Catching The Green Wave - Going green with design
There is a lot of talk in our society about “going green.” Going green covers a pretty broad spectrum when you think about it. It ranges from preserving green space in our cities, which the parks and recreation departments are commissioned to protect, to the materials used for manufacturing a playground.
Spending time on a committee to build a universally accessible playground was an eye-opener to the concerns the parks and recreation departments may have. As a committee we were very excited to bring a wonderful new play space into being, one that could go on forever. Well, it could go on forever, space permitting. We reached a point where we couldn’t remove any more green space and use it for a manufactured play space and we all understood. We loved the green grass and trees surrounding the playground as well. Of course, we wanted to preserve that. Our goal was to enhance the play experience for all, not take anything away from it.
Attending the National Park and Recreation Association Congress and Expo in past years was also an eye-opener regarding the green movement. Seattle, San Antonio, Baltimore, and Indianapolis all have beautiful green areas—tours were available for these areas. There were opportunity for congress attendees to help enhance these spaces and leave them even better than they found them.
Green School Design
Schools across the country have caught on to greening the playground as well. The Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School in Philadelphia, PA, is showing other schools how it is done. This is a play space that was transformed from a sparsely landscaped yard to a case in point of how the playground and school buildings can be environmentally responsible, healthy places for learning and, of course, play. Along with this idea, a community forum titled Creating Sustainable Landscapes for Urban Schools was formed. What better way to accomplish this goal than to get the whole community involved? “Greening Greenfield” was a flexible plan designed to improve the environmental sustainability of the school’s exterior. This not only provides students with a great opportunity to learn important lessons about environmental stewardship but enhanced the surrounding community with a green open space right in the heart of the city.
Spreading The Green Wave
The Community Design Collaborative and the Philadelphia School District, parents, teachers, and school administrators have worked hard to make this project a success, which could definitely help spread the “green wave” to other school districts across the nation. In this particular district, celebrating the 40-year anniversary of the school provided some incentive to renovate the space. Still, schools don’t need to wait for an event to happen to get started. The alliance has formulated an easy-to-follow model with a schedule.
The report, titled “The Greening of Greenfield School,” Campus Parks Initiative Conceptual Master Plan for Sustainable Outdoor Space, details the project. This community-building process report identifies five phases of the construction process—phases that can be completed in any order or even concurrently—as well as timing and budget models. The space was designed to be an outdoor laboratory where children can learn about micro-climates, indigenous plants, rainwater absorption, energy conservation, harvesting, and their symbiotic relationship to the environment. Another great thing is that they also have manufactured structures incorporated into the design. This particular project will improve the environmental sustainability of the south play yard and improve the “Secret Garden,” which is a walled garden. A green roof will also be installed on the school building as well as photovoltaic panels on the roof.
Some of the key objectives of the “Greening Greenfield” project include:
- Reducing stormwater runoff and its impact on site safety and municipal storm sewer system
- Providing solar shading (trees) and a green roof to reduce the Urban Heat Island effect
- Providing local and drought-resistant plantings to improve air quality without the need for potable water irrigation
- Providing energy through renewable energy sources with photovoltaic panels
- Using recycled content materials where possible.
Creating educational components to help students and community members understand more about making sustainable choices and the benefit for the local and global environment with these choices is a top priority in this project. A series of speakers have presented to parents, students, teachers, and administrators to create enthusiasm and enlist advocates for the project. Supplemental teacher training is also being investigated.
The budget for this project was set at about $590,000, based on estimations for all phases.
Playground manufacturers are using more recycled materials
In another aspect of the “green movement,” there are many playground manufacturers using recycled materials. For instance, some use recycled materials such as plastic milk bottles in production with the idea that they are building an environmentally friendly playground. That’s a wonderful idea. There is a concern about wasting precious resources and overflowing landfills with materials that could be reused. We all know this is a consideration nationwide.
It’s really amazing to see what can be done with recycled materials. Play Mart is one such manufacturer making the most of resources to create great play spaces. Play Mart has been manufacturing with this in mind for many years.
With sustainability and safety being two of the biggest trends in the playground industry, PlayPower LT Farmington, Inc., producing Little Tikes Commercial play structures, is also making it easier for builders, owners, and communities to meet green and safety goals with playground design. It now offers points toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification, meeting both the ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 standards. LEED is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance buildings.
As prevalent as the green considerations are, playground builders and owners can comfortably talk with most manufacturers these days about these concerns and come up with a design that meets or exceeds design expectations—and in the end enhance communities and schools not only with great structures but an all-around environmentally friendly play experience for children.