Problem Solver - August 2011
Find a printable version here

Make Your Playground Stand Out With Concrete

Building a new playground can be as simple as opening a manufacturer's catalog, finding a standard structure that seems to fit the space and age requirements, consulting with your representative, ordering and installing. But if you want your playground to be a unique destination for children and families, you can take it a step further by exploring innovative concrete solutions that will really set your playground apart.

Q: We want to provide a unique playspace that will make our park a destination for families in the surrounding area. What should we consider?

A: Children enjoy the endless variations of standard post-and-deck playgrounds, but if you want to make your playground stand out you should consider branching out into other types of play events and materials. Concrete is one such material that can be used to create play elements that will bring a unique aesthetic to your play area. Concrete can be turned into child-friendly play structures in several ways. Manufacturers can spray, mold and sculpt concrete to create fun and unique play elements that kids love. Concrete can also be used to create independent play elements or to add thematic design to the entire play area. Concrete is very flexible as a design medium, allowing designers to create realistic textures and colors that can reproduce features like feathers, fur, scales, twigs, grass and tree bark. Finishing techniques can add to the impact of concrete elements by producing colors and sheen that can make a piece come alive.

Concrete works so well on the playground because it is the perfect medium for customization. A conventional slide becomes an outdoor adventure when the slide tunnel is a hollow tipped-over tree, and a raised deck is more fun when it's a fort in a GFRC (glass fiber reinforced concrete) treehouse. You can even enhance traditional post-and-deck playgrounds with integrated concrete elements. For example, if you have a sailboat theme, you might add some concrete seagulls on dock pilings to the structure, half-bury an anchor climber in sand, or maybe add a treasure chest discovery area for children to dig and explore.

Q: What are some of the other benefits of incorporating concrete into the playground?

A: Concrete is easily customized and is an extremely durable material that can stand up to the toughest abuse and the nastiest weather conditions. Concrete elements on your playground also have high play value. Kids love to climb on rocks, trees and logs, and those concrete elements can work as independent play events or as transition elements to post and deck structures. You can even customize your concrete play pieces to include small creature impressions like mice, bugs and other discovery elements directly into the surface of the concrete. And, when the rest of the playground heats up in the summer sun, concrete will be a little cooler, offering a respite for kids who want to keep playing.

Q: Is it safe?

A: Concrete play elements can be just as safe as any other playground structure. Find a manufacturer who ensures that all of their play equipment meets the stringent safety standards set by the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Look for manufacturers whose staff members are certified in playground safety. They'll be more tuned in with safety and kid-friendliness as they build your playground. Lastly, make sure that your GFRC is manufactured in a controlled ISO 14001 certified environment at the manufacturer's facility—not on your playground! By controlling the humidity and temperature of the GFRC process, the manufacturer can ensure that the GFRC will be of high quality and extremely durable.

Q: What else should we know?

A: In these times of budget-crunching, you will be glad to know that concrete manufacturers have lots of low-budget choices and unlimited design flexibility. Don't limit yourself. Let your imagination run wild. Talk to your representative and the manufacturer's design team. They'll help you incorporate concrete as part of an existing play structure, or create fun and cool independent elements for kids to climb.

And don't forget that while concrete is nearly indestructible, it does need periodic inspection and maintenance, as do post-and-deck playstructures. One thing's for certain: Your concrete playground will be incredibly unique!


Landscape Structures Inc.: 888-438-6574