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CONTRACTOR’S CORNER: Diving Into the 2021 HNA Installer Championship

November 18, 2021
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by Guest Blogger Tallen Hughes

After coming up on nearly two years without a live HNA event, contractors and industry professionals were eager to get back together and immerse themselves in two days full of hardscape design and competition. The long wait was worth it for contractors who were competing for almost $40,000 in prizes! Craftsmanship, time-management, creativity, and safety skills must be refined by the teams as the competition heated up in the 8th annual HNA Installer Championship that took place on October 21-22 in Louisville, KY. 

The preliminary round of the competition took place on October 21. All nine teams were given the same design, the same materials, and the same amount of time to complete the design. The teams were given 60 minutes to complete the required pad that included a herringbone paver pattern, a soldier course border design, and a seating wall. After the timer went off, each team was individually scored based on creativity, safety and a build to ICPI standards. After precise judging, Belgard Master Craftsman team of Segmental Systems Inc of Spokane, WA won the preliminary round which moved them, The Virginia Gentlemen, Shovel & Thumb, and the BYU Landscape Management Club into the final competition the following day where they would be given the opportunity to carry out a design of their choice.

With the best of the best in the top four, the first place prize was attainable for all teams. It boiled down to precision, speed, communication among teammates, and a paver patio that would turn heads. The four teams competed in a 90-minute round where they were able to showcase their individual designs they had been planned out prior to competing. The teams were required to have a paver pad as well as a vertical component to their configuration. Between the loud cutting of pavers and the roar of the crowd, the teams had to focus on accuracy paired with efficiency. As the clock approached 00:00, final touches and last-minute straightening was crucial in getting the big win. Once the 90 minutes were up, the teams were asked to step away from their pads and the judges would take their final scores on each of the four pads. 

Once the scores came in, the Belgard Master Craftsman team from Segmental Systems Inc came out on top for their third consecutive national title. The team was presented with an impressive prize package that included:

  • $12,000 cash
  • Fortress Edging
  • GoodRAKE 30” Magnesium Double Edged Rake
  • iQ Power Tools iQMS362 16.5” masonry saw with 16.5” Q-Drive Combo Blade
  • Two Latux Diamond Blades with a $500 credit
  • Probst Inc / Pave Tech AIRLIFT Base Kit & GRABO with DUO Carry handles
  • Weber CF3 Forward Plate Compactor
  • Return trip to HNA 2022 to defend the title
  • Team name on the HNA Installer Championship cup and plaque
  • Promotion in various media including Hardscape Magazine and HNA website 

“It feels great knowing that we have been able to defend the title,” said Dan Hughes, owner of Segmental Systems Inc. “We have been able to take our skills and show versatility in paver installation. Trying something new was definitely a risk, but it was worth it in the end.”

best segmental hardscapes design
Belgard Master Craftsman Segmental Systems Inc are presented with their championship cup at the awards ceremony. Team members (in yellow) included Dan Hughes, Jason Mucciaccio, and Josh Brownlee.
hna installer championship
Belgard Brand Manager Julie Scott wishes Dan Hughes luck prior to the competition.

When it comes to expertise, the three-man, three-time national champion team of Segmental Systems Inc has checked all the boxes. The team collectively has about 60 years of industry experience paired with years of experience in both HNA competitions and Northwest Region competitions. With this collective history, a stunning design has become second-nature to the team. This year, the Segmental Systems Inc team went completely out of the box with a graveyard-inspired theme in lieu of a generic paver lay, due to the October timing of the competition.

“We chose to go with this theme because we wanted the effect of something breaking out of the pavers. And being the Halloween season, a zombie coming out of the coffin seemed appropriate,” said Hughes.

The continued success of the team hinges on creativity and organization. The three man team is broken up into roles. “Josh is responsible for drawing the plan out on CAD where he counts the cuts and makes sure we put everything in correct according to the plan, Jason is in charge of the cutting and helps with vertical elements and structures, and I am responsible of making sure the sand is screeded and the pavers are laid correctly,” said Hughes. “We all assume these roles naturally during the work week so it makes sense to mirror that into the competition setting.”

Although the team had no practice with this design prior to the HNA competition, their ability to be ready when the judges say “go” shows that they have committed themselves to the craft. “For us, the key to finishing this elaborate design in 90 minutes was creating a 10-sided paver pad where each cut paver can be used twice. This helped speed the process up as well as eliminate waste,” said Hughes.

Check out the videos below to see Hughes in action while he preps out his pre-cut pavers as well as installs the herringbone pattern. 

The completion of the design left the team with the depiction of a zombie breaking out of a coffin and crawling towards two tombstones. Mucciaccio was able to precisely cut pavers into the shape of hands to add components to the zombie that made it come to life, while Brownlee helped delegate placement to Hughes to ensure that the coffin, tombstones, and zombie were all placed without fault. The construction of this pad was sure to draw attention to all who attended the event.

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The exciting two-day HNA event was closed off with the awards ceremony leaving Segmental Systems Inc in first place, The Virginia Gentlemen in second place, Shovel and Thumb in third place, and BYU Landscape in fourth place. As brainstorming for the 2022 HNA Installer Championship is already underway, we look forward to seeing returning teams, as well as new teams, compete for the win!

Tallen Hughes

About the Author

Guest blogger Tallen Hughes is an unmanned aircraft pilot who has been flying drones for photography, videography, land surveying and real estate for 5 years. He grew up in the hardscape industry in Spokane, Washington where he learned all about the joys of outdoor living spaces. Tallen currently resides in San Diego, California and has a passion for the great outdoors. If you can’t find him flying drones and editing on his laptop, you’ll likely find him hiking, camping, or at the beach.


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