Frank Lovece in Board Operations on September 17, 2013
There are different ways for condo or co-op boards to find one. Some playground-equipment companies provide start-to-finish service, from design to manufacture to installation. Otherwise, after settling on a design, a board will have its managing agent seek bids from specialty contractors.
"You want to have someone certified by the International Playground Contractors Association," says Darrell Wilson, co-owner of the playground construction specialist Playsites + Surfaces, and referring to the organization still known by its former national and incorporated initials, NPCAI. "That's important. Everyone who has that certification has gone to a certification school [to confirm they have the expertise] to do this type of work. You also want someone who's an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau," he recommends.
Whichever way you go, one of your biggest — and most expensive — considerations is the surfacing. "In the '90s they used thin rubber tiles," says Wilson. "Now the most popular thing is what's called poured-in-place rubber: rubber granules mixed with a polyurethane binder and mixed to almost a molasses consistency then troweled into place to whatever thickness is required."
Poured-in-place rubber is the most expensive surfacing, notes Andrew Kunz, owner of W.E.I.T. Creative Solutions, another playground contractor. There's also rubber mulch, wood mulch, engineered wood fiber and even synthetic turf.
Going Into Draining
Another important and potentially expensive consideration for co-op and condo boards is drainage. "You have to have 'positive drainage' away from the playground," says Wilson. "'Positive' means it's flowing away, 'negative' means it's remaining in the playground or possibly flowing toward a building." Warns Kunz: "If the safety surface doesn't drain properly, that will affect the life of the surface."
And that surface is a big part of the cost of a playground. Because there are so many variables depending on the size of your space, drainage issues, and the type and amount of equipment and surfacing you want, cost can vary widely.
"Rarely do you see something dip under $25,000," says Kunz, who when pressed offers an average range of "$40,000 to $70,000 with the surfacing." Wilson says a typical range runs from $25,000 to $100,000. Generally that cost will be amortized over at least two decades; manufacturer warranties typically extend 10 years for plastic parts and 15 to 20 for metal parts, so product lifetime is generally much longer.
Photo, rooftop playground at Sky View Parc, courtesy of Dan Grant at Soft Surfaces; click to enlarge
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