Archive for June, 2009

Playground Manufacturing Innovations make Environmental Gains

June 30, 2009

New techniques have been invented by playground manufacturers that not only save consumers money, but also work towards benefiting the environment.  These methods include reducing consumption through the reduction of resources used and the updating of playground manufacturing devices that utilize modern day technology to limit and reuse waste and maximize the opportunity for recycling.

408685 The HAGS brand incorporates a variety of innovation practices that benefit the environment, as it says on their website.  For example, their manufacturing plant supplies 100% of its heating through sustainable biomass wood based fuel and electric power generated from wind and water sources.  Also, the boiler used reduces emissions making the chimney gas cleaner before releasing it into the atmosphere.

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To reduce the resources required to make playgrounds safe, as written on the HAGS website, they use profiled steel that has a high yield point—rather than a thick, low yield point steel.  By doing this, strength is maintained and the materials that are used are cut by 10-15%.  Furthermore, by powder coating the steel in the painting process, no paint solvents are released into the air and no paint is wasted.  Here, two methods in the construction of steel playground parts greatly reduce HAGS’s environmental impact.

408675Waste management is also practiced by the company.  Because the waste produced by the manufacturing plant is sorted every day, many raw materials are salvaged and are put to use in other areas.  For example, a great deal of aluminum is saved and reused and so are wood scraps, other metals, and plastics.  Overall, the HAGS brand focuses on making all aspects of production ecologically friendly so that those benefits can be passed on to the consumer both directly and indirectly.

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New Sustainable Playground Tech and Techniques

June 25, 2009

To take a contemporary playground design from the planning stages to the grand opening requires a lot of moving and shaking; now, Miracle Recreation Equipment Company has made all that production more sustainable.  In today’s challenging budget climate, it is harder than ever to invent valuable green technologies that in turn help a different climate.  At Miracle however, a great deal of time and energy has been spent innovating new technologies that support the environment, while continuing to support the communities they have long served with advantageous playground prices and durability. 

Recycled Rubber Mulch Possibilites

Recycled Rubber Mulch Possibilites

Some of the newest sustainable technologies Miracle, as told of on their website, has incorporated into their playgrounds are in the form modern recycling methods.  For instance, in the Kid Timbers line, damaged plastic molded parts are reused to manufacture the equipment.  As stated in the post from June 18, 2009 steel and aluminum is recycled and used in playscape posts, handrails, and clamps—also, all steel cutoffs are made into new steel.  In the surfacing arena, recycled rubber is used to make rubber mulch.  On the other end of the reuse spectrum, Miracle also sells off plastic regrind, conserving its usable waste so that is doesn’t just end up adding to the dump.

Steel and Aluminum is Reused in Playground Components

Steel and Aluminum is Reused in Playground Components

Through its manufacturing processes as well, Miracle Recreation Equipment Company has limited their impact on the environment.  For instance, by identifying additional metals that can be reused, Miracle furthers its sustainable practices.  Also by continually upgrading manufacturing equipment to integrate the newest, most efficient techniques, waste is significantly reduced.  Furthermore, they are always on the hunt for the newest battery and plastic recycling methods.

Committed to Innovation and Sustainability

Committed to Innovation and Sustainability

Now, certified with ISO 14001 environmental management system standards, as listed on their website, Miracle has shown its persistent commitment to green practices and sustainability and has earned recognition at the professional level.  Playgrounds already benefit communities in so many ways; incorporating sustainable technologies will further those advantages even more.

Building a New Park

June 23, 2009
Build Spaces that Benefit the Community

Build Spaces that Benefit the Community

The need for positive modifications to our cities is greater than ever.  Instead of putting in a new parking structure, how about building a new park?  Parks are advantageous to communities in many ways.  New jobs are created and insured through the creation of parks, as workers are needed for both construction and maintenance.  As all surely know, jobs are crucial for the wellbeing of the economy.  The production of a park can work well within the existing landscape to cut down on expenditures. 

For instance, water hungry grass can be reduced to being used in a few sports fields and some recreation areas and the usual grassy expanses of parks can be replaced with trails and bark areas to further decrease maintenance and water costs.  Reducing supply costs will leave more money for workers.   Open spaces like parks are places for activity and will increase the physical health of a community; creating more jobs will increase the economic health of a community.

Discover New Places to Build Playgrounds

Discover New Places to Build Playgrounds

Getting back to working within the landscape; there is no need to bulldoze the entire area.  Instead, landscape architects can use forward thinking design methods to incorporate the existing site characteristics into the new park in order to minimize construction costs.  In doing this, money is saved for future repairs/revisions and paying workers higher wages.  Landscape architects, urban planners, and city desginers may also have to stray from traditional park sites to find places for new parks.  But these are just some ideas.

Bark doesn't Require Much Upkeep

Use Surfaces that don't Require Much Upkeep

In building a new park, if a park had one soccer field or one baseball diamond and a few grassy areas past these, putting picnic tables on a large concrete floor under a shade structure, the need for costly water would be greatly reduced.  Also, construct a durable playground, one that utilizes methods to reduce maintenance supply fees, on a rubber or bark surface that doesn’t require much upkeep and additional money is saved, especially over the long term.  Then, use bark trails to form a series of loops around the whole site (fields, picnic area, and playground) for those who want to walk around.  By doing all of these things, parks can reduce expenses, while still providing jobs and a place to play.  All persons involved in the creation of parks must be particularly innovative in these challenging budgetary times for continued benefit of our communities.

Innovations in Playground Tech

June 18, 2009

Many new advances in technology have made positive changes in the construction of playgrounds.  Specifically, innovation has come in the forms of increased environmental sustainability, heightened safety, and more durability.  Obviously, these three areas are extremely important to the well being of the public.  The ways in which contemporary playscape companies have been able to develop solutions to modern day problems are remarkable.     

Miracle's Posts and Handrails are Made from At Least 50% Recycled Steel

Miracle's Posts and Handrails are Made from At Least 50% Recycled Steel

In terms of environmental sustainability, the HAGS brand, as it says on their website, has been certified to the ISO 14001 standard, a highly regarded environmental stability standard throughout the world, since 1997.  Miracle Recreation Equipment Company has implemented many tactics to increase sustainability as well.  For instance, they recycle unused powder coat paint to cut back on waste.  Furthermore, as much recycled steel and aluminum as possible is used in the crafting of playgrounds.  In fact, Miracle’s posts, walls, and handrails are made from at least 50% recycled steel and the post clamps and caps are made with “as much as 100% post-consumer aluminum.”

New Paints and Coatings Stand Up to Weather Conditions and Wear and Tear

New Paints and Coatings Stand Up to Weather Conditions and Wear and Tear

For added durability, which also increases economic value, Miracle, as mentioned on their website, uses robotic welding techniques that add precision to the forging process.  Also, the largest rotational molding machines in the industry have increased ingenuity and originality and have made productions of large scale playgrounds better in quality because they can handle the increased size more easily.  Furthermore, the clamping, coating, and painting processes at Miracle are state-of-the-art, making the playscape features more durable to all weather conditions and most wear and tear.

HAGS has Increased Safety through Rigorous Testing

HAGS has Increased Safety through Rigorous Testing

Aware that true safety is only attained through rigorous testing, the HAGS brand, as it says on their website, has complied to and built under the most serious standard in the world since 1977—the German DIN norm.  HAGS attests to the fact that severe accidents on playgrounds mostly occur on playgrounds that have not undergone the appropriate testing.  So, they mean business when it comes to the safety of children.  Innovations across the board, these two playground companies have put into practice procedures and techniques to further high standards in safety, durability, and sustainability.  And it is certain they will continue to raise the bar in the future.

Seasonality in California Playgrounds

June 16, 2009
Using Hot Colors, Playing Off the Summer at Parkside Aquatic Park

Using Hot Colors, Playing Off the Summer at Parkside Aquatic Park

Playgrounds in California are different than in many other places.  The seasons are less extreme here so visitors can use playscape facilities throughout the year—almost every day save the really rainy ones.  For this reason, landscape architects and other playground designers may have a hard time incorporating seasonal designs into playscape structures, i.e. ones that specifically highlight the pinnacle of a changing season.  An example of this would be using flowing, circular forms and colors like dark browns for support poles and bright yellows, oranges, and reds for decks and features to play off the fall season.  Or, hard angles and colored features like white slides and climbers connected to dark blue decks to give a sense of winter.  In California however, the only really tangible season, besides way up in the Sierra Nevada range, is summer… well and the rain.

Shade Structure at Vinage Green Valley Park

Shade Structure at Vinage Green Valley Park

To incorporate the summer into design is perhaps the easiest in playgrounds because playgrounds themselves naturally radiate the hot season through vibrantly colored features and also the fun that can be had on them.  But, because the heat is always looming, shade structures should be utilized to provide safety from the scorching sun.  Shade structures not only diminish harmful rays, some are also partially transparent so the brighter the day, the richer the color of the structure is.  Another important factor in designing for the summer is the integration of site amenities such as tree guards, bike racks, benches, and picnic tables.

Offering a Place to Rest at Mickey Grove Park

Offering a Place to Rest at Mickey Grove Park

Tree guards will protect valuable immature trees from wind damage on those more blustery days.  Having trees around also adds to the available shade and advances the sense of summer through the presence of organic life.  Bike racks encourage visitors to leave the car at home, but also, they are practical because during the summer many more people ride bikes anyways.  Benches and picnic tables are extremely beneficial to a playground or parks design because they provide a place for people to gather easily and they also have the function of offering a resting spot for children who have been running around on the playground all day.  Summer in California is long and hot and designing for this kind of season is important for playground designers and landscape architects.

Playgrounds Promote Health, as well as Safety and Education

June 11, 2009
Fresh Thinking at Dover Park

Fresh Thinking at Dover Park

In today’s challenging budget climate, it is easy to lose focus on what really matters.  So things like education, health, and security should be especially appreciated and promoted.  Playgrounds certainly support education by providing an appropriate physical outlet for children to vent their energy so they can concentrate better in the classroom.  In terms of security, playgrounds provide safe places for children to engage in activities—away from busy streets and closer to schools and parks.  Furthermore, one of the most important benefits a playground provides is a fun way for children to partake in daily exercise.  In a recent article by Charles Q. Choi, he sheds light on the fact that obesity leads to poor health.  The easiest way to fight off obesity is to fight off a sedentary lifestyle.

Cutting Edge Design at Vintage Green Valley Park

Cutting Edge Design at Vintage Green Valley Park

For playground vendors and landscape architects, this means that it is critical to design playgrounds that are not only attractive, so that visitors want to be there, but also that they are safe and accessible.  Encouraging forward thinking designs that delve into meeting high benchmarks in aesthetics and use will advance more active lifestyles in today’s youth.  Moreover, incorporating diverse features—slides, climbers, swings—will cater to the interests of different visitors better, persuading them to come back more often.  Boredom should not keep children away from playgrounds.  Imaginative, forward thinking designs can produce spectacular playscapes that kids can explore day after day. 

Utilizing Aesthetics and Function at Magic Mountain Playground

Utilizing Aesthetics and Function at Magic Mountain Playground

Designing and building versatile, functional playscapes will also advocate for the production of more.  And more places to play means easier access to physical activity for children.  This is just one step in improving health, as well as education and security, but it is an important one.  Through a high standard of design and implementation, landscape architects and playground vendors can create environments where kids want to play.

Accessibility Adds to Excellence

June 9, 2009

How great the accessibility is to a playground determines how well it can be used by visitors.  Quality accessibility isn’t just equated by the road leading up to the site and how easy it is to find on a map, or how many cars the parking lot near the site can hold.  Good access to a playground really comes down to how many kids can use the equipment at one time and how long the kids have to wait to use it.  For instance, if a child has to wait in line for five minutes to take a slide ride, and there is no other equipment available during this time, accessibility can be seen as limited.  On the other hand, if there are many features available—nets, spring-riders, rock climbers—and children constantly have equipment to play on, the site can be seen to have a high level of accessibility.

Ladder Access at Parkside Aquatic Park

Ladder Access at Parkside Aquatic Park

Obviously, the easiest way to create this high level is to incorporate many features at the play site in order to cater to as many children as possible in terms of their numbers and interests.  Moreover, because children at certain ages take interest in common features—slides, climbers, swings—it might be beneficial to place multiple features of the same kind at a single site so that if, say one slide is getting slammed, another one across the grounds can take on the overflow.

Slide Options at Dover Park

Slide Options at Dover Park

Another way to boost access is to implement as many ramps, stair cases, sliding poles, ladders, and climbers as possible so that children have different options of approach.  In adding more entrances and exits, children and their attention spans are captivated longer while they are exercising the playground’s increased access selections.   These also had to safety if for any reason a quick exit of the site by all is necessary.  In order to create an excellent playground many factors must be taken into account—accessibility is just one, but none the less it is quite important.

Designing Off the Site

June 4, 2009

A site can determine much about the design of a playground.  For instance, if there are many trees around, green colored equipment can blend into the existing surroundings, creating an effortless feel.  Furthermore, curves—as opposed to sharper angles—will work with the organics of the location and produce for visitors a more natural sense of belonging for the playground.  In an area like this, an aesthetically pleasing design technique is to make the height of the playground parallel with the foliage of the trees.  In doing this, the trees and features merge together to fashion a unified play site.     

Height Parallel at Novato Youth Center

Height Parallel at Novato Youth Center

Now, if the site location is in a flat area without natural covering, a designer may want to make the playground stand out, rather than mix in—and include shade structures for sun protection.  To do this, features that incorporate diagonal elements and tall, abrupt angles in the makeup of their structure can be used to create tension with the horizontal landscape, causing contrast that is very noticeable.  Also, if the playscape is to be built in large grass field, a landscape architect may want to create a sense of enclosure within the playground for a safer feel.

Feature Boundary at Vintage Green Valley Park

Feature Boundary at Vintage Green Valley Park

 For example, the features of the site can be grouped closer together with the tallest elements closer to the outer edges of the layout.  Because the most visible features—at the perimeter—are also the most prominent in size, a “peak” is avoided where the tallest features at the center are led up to by the shorter features.  A peak is comfortable, but a safe feel is more easily generated by constructing boundaries.   An example of a comfortable looking gradual peak design would be swings and spring riders on the outskirts, and then a slide in the mid-ground, and finally a tower in the center.  Although this is also an attractive style, the edges don’t stand out as much from the distance.  When the first elements a visitor sees are substantial in size, and at the borders, boundary limits are clearly defined and a sense of safety is produced.

By taking the site essence into account when forming a design, a playground can do more than provide a place to play; it can generate sentiments through design.

Contrast and Repetition

June 2, 2009

Important as the individual pieces are to the success of a playground, more crucial is the way those parts come together.  The overall form of a playscape should be balanced through repetition and contrast.  In terms of repetition, corresponding colors or recurring patterns can unify a site.  Also, using playground equipment that blends into a single theme, even if that theme is not concrete, will capture the attention of visitors by allowing them to associate the site with a certain subject matter—rather than having them try to figure out how a very abstract combination relates.  In the end, a site should be attractive to both kids and their guardians.

Dueling Slides at Shasta Park

Dueling Slides at Shasta Park

At Shasta Park in Manteca, comparable slides are a great example of repetition.  Through color and height, these slides are similar to each other and generate a memorable image.  They also offer a chance to race.  Across the playground, there is no well-defined theme, but a common feel is achieved though shapes, angles, colors, and forms.  

A Variety of Features at Shasta Park

A Variety of Features at Shasta Park

Contrast creates variety within a playground.  This can be attained by putting in features that add different elements of play.  These might include pieces that allow children to climb up, scale across, slide down, or swing out.  Having a versatile array of equipment at a single site will help cater to the desires of each distinct visitor.  One child may like to swing all day while another might want spend hours scaling a rock wall.  Ideally, a playground should offer a mix of possible activities because attention spans usually aren’t that long.  For example, at Shasta Park, an orb-x, a rock climber, a large swing set, and a rope climber are used to convey a strong sense of variety.

Through contrast and repetition, a playscape can be shaped into something rare, yet familiar.