Belgard Provides Charm, Improved Function and Cost Savings for Playground

Every play element of the new Chastain Park playground is designed for group play, from multi-person swings to “racing” slides and harmony stations. (photo: Chastain Park Conservancy)

What happens when kids get involved in the design of a playground? Amazing things! Just ask the community surrounding Atlanta’s Chastain Park. The only public playground serving the 85,000 school-age children within a 5-mile radius, the park’s playground had not been renovated since 2000 and was in dire need of an upgrade. The existing playground had a lot of deficiencies, primarily in that it really only appealed to a small demographic (ages 5-12). The majority of the play structures were too dangerous for smaller children, yet not challenging enough for older children.

A Mega-Tandem™ retaining wall provides an acoustic backdrop for one of the park's harmony stations. (Photo: Carson Matthews)
A Mega-Tandem™ retaining wall provides an acoustic backdrop for one of the park’s harmony stations. (photo: Carson Matthews)

Enter play specialist consultant Cynthia Gentry, an expert in childhood development who met with school children from the surrounding community to begin the design concepts. Kids were asked to imagine what they’d like to see on the playground and put that imagery into drawings, which became the inspiration for the all of the designs.

Gentry then enlisted the help of another consultant, Robin Moore, who specializes in nature-based play, currently a strong movement in childhood development circles. Together, Gentry and Moore conducted a charrette, or meeting of the minds, with representatives from the private school located inside the park’s grounds, local public schools and pre-schools, civic associations, the Parks Commission, and various members of the community. At the charrette, the group reviewed all of the children’s drawings and synthesized them into rough design concepts. A second charrette was held at NC State to compound all of the concepts into one overall design.

Landscape Architect Bill Caldwell took the ball from there, handling permits and turning the master plan into design documents for drainage, utilities, elevation, landscaping, hardscaping, and construction of the restroom pavilion. Caldwell contracted renown water resources engineer consultant, Bill Jorden, to develop the stormwater management plan to meet all of Atlanta’s ordinances for stormwater runoff quality and quantity.

Urbana Stone® permeable pavers throughout the playground manage stormwater, reducing water runoff and reducing pollution. (photo: Chastain Park Conservancy)
Urbana Stone® permeable pavers throughout the playground manage stormwater, reducing both stormwater runoff and pollution. (photo: Chastain Park Conservancy)

“Our goal was to not create a detention pond on a beautiful site of rolling hills and historic oak trees. I also didn’t want to have to convert the flat spaces currently used for open play. Belgard products helped us to avoid these traditional stormwater management strategies,” Caldwell said.

With the help of Belgard Urbana Stone® permeable pavers and Mega-Tandem™ Mass Segmental Retaining Wall™, the team was able to conserve land, meet the stormwater requirements, and save a significant amount of money in the process.

“Because the playground was being built into a hillside, the project required substantial retaining walls, which initially called for poured concrete. We got two Mega-Tandem Walls for the price of one poured concrete wall. Also, using the Mega-Tandem allowed us to value-engineer the pavilion and reduce the amount of poured concrete needed for the foundation. Overall, we saved over $200,000 on the project, factoring the cost savings on the pavilion and the site walls,” Caldwell said.

In addition, the 9,000 square feet of permeable paver walkways controls the amount of rainwater runoff that rolls downhill, which alleviates erosion problems. “An impervious system would have caused a concentration of water flow to the lower elevations, which would have generated more runoff than the original site,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell also notes that the Belgard permable pavers and retaining walls allowed him to create the playground out of what was formerly unusable space. “I love the fact that we took a hillside with a 12-15 degree slope that was basically non-functional and turned it into a 1-acre parkland that is a highly functional and usable space and has become a high-value component of the park,” he said. “We created something out of nothing.”

And what Caldwell considers the best part…this playgound was designed by kids for kids, regardless of age or abilities. The entire playground is ADA compliant, with multiple handicap accessible play elements. “Even the texture of the permeable paver walkway adds a sensory element for children with sensory disabilities, which is not something they would get with a smooth poured concrete sidewalk. Addressing disabilities of multiple spectrums was always part of the discussion from the beginning,” Caldwell said.

Photos courtesy Carson MattHews and the Chastain Park Conservancy.

Rainwater Harvesting Now the Hottest Outdoor Design Trend

Permeable paver patios and driveways can be designed to collect and recycle rainwater. (Product shown: Eco-Dublin® pavers)

With last year’s annual survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), green practices began to dominate the list of top outdoor design trends like never before, with 8 of the top 10 trends all related to eco-friendly or sustainable practices. With the recently released 2016 survey results, make that number now 9 out of 10, with rainwater harvesting making a giant leap up to the top spot. Take a look at last year’s trends compared to this year’s.

2015 Top 10 2016 Top 10
1 Native plants Rainwater/graywater harvesting
2 Drought-tolerant plants Native plants
3 Edible gardens Drought-tolerant plants
4 Fire pits/fireplaces Low-maintenance landscaping
5 Low-maintenance landscapes Permeable paving
6 Permeable paving Fire pits/fireplaces
7 Water-efficient irrigation Edible gardens
8 Rain gardens Rain gardens
9 Lighting Water-efficient irrigation
10 Rainwater/graywater harvesting Reduced lawn area

These trends reflect consumers’ growing commitment to landscapes that reduce water use and stormwater runoff, says Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA.

“Water issues are hot topics for many communities, and many people are turning to landscape architects for creative green infrastructure solutions,” said Somerville. “Sustainable residential landscape architecture, if part of a broader integrated site design, can dramatically reduce water usage and stormwater runoff over the long term while creating a healthy residential environment.”

With a combined rainwater harvesting permeable pavement system, Belgard offers a way to combine three of these top outdoor design trends with a single design element. With this type of pavement system, rainwater drains through the joints between pavers and percolates down through a bed of gravel into a collection cistern, where a pump can recycle the water for irrigation or water features. Pollutants are removed from the water as it drains through the gravel, which adds additional protection for the environment.

PICPstorage

Many municipalities and states offer grants and tax incentives for installing either permeable pavers or a rainwater harvesting system, which is likely a factor in the growing popularity of using permeable pavers for this purpose. With the variety of attractive Belgard permeable pavers available, homeowners can build stunning outdoor living areas, driveways and walkways that are as ecologically responsible as they are beautiful.

Tips for Keeping Your Cool

With triple-digit heat indexes spanning the lower half of the country, many people are now scurrying indoors to avoid the heat, forced to enjoy their beautiful outdoor living spaces from the comfort of the kitchen window. However, there are a number of design tips and tricks that can alleviate some of the heat and allow you to get more use from your outdoor living spaces during those dog days of summer.

Advantages of Pergolas

A pergola can provide multiple design benefits for an outdoor living space. The open-air aspect allows for unrestricted air movement while still defining the space to visually create the look of an “outdoor room”. Additionally, the structure itself both filters the direct sunlight and can provide the framework for a outdoor-rated ceiling fan. To provide additional shade and add to the visual interest, flowering vines — such as Wisteria or Morning Glory — can be trained to grow atop the pergola.

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Outdoor Living Structures

The benefit of a roofed structure, as opposed to an open-air pergola, is that it provides a little more protection from the elements, including both sun and rain. Although late afternoon sun and driving rain will still creep in, you’ll still have increased shelter, as well as additional opportunities for fans, lighting, audio/visual equipment and appliances.

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Made in the Shade

There are a variety of affordable products available that can help increase the amount of shade in your outdoor living space, particular during that unbearably hot time of the day when the sunlight comes in at just the right angle to make you feel like you can fry an egg right on the patio flooring. Attractive options include indoor/outdoor curtains, retractable solar shades, and colorful sun canopies.

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Permeable Paver Water Features

Particularly in hot climates with lower humidity, water mist can significantly reduce the ambient temperature of a localized outdoor area. An alternate option to a traditional water-misting system is to install a water-recycling permeable pavement system that incorporates a water feature. The paver system can collect and recycle rainwater and provide a fun activity for kids, all while releasing mist into the air that will help alleviate some of the oppressive heat.

2016 Outdoor Living
Trends Forecast

Outdoor living has indeed become a staple of American culture. As many homeowners begin to spend more time in their outdoor living areas than in their indoor living areas, the overall trends continue to revolve around creating homey, attractive, livable outdoor spaces that are an extension of the indoor environment. As we enter 2016, expect to see a continuation of this theme in outdoor living design, as well as increases in sustainable (“green”) outdoor living practices.

Midnight Bordeaux
Bordeaux Series Fireplace, Midnight trim

Home is where the hearth is.

Once upon a time, the living room fireplace was the favored gathering spot for family and guests, and roasting marshmallows over a campground fire was part of the annual family vacation. Modern outdoor living combines these two traditions into one with outdoor fireplaces and fire pits. This trend will continue to be one of the fastest growing phenomenons in outdoor living for 2016. To meet these needs, Belgard continues to expand and develop the Belgard Elements collection and has recently released a new Midnight trim option for the Bordeaux Series fireplace and matching kitchen pieces. In addition, Belgard offers a full line of retaining wall products that are ideal for creating custom outdoor fireplaces and fire pits, such as Celtik® Wall or Weston Stone®.

Mirage Porcelain Pavers, Officine Collection

Mimicking the indoor environment.

Outdoor living room designs continue to mimic the look of their indoor counterparts. This includes furniture design, lighting fixtures, decorative accessories and flooring. Modern interior design is trending towards larger tiles with natural textures. The same goes for outdoor hardscapes. Expect to see an increase in the popularity of larger format pavers with natural textures and design elements, such as the natural flagstone look of Mega-Arbel®, the cut flagstone look of Mega-Lafitt™, and the cut slate look of Lafitt™ Rustic Slab, all of which offer multi-piece large-format design options. Because of the thinner profile, Lafitt Rustic Slab and its smooth counterpart Lafitt™ Grana Slab are both available with an extra-large 14″x22″ piece. Also expect to see an increase in the popularity of Mirage® Porcelain Pavers, which are a durable outdoor-rated version of interior porcelain tiles and are available in a variety of large-format sizes and natural looks, including trendy wood grain and stone textures.

Celtik Kitchen
Celtik Wall kitchen and Mega-Bergerac pavers

Rise of the outdoor chef.

Outdoor kitchens now rival the scope and scale of their indoor counterparts, with professional-rated appliances, multiple cooking surfaces, and bar-type seating with ample countertop and prep space. Expect to see an increase in brick ovens as more homeowners learn that these attractive fixtures can be used for more than just cooking pizza, but can actually function as a full-use outdoor oven. To meet the needs of evolving kitchen trends, Belgard offers a variety of kitchen pieces and brick ovens in the Belgard Elements collection and has recently released Tandem™ Modular Grid, which can be used to quickly and easily create custom outdoor kitchens and coordinating design elements.

National hardscape manufacturer, Oldcastle APG, projects located in North and South Carolina.
Subterra Stone permeable paver driveway

Turns out, it is easy being “green”.

For several years, permeable pavers have been a growing movement in commercial construction as more municipalities develop and implement stronger codes for managing stormwater. But as homeowners learn about the benefits of permeable pavers, the trend is beginning to make its way into the residential arena, particularly for driveways, and is expected to continue to grow. Textured permeable pavers, like Subterra® Stone and Eco Dublin®, offer the natural stone look that homeowners desire, while at the same time reducing flooding and improving local waterways through the absorption and filtration of stormwater through the paver joints. As an added benefit, permeable pavers can be used as part of a rainwater harvesting system to collect and reuse water for irrigation or other gray-water uses. Because many states and municipalities offer grants and tax incentives for these types of sustainable, or green, practices, the reduced net cost is an attractive incentive for savvy homeowners.

Fire Pit Design Ideas

Fire pits appeal to people of all generations and backgrounds. There’s just something about sitting around a fire that brings people together. Get ready to create your family’s favorite gathering spot with these fire pit design ideas.

Coordinated Design

Squared angles and textured stone create a coordinated look for this rustic fire pit. Using the same retaining wall product to build the fire pit, seat walls, retaining walls and steps creates a cohesive look and blends various elements of the design together.

Products: Mega-Arbel® pavers, Celtik Wall
Products: Mega-Arbel® pavers, Celtik® Wall

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Room for All

This extra large fire pit and surrounding open patio area includes plenty of space for seating and standing and is the perfect setting for large family gatherings. The only thing missing is a guitar.

Outdoor living space located in Coeur d'alene, Idaho designed by Gibson Landscaping, includes multiple Patios, Firepit and Driveway. The project utilized the following Belgard products manufactured by Sierra Building Materials of Stockton, CA Mega Arbel - Coeur d'alene Blend (custom color)
Product: Mega-Arbel® pavers

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Secluded Getaway

The curved retaining wall creates an element of privacy, turning the area surrounding this sunken fire pit into an intimate nook for sipping coffee with the sunrise or enjoying an evening glass of wine.

Belgard 2010 ~ Northfield Chicago
Products: Mega-Arbel® pavers, Anchor Highland Stone® wall

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Maximizing Small Spaces

A rectangular fire pit is an excellent option for a narrow patio and allows space for larger furniture pieces without sacrificing walking area. Gas-burning pits are a better choice for placement less than ten feet from the home.

Products: Belair Wall, ???
Products: Belair Wall® (fire pit wall), Weston Stone® (fire pit base), Mega-Lafitt™ pavers

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Elements of Nature

This design combines the natural elements of stone, wood, fire and water to create an attractive gathering spot that complements the surrounding wooded landscape.

Products: ???, ???
Products: Weston Stone® wall, Bergerac® pavers

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Bold & Beautiful

Vibrant reds pull this design together, with red brick used for the fire pit, bar, columns and porch fascia that coordinates with the red tones of the patio’s eco-friendly permeable pavers.

Product: Subterra permeable pavers
Product: Subterra® Stone permeable pavers

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Destination Spot

By placing this fire pit and surrounding seat wall at the far end of the property, this area becomes as destination spot for intimate gatherings. Hardscape and landscape lighting provides additional ambiance and visibility.

4D Schusters Belgard Photography 2009.
Products: Bergerac® pavers, Weston Stone® wall

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For more fire pit ideas,visit the Belgard Fire Pit Pinterest Board or visit our contractor gallery to locate a Belgard Authorized Contractor near you.

Product Highlight:
Permeable Pavers

One of the fastest growing trends in outdoor living, permeable pavers are an attractive way to improve drainage, recycle water, and help the environment. Built over a gradient bed of gravel, permeable pavers allow water to percolate down into the ground below, which not only reduces the amount of stormwater runoff, but cleans the water of pollutants in the process. A permeable pavement system can also be constructed to include a water harvesting system to recycle water for irrigation or other uses. Belgard offers a full line of permeable pavers ideal for a variety of outdoor living designs.

Eco Dublin®: With the smooth face of cut stone, Eco Dublin is a three-piece modular paver that supports both foot and vehicular traffic and adds a modular contemporary flair to outdoor living designs.

Subterra®Stone: Subterra Stone might very well be the most attractive, natural-looking permeable paver on the market. Featuring a false joint structure and a textured face, it offers the elegant look of chiseled stone and is ideal for homeowners who desire environmental stewardship without compromising beauty and style.

Aqua-Roc™: Offering the classic look of brick pavers, Aqua-Roc can be laid in a running bond, basket-weave, or herringbone patterns to create attractive and durable driveways, walkways, patios and poolscapes.

Aqua-Bric®: Aqua-Bric incorporates a notched edge to offer a modern twist on the classic brick paver. This versatile paver can be used for numerous applications and complements any architectural style.

Turfstone®:  Turfstone’s eco-friendly design reduces run-off and allows greenery to grow right through it, creating a highly unique hardscape design that works in harmony with nature and helps control and stabilize soil erosion.

Turfstone