Monday, August 10, 2009

Loose Fill & Poured-In-Place, Bad Mix and Budget Inequality

I visited Cachuma Lake, California over the weekend camping with family and decided to take in some sights and walk off the camping food I had been eating all day.

I came across a beautiful playground with a nicely designed shade structure that was incorporated in the unit.

When I got a bit closer I noticed that the unit used two safety surfacing elements. One was the Poured-In-Place type to meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the other was a Wood Mulch that apparently was to meet budget concerns.

The play structure had synthetic Poured-In-Place surfacing around the unit to meet the need of Critical Fall Height (Head Injury Criteria) then sloped to blend into the Wood Mulch. The Wood Mulch continued the safety surface (Inexpensively) to create a surface that would meet the fall heights standards.

In theory, this is a way to cut the budget and try to provide an adequate play surface for this very large play structure and maximize the play area.

However, this is my view…

I understand the need to meet budgetary restraints and do not fault architects regarding this. However, I do blame an inequality in the distribution of funds in the failure to achieve a “Collective Safe Play Environment”. Budget dollars need to be distributed equally. It is obvious, where they run out of money. It is usually in the surfacing products and the landscaping around the play unit.

The problem I noticed with this unit is that all the budget dollars went into the wonderful play structure with no money left over for anything else.

In fact, the Poured-In-Place should have met a six foot CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) guideline even though there was a transition between two different surfaces (Poured-In-Place & Wood Mulch). I believe the transition should not have occurred during the necessary minimum safety zone of six feet (I usually recommend eight feet). Moreover, in most places I found the Poured-In-Place Safety Surfacing was less than six feet and the transition slope between the two surfaces was too great forming a tripping hazard. Most of the Wood Mulch was displaced from the surface transition edge and the Wood Mulch itself was displaced throughout the playground, creating a mess all around the entire area. This is due to the lack of routine maintenance.

I believe the decision makers should have with a more cost effective unit, and provided an adequate play zone. They could have spent more budget dollars in a long lasting synthetic surface that included the entire play area and met the ADA requirements. Then there would have been budgetary dollars remaining for adequate site furnishings and minimum landscaping. I think that some organizations and municipalities must put safety above all else. Safety first!

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