)

Getting a break from the heat is one thing, but protecting oneself against the sun is another. The post below describes why shade structures are essential to decrease skin cancer risks at these places to play—whether that is at a pool or a park. Also, keep sunscreen on while outdoors, and wear a hat or sunglasses to protect the eyes from sun damage. Keep these tips in mind, and get outdoors for more fun.

The Importance of Shade Structures

April 23, 2009

Over the last decade, Americans have become more aware of the dangers of exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays. The increases in the frequency and severity of skin cancer have become alarming. According to Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation, statistics state that one American develops skin cancer every thirty seconds and over one million people in the United States will develop skin cancer each year. In addition, skin cancer kills one American every hour!

The awareness and concern for skin cancer and other harmful affects of the sun’s rays have caused an increasing trend of developing and incorporating shade structures in today’s playgrounds. Building shade structures provides protection for children playing under the sun’s UV rays and drastically decreases the risk of skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology is contributing to prevent skin cancer by offering a Shade Structure Grant Program that offers grants of $8,000 to fund permanent outdoor shade structures in playgrounds. With the current global warming crisis, it is imperative that future playgrounds provide shade structures to protect the future from the harsh affects of the sun.

How much will the stimulus package affect schools?

April 22, 2009

California schools are the last on the totem pole to receive funding from the government to support teachers, after school programs, staff members, and school structures. Under the approved state budget approved, California schools and community colleges will be forced to cut $7.4 billion from their budgets this year and $3.2 billion in 2009. Even with  the $787-billion federal economic stimulus package that is expected to send billions to school districts, there isn’t enough funding to pay off deficits. As a result, schools are left in the same situation, except that California schools are in a smaller hole than before. Because of reduced state funding, school districts across the state are dealing with difficult decisions. They have been cutting spending annually in recent years, such as reducing the administrative staff, cutting back on maintenance, and reducing the cleaning schedule. With the proposed budget cuts, there will be minimal funds for schools and cities to spend on future projects or to upgrade and build new playstructures, which would then lead to unsafe and hazardous playgrounds for children to play on. What will happen when old play structures deteriorate? How will California budget cuts and the stimulus package affect landscape architect firms?

Big News for California Education Budget

April 20, 2009

 

Good things happened for California schools late last week; we are glad to share the news as this next week begins.  In an AP article, Libby Quaid recently wrote that $4 billion was issued to help restore the state’s curtailed budget and “fill budget holes.”  In doing so, reports Quaid, this special fund will aid teachers who face layoffs, potentially offering protection from almost 30,000 pink slips that were delivered a month ago.  Gov. Schwarzenegger will begin to disperse funds to school districts to be spent on school needs immediately.  

 

This much needed aid comes at the right time, as schools seem to have been under financial pressure for quite some time now.  Whether or not these allocations will solve the education budget crisis has yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain, there will be accountability for the dollars spent through the tracking of educational improvement and progress.          

 

Recovery.gov featured a brief from Friday the 17th, stating California was the first state approved for this type of funding after it successfully completed Part 1 of the State Stabilization Application.  Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, California will be eligible from another $2 billion in the fall.  Following the link, Ed.gov added that $1.3 billion has already been given to California for education stimulus and school enhancements, as well as other worthy programs. 

Leaving Nature in Design; Promoting the Outdoors

April 19, 2009

Today’s youth have found it increasingly hard to get outside and appreciate the outdoors.  However, updating parks and playgrounds can go a long way in turning this trend around and getting kids back to physical recreation.  New and natural designs in play structures that work with the original park landscape, including the trees and rocks already in place, and expand upon them add excitement while maintaining environmental friendliness.

Cutting edge design techniques paired with new playground technology can seamlessly blend a play-system into a park and create a new, positive attitude towards being active outside.  Having fun outdoors is the point.   Many players have become involved in revamping this awareness, including the American Society of Landscape Architects, which has encouraged a new trend of reconnecting with nature through its Children’s Outdoor Environment movement and its promotion of the “No Child Left Inside Act.”

The Kidrox Mt. Rainier Surf. Mnt

The Kidrox Mt. Rainier Surf. Mnt

Form and structure can play a key role in advancing this movement.  In combining products that flow together, such as a free standing rock wall or an organic feeling mega tower with a surface like dark bark chips, an effortless feel is attained.  Kids will love climbing on the wall or tower too.  A new vision of the park has emerged, one that strays from chain link fences and asphalt and instead plays off of the native environment with the twists and turns of modern structures.         

Playgrounds will be most successful when they are attractive and clean in relation to their surroundings, and also exhilarating when used.  Such as the April 8th post shows, a theme can go a long way in adding to the experience of a park.  Getting today’s youth back outside depends on using all of the tools available to build a unique and electrifying experience.        

Tough Economic Times

April 17, 2009

As well all know, America is in the current state of a recession. Many different industries are experiencing drastic budget cuts and layoffs in retail, corporate, and small business firms. According to a survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects: when comparing the fourth quarters of 2008 and 2007, 66% reported lower billings and 75% reported reduced inquiries. In addition, 87% of the respondents were not planning to hire additional employees.

With the decline of disposable income in government agencies, business firms, and society as a whole, how do landscape architecture firms stay afloat? Besides cutting both minor and major operational costs, or perhaps moving from a larger office to a smaller and less expensive office;  what changes need to be made to stay ahead of the competitive landscape architecture industry when there are little to no resources to spend?

To check out more surveys conducted by the ASLA click here

 

Please share your comments, concerns, and tips!

Play Equipment & Design Trends

April 8, 2009

As we’ve grown and witnessed the constant changes in playground structure, what should we expect to see now? Recycled rubber mulch surfacing? Free standing play structures? Triple chute slides? After conducting some research, here are the following popular trends in play equipment:

  • Themed Playgrounds: barnyard, garden, or ocean-themed structures that encourage children to dive into their imagination.
  • High Structure Playgrounds: more structures are rising to two and three-leveled structures that children can see beyond the horizons
  • Physically Challenging Structures: with concerns to child obesity, play structures are more physically enduring with more Climbers that work every muscle group in the human body
  • Electronic Components: playground manufacturers are discovering new ideas to incorporate electronic play equipment with the outdoors such as devices that records voices and repeats them in a warped and distorted way.