Supplement Feature - April 2008
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Room to Live

Outfitting Your Parks to Provide Space for All

By Emily Tipping

Material Matters

Cheapest isn't always best, and that goes for any park plans, including plans for site furnishings. Ask the following questions when planning to outfit your site: What components are already there? Will the new materials fit in with those existing furnishings? What's different about this particular site's environment? Is it more or less prone to graffiti and vandalism? Is it more or less exposed to damaging weather conditions like wind, sea salt or snowstorms? Are there a lot of trees shading the area, or it is exposed to the bright sun?

Also, consider the pros and cons of specific materials. Here's a quick list to help you narrow your choices:


PROS: strong; lightweight; affordable

CONS: fewer aesthetic options; can corrode if not coated or anodized; subject to vandalism in some locations as a scrap metal


PROS: durable; heavy; available in a variety of colors and textures

CONS: can crack; can be difficult to clean unless coated


PROS: naturally beautiful; conducts heat well, comfortable; lower cost (softwoods); durability (hardwoods); rust- and stain-resistant

CONS: requires regular painting, staining and/or sealing; can splinter (ouch!); easily damaged; difficult to clean unless coated


PROS: lightweight and portable; conducts heat well, comfortable; self-cleaning in the elements; durable with lifespan of around 15 years

CONS: may fade without UV protection


PROS: environmentally friendly; moisture-proof; does not corrode, rot or rust; does not splinter; virtually maintenance-free; durable; vandalism-resistant; heavy

CONS: more expensive initially; may fade without UV protection; may sag in high heat without steel reinforcement


PROS: lightweight, moveable

CONS: easier to damage than some other materials


PROS: conducts heat well, comfortable; corrosion-resistant; durable; virtually maintenance-free; heavy

CONS: can be scratched, may fade without UV protection


PROS: durable, beautiful, heavy

CONS: must be treated to prevent rusting