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There's No "I" in Team

Fri, 03/01/2013 - 12:00am
Last updated
6 months ago
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Having the right partners in place for your playground project equals peace-of-mind

Poured-in-place surfacing under a swingset

If ever there was a lesson in the value of good communication, the Agawam School District playground construction project is it. Located in Agawam, MA, the district recently invested in an overhaul of three playground sites totaling more than 18,500 square feet.

Like many successful specialty construction projects, this too was not without a few hiccups that could have become costly had it not been for the proactive thinking of the team assembled to lead and complete the sizeable project.

Poured-in-place playground safety surfacing

For Agawam, the existing loose-fill, wood fiber playground surface had reached its lifespan, worn from years of little feet hard at play and an unnoticed drainage issue. It was time for a new surface. The district chose a poured rubber and urethane surface to create a more accessible and more durable play area for its students.

Unlike traditional loose materials that shift or mat down as children play, the new surface was designed to stay put--providing consistent and reliable safety. Surface America, hired by ME O’Brien, was in charge of creating and installing the surface, known as PlayBound Poured-in-Place, at Clark, Robinson and Granger school sites.

Heavy Rains Reveal Problems

As fate would have it, Agawam suffered heavy rains just as Surface America started the installation work at two of the three projects. In many cases, rain is seen as a setback in construction, but the timing of this storm proved fortunate to the future of the project.

Bad drainage - puddles under playground

The fast-moving storm flooded the playground sites, causing the installation team to pause and examine the runoff from the adjoining parking lot and the drainage system around the sites. Knowing poor drainage would ultimately shorten the life of the poured-in-place system Surface America identified the problem and worked with the Agawam Park and Recreation Department to find an immediate solution to re-direct the water away from the 7,410 sq. ft. playground during construction.

A drain tile was installed post-construction as a permanent solution. Because the issue was more severe at Granger (6 inches of standing water), the decision to install a permanent drainage system prior to starting the surface installation was made. With the previous surface, the water runoff soaked into the wood fibers, creating a soggy base, but little standing water. Without puddling, the drainage problem was never identified as an issue. Had this issue not been identified and resolved, costly repairs would have been needed over time.

Drainage problems addresses- Poured-in-place surfacing

Because every project brings unique circumstances, having an experienced team at Agawam paid off in identifying additional pitfalls that could have made the difference between a successful and an unacceptable project. Before installation begins, Surface America thinks the project through. This involves a laundry list of questions and checkpoints including requesting site pictures to identify construction hazards and making sure the surfacing site has the necessary post-installation security to allow proper 24-to-48-hour curing before the public is allowed to step onto the surface.

Poured-in-place surfacing

Site Pictures

In this case, a review of site pictures prior to the installation team arriving revealed piles of dirt surrounding each of the three sites. Dirt from those piles could blow onto the newly installed surface and become permanently cured, affecting the overall aesthetic and the satisfaction of the client. Solutions included covering the dirt, removing the dirt or keeping the dirt wet throughout the installation. To resolve the issue, Mountain View Landscape opted to remove the dirt to ensure a clean construction site.

Proactive thinking and a good line of communication between all parties played critical roles in this project. The end result--three new poured-in-place playgrounds ready for action during the 2012-13 school year, hundreds of happy children and a satisfied client, who can rest easy knowing the playground surface will stand strong for years to come.  

Other things to consider when deciding which surfacing company is best for you:

Reputation in the industry. Does the company demonstrate a clear understanding of the industry as well as an understanding of your needs? Do they respond thoroughly and expediently?

A proven track record. Has the company worked on thousands of similar projects over many years so they are truly experts?

A written warranty from the company. Evaluate it in terms of content and length of time and consider the company in relationship to the warranty. How have they handled their worst warranty situation?

Financial strength and stability. Does the company have staying power? How long has the company been in the industry and are you confident the company will be in business throughout the life of the warranty? 

Dobmeier is president and founder of Williamsville, NY-based Surface America. Since 1993, Surface America has helped schools, parks districts, daycare facilities and commercial establishments transform...