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Taking the LEED on the Playground

According to Little Tikes Commercial, its products meet two prerequisites and can contribute up to 11 additional points toward LEED certification in the sustainable sites, materials and resources and the innovation and design process categories. Source: Little Tikes Commercial


Recycled & Recyclable Content in Little Tikes Commercial Products Source: Little Tikes Commercial Click the picture to view larger image

New playground equipment is making it easier to meet green and safety goals. Image: Little Tikes Commercial

Safety is the essential component of playground design. Safe and fun! But whether designing a new playground or a public space, the mantra of "susustainability" resonates.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), of course, is about smart, sustainable design. But how do you translate LEED to the playground?

If you want to pursue LEED accreditation for your next playground design, how do you go about it? If you're not certified in LEED, you can hire a LEED consultant to guide you. You can also make sure the equipment you specify counts toward LEED points.

PlayPower LT Farmington, Inc., which produces the commercial playground equipment brand, Little Tikes Commercial, says it is now making it easy for playground projects to meet green and safety goals. The company is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the sanctioning body for LEED certification, plus has certifications in ISO 14001 (international specification for environmental management standard) and the OHSAS 18001 (occupational health and safety standard).

Earning LEED Points

PlayPower says its Little Tikes Commercial products can help the playground designer earn up to 11 LEED points.

The company reports it also has a host of new certifications that can help the landscape architect comply with sustainability and safety requirements.

"We decided to seek these certifications to make it easy for our customers to comply with their own sustainability and safety requirements," explains Nevin Caldwell, division president for the Little Tikes Commercial. "Many states are adopting mandatory green standards for schools, and we believe this is a trend that is going to expand significantly over the coming years. We are now positioned to be well ahead of the curve."

The company also offers its customers written certification documents that they can use when obtaining their own certifications.

St. Mary's County Public Schools Teams with Playworld Systems and Playground Specialists on Environmentally-Friendly Playground

Lewisburg, Pa.--In collaboration with Playworld Systems, Inc. and Playground Specialists, Inc., St. Mary's County Public Schools has installed Playworld Systems' first PVC free playground at Town Creek Elementary School in Lexington Park, Md. The environmental-friendly playground is part of St. Mary's County Public Schools' dedication and initiative to design, build and operate schools conducive to learning and energy efficient.

The school celebrated the playground grand opening Nov. 25, 2008. The green and yellow playground includes slides, bridges, climbers and interactive panels. These play structures are made of thermoset polyethylene (PE), a tough, durable and environmentally friendly PVC alternative.

"It is an exciting project for all of us to get involved in and to give our kids a new place to play, while helping to reduce carbon footprints in this country," remarked Matt Miller, president of Playworld Systems, Inc.

Other sustainable initiatives for the county's public schools include the addition of a new LEED building at Evergreen Elementary School. The building has a green vegetated roof, skylights to take advantage of natural lighting, use of high output T5 fluorescent lighting, daylight sensors and geothermal heating.

"This is just one more fine example of the efforts taking place in St. Mary's County Public Schools to improve the environment," added Dr. Michael Martirano, superintendent of schools.

The coordination and installment of the new play space was made through Playground Specialists Inc., a full service recreation company based in Emmitsburg, Md., and a Playworld Systems partner

"This is one of the most exciting projects that we had the opportunity to work on," said Jeff Barber, president of Playground Specialists.

Mr. Barber and Mike Slifer from Playground Specialists have worked with St. Mary's County Public Schools on many projects.

The more attention focusing on environmental concerns, Playworld has become a certified ISO 14001 company by demonstrating its commitment to eliminating waste and redefining its operation. In 2007, 90 percent of all waste produced by the company was recycled, including 2.3 million pounds of steel, 500,000 pounds of HDPE plastic, 54,000 pounds of wood and 79,000 pounds of paper. More recently, Playworld abandoned the use of polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC) in its products and replaced all products with thermoset polyethylene. Playworld employees also get involved by recycling batteries, aluminum cans, office paper, glass/plastic bottles and participate in car pooling. Throughout all corporate facilities, lighting systems have been updated to T-5 florescent lights.

Playground repairs are not covered under the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act (CPA), unless the playground was originally built with CPA funds.

Funds for Recreation Facilities Don't Necessarily Include Repairs

The Massachusetts Community Preservation Act (CPA) was signed by Governor Cellucci in September 2000. It is an economic tool that offers matching state funds for those communities that impose property-tax surcharges to support local affordable housing, recreation, open space, and historical preservation efforts. Approximately 140 communities in the state have signed on for the program.

The law, which was misinterpreted by some, does not provide monies to upgrade or repair recreational facilities that were built without community preservation (CP) funding. Two years ago when Newton, Mass. used three quarters of a million dollars in CP funds for recreation improvement projects at two parks, a lawsuit was brought by 10 local taxpayers challenging the city's appropriation.

The court found in favor of the taxpayer group. The case then went to the state Supreme Court. On Oct. 24, 2008, the court upheld the lower court ruling.

So while some communities are preparing to build new recreation facilities, other communities need funding to repair theirs. A group called the Community Preservation Coalition seeks to broader the interpretation of the law. State Senator Cynthia Creem, a Newton Democrat, introduced a bill to amend the CPA to allow improvements to existing recreational spaces. The bill, which is in the House Ways and Means Committee, is not expected to advance this legislative session and would have to be refiled next year.

On another front, the amount of "matching" community preservation state funds are falling. The Cambridge, Mass. City Council planned on $10.9 million in CP projects for fiscal 2009, and anticipated the state would ante $3.9 million. The "matching" state funds were just reduced to $2.1 million.


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December 6, 2019, 1:19 pm PDT

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