Playground Guide Part 4

So, you have determined that your community, park, school, daycare, or facility needs to have a playground. Building a play environment, especially a large one, can be a daunting task. It is doable if you follow these recommended steps. Answering a few of the big questions will help you define the overall scope.

Establish Goals

Determine who are the stakeholders and gather input from all. Remember that this is a community decision and needs early involvement from all. Stakeholders could be children, parents, adjacent neighbours, owner planning and facilities staff, teachers in a school setting, local police, fire, etc. Try to develop goals based on the following:

Community Goals:



  • A gathering place
  • Signature piece
  • Cultural/historical expression
  • Special events
  • Family friendly playspace
  • Aesthetics that the community will accept
  • A grand opening for a special event
  • A small part of a larger project or an end in itself
  • Relationship to immediate surroundings
  • Facility or institutional goals (if applicable)

User Goals:

  • What kind of play activities
  • Age groups
  • Inclusive play for children of all abilities
  • Risk tolerance of the children
  • What do the children want

Owner/Operator Goals:



  • Budget Goals
  • Maintenance goals
  • Level of supervision
  • Caregiver needs
  • How many users to accommodate
  • Age groups and abilities of the users
  • Inclusive play for children of all abilities
  • Resistance to vandalism
  • Standards Compliance to Local and National Standards
  • Sustainability Goals
  • Meeting the needs of the community
  • Colour Considerations
  • Project Deadlines
  • Grand Opening Goals

This process should result in an agreed upon wish list.

Define Constraints

Now that you have a good grasp of your overall goals for the playground project’s scope, it is time to determine what constraints may influence achieving your goals. Try to analyze your constraints based on the following list:

User Constraints:

  • How many actual users
  • Size of age groups by number of actual users


Budget Constraints:

  • The overall budget by age group and abilities, including, freight, installation (typically 25·45% of the cost of the equipment), site preparation, resilient surfacing materials, and their containment maintenance and unexpected costs like vandalism
  • Resilient surfacing budget
  • Cultural needs and norms
  • How much of a budget do you have or will have soon

Site Constraints:

  • Topography
  • Physical size and legal boundaries, the area available
  • Existing features, conditions, and infrastructure
  • Digging or drainage issues
  • Underground services
  • Climate/weather issues
  • Adjacent features (such as trees, hills, rocks, drainage, sidewalks, parking lots, roads, electrical towers or boxes, bodies of water, etc.)
  • Dangerous Plants refer to CSA Z614·20 for a list of dangerous plants
  • Vegetation, trees in the way, such as low hanging trees
  • Access routes (access for kids, bicycle paths, accessible paths
  • Site lines – is the topography hidden from public view,

Regulatory and Standard Constraints:

  • Voluntary design standards such as ASTM/CPSC/CSA
  • Local building codes and bylaws
  • Accessibility legislation such as ADA/AODA/CSA·Z614 Annex-H
  • Internal policies and procedures

Owner/Operator Constraints:

  • Consider the total cost of ownership, including capital cost and maintenance cost
  • Budget for maintenance
  • Can the project be phased to accommodate cash flow limitations
  • Retrofitting
  • Vandalism Prevention Strategies
  • Lighting (to reduce vandalism)
  • Maintenance Program
  • Existing equipment, are you keeping it?
  • Aesthetics
  • Risk tolerance
  • Insurance
  • Caregiver needs
  • Compliant to current standards (recent safety audit in the last 12 months)
  • Will the playground be built in phases over time? For example, building a senior playground in the first year and adding a toddler playground the following year.

Building a playspace is a big job, so get people involved. People in your community, residents, and professionals can help you tackle different parts of the playground project. Forming a committee to help organize people into groups to handle site preparation conditions, playground design, fundraising, needs assessments, maintenance, installation, grand opening, and public relations will save you time, money, and a few headaches. Depending on the project’s complexity and scale, engaging the services of professional landscape architects and engineers can be extremely useful in achieving a very successful play space.

Dealing with the Obstacles

Costs to Consider:

  • Permits: different locations may require various permits.
  • Site Work: the playspace project may require site work such as grading, drainage, filter cloth, subgrade stone, asphalt, cement or compacted limestone screenings, resilient surfacing, sidewalks, accessible pathways, lighting, planting flora, sod, armour stone, and permits
  • Play Equipment: The purchase price of the playground equipment or any other play elements.
  • Shipping Play Equipment and Storage: The shipping cost from the manufacturer/supplier to your site, the installers yard, or a storage area.
  • The costs of installing playground equipment.
  • Security: Hiring on-site security to protect your playground, at night, and while the concrete sets.
  • Surfacing: The purchase price of the surfacing material.
  • Surfacing Shipping: The price for shipping the surfacing from the manufacturer to your site.
  • Surfacing Installation: The cost of installing the safety surfacing (after playground installation)

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