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Posts Tagged ‘Landscape Construction’

Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester, MA occupies a storefront in one of Boston’s low-income neighborhoods, sandwiched between units of affordable apartment housing. Their “playground” was a packed dirt yard abutting a parking lot. The school, which uses trauma-informed design to help at-risk students feel more grounded and safe, looked to the Community Outreach Group for Landscape Design (COGDesign) to create a more appropriate play space. Designer David McCoy of Geographia Landscape Design developed a beautiful plan for a sensory and environmental playground, and A Yard & A Half Landscaping Cooperative was lucky enough to be able to install it. Thanks to COGdesign and Codman Academy for the chance to participate in this exciting project!

empty dirt lot with low metal fence

Play area before construction.

landscape plan

Master Plan by David McCoy

poster from 2nd grade class saying "thank you for building our park!"

“Thank You” poster from second-graders at Codman Academy

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Turfstone Pavers in LawnPermea permeable driveway

Which of these photos shows permeable interlocking concrete paving? Both!

A concrete grid system (left) was once the only permeable option.  As municipalities have increased pressure on developers to minimize storm water runoff, a number of attractive permeable pavers like Permea (right) have come on the market.  These concrete pavers look like cobblestone, brick, or traditional pavers, but spacers allow water to flow between them, when filled with a fine, clean aggregate.

Much of the flooding in urban and suburban areas is the result of large impermeable areas of asphalt and rooftops.  Porous paving options can reduce runoff up to 100% when properly installed and maintained. Other benefits of permeable paving include:

  • Reduces construction costs for underground drainage systems
  • Qualifies for LEED credits for new construction
  • Easy to repair and maintain
  • Recharges groundwater rather than dumping to streams and waterways
  • Cleans water through biological filtration, removing chemicals and pollutants
  • Makes nearby streams safer for wildlife and human enjoyment
  • Eliminates puddles, standing water, and icy patches

This short ICPI video presents more detail on the benefits, performance, and applications of permeable pavers.

 

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A low wall serves dual duty, breaking the space into two more usable, flat terraces, and creating an informal place to sit. So-called “seat walls” can also enclose a raised bed, lifting plants to a height where we can appreciate their details. Lanterns or candles atop the wall can provide subtle and romantic outdoor lighting.

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After excavation, the crew installs a layer of filter fabric to prevent base materials from mixing with the soil. On top goes angular stone, compacted with a vibratory compactor. A layer of sand provides an even setting bed for the pavers.

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We’re using Brussels tumbled pavers from Unlock, which come in wedge-shaped pieces to form circles and fan designs with minimal cutting. The crew lays out pavers and granite cobblestone accents, and checks the level to ensure that it will shed water.

When the patio is complete, the crew fills joints with a polymeric sand to lock pavers into place and inhibit weeds.

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On day 2, Rene and crew regrade the back yard, using a Bobcat for the rough grading.  They separate out topsoil for reuse on site. This avoids the cost of both disposing of perfectly good soil and bringing in new, as well as the environmental cost of trucking to and from the recycling facility.

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The crew leader lays out a circular patio and walkway.  Lines help to establish the finished level of the patio, and ensure that it will be correctly pitched for drainage away from the house.   At this point, the designer or project manager often visits the site to check the layout and levels.

An assessment of the soil determines whether the standard 6″ of compacted angular base will be sufficient support for the patio.  The crew will excavate to the appointed depth, and 6″ outside of the finished patio area for extra stability.

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Newton back yard before landscape construction

Prospective clients often ask what A Yard & A Half’s installation process is like. We’ll be documenting the transformation of this Newton back yard over the next couple of weeks to show you.

Day 1 – The designer/project manager reviews the entire plan and contract notes with everyone who will be working on site.  DigSafe has pre-marked utilities on site, and we locate these and property lines.

The back yard slopes down several feet from right to left, so we will cut and fill existing soil, and build a fieldstone seating wall to retain the high side. While excavating, we will also be installing conduit for low-voltage landscape lighting and a fountain.

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Powered by biodiesel: clean, renewable, domestic

In a recent Customer Advisory Board meeting, someone mentioned that “sustainability” has become a meaningless term.   If we are to say that we do sustainable landscape design, construction, and maintenance, we have to define our terms.  To that end, here’s an inventory of our sustainable practices.  In developing these standards for ourselves, we have drawn from the Standards of the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Organic Landcare Committee, the 2009 Sustainable Sites Initiative (SSI) benchmarks– it’s kinda like LEED for landscapes — and Sustainable Landscape Construction (Thompson & Sorvig, 2008).

A Yard & A Half  Landscaping will always:

Maintenance

  • Mow high & return grass clippings
  • Hand-prune shrubs
  • Recycle/compost all greenwaste
  • Use only approved organic amendments for lawn and plant fertilization

Design

  • Use pre-design site assessment to identify and protect existing natural features, minimize waste, and determine sustainable grading, drainage, hardscape, and planting options.
  • Specify efficient irrigation systems – rain sensors, timers, etc. (whenever irrigation is specified)
  • Specify efficient site lighting which minimizes light pollution (low-voltage, with timers and/or photosensitive controllers)

Construction

  • Separate and preserve topsoils
  • Protect water, trees & rootzones during construction
  • Protect soils from contamination by fuel & other chemicals
  • Recycle/compost all greenwaste generated during construction
  • Separate construction debris for recycling/downcycling, if facilities exist (concrete, brick)

Planting

  • Select plants to fit conditions, rather than altering conditions to fit plants
  • Plant diverse plantings and avoid moncultures
  • Mulch planting beds with organic mulch to retain moisture and prevent compaction

Operations

  • Fuel all diesel trucks and equipment with biodiesel fuel
  • Recycle plant pots, toner cartridges, paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, and scrap metal
  • Conduct ongoing health & safety training for field staff
  • Perform regular maintenance of trucks and machinery to maximize fuel-efficiency
  • Practice double-sided copying & printing; scrap paper reuse
  • Minimize use of heat & air conditioning

Whenever possible, we…

Maintenance

  • Recycle/compost greenwaste on-site
  • Remove weeds by hand or using mechanical (non-chemical) means
  • Manage and remove invasive plants
  • Use no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers

Design

  • Reduce lawn areas and impervious paved surfaces
  • Use native vegetative materials to stabilize slopes and banks
  • Plant dense, multi-layer planting to minimize water loss, weeds, and maintenance
  • Group plants with similar cultural needs (soil types, water, etc.)
  • Harvest rainwater using rain barrels, cisterns, rain xchange water features
  • Use bioswales, ephemeral streams/dry creekbeds & rain gardens to keep rainwater on-site
  • Install low maintenance, chemical-free, soothing habitat ponds
  • Specify permeable pavers, vegetated grids, gravel to minimize runoff
  • Specify solar or lower-energy use pumps & lighting fixtures
  • Reuse existing site structures & amenities
  • Provide spaces for physical activity, mental restoration, social interaction, and food production
  • Design sites for use by people of all ages and abilities (ADA-compliant, safe for kids and elders)
  • Provide usable spaces for clients’ recycling and composting

Construction

  • Protect site soil during construction using planned access routes
  • Restore soils damaged by construction (compaction/infiltration, organic matter & biological activity)
  • Coordinate with all site professionals to faithfully implement design while protecting the site and minimizing waste
  • Confine cutting of pavers/bricks to a designated area
  • Do not use wood from endangered or threatened species
  • Recycle or reuse salvaged materials, stones & plants
  • Use regionally-produced materials (SSI: 50 miles for aggregate & soils, 500 mi for other mat’s)

Planting

  • Plant native plants to minimize inputs of fertilizer, water, and energy
  • Select plants with value beyond aesthetics: food or cover for desirable wildlife and pollinators, edible/medicinal, soil improving, etc.
  • Plant to shield buildings from summer heat and maximize winter sun (“passive solar” planting)
  • Remove or remediate contaminated soils (lead, creosote)
  • Use only NOFA-approved organic soil amendments
  • Amend soil based on soil tests to avoid pollution from excess nutrients
  • Use regionally-sourced plants (SSI: growers w/in 250 mi)

Operations

  • Minimize idling of trucks & machinery
  • Email invoices and correspondence to reduce paper & transportation
  • Educate clients about the sustainable practices that are being/could be implemented on their sites, and the environmental, health, and financial benefits of those practices

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