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Integrated Surface Design: An Approach for Improved Playground Accessibility

It’s no secret that rubber play surfacing is fantastic for creating accessible playgrounds. But sometimes the cost of installing rubber surfacing across an entire site is prohibitively high, leaving councils with just one option: loose-fill surfacing. But is this the only option?

We’d like to suggest another way. Something we call integrated surface design – a new way to think about safety surfacing that’s a game-changer for those who are looking to make their playgrounds more accessible and safe.

But, before I dig into what integrated surface design is and how it works, I want to take a look at the downsides of the alternative: loose-fill surfacing.

Loose-fill surfacing (AKA bark, woodchip, pea-gravel) have been the traditional ‘safety surface on a budget’ option for many councils. As a safety surface, it offers great protection and a nice natural look that many people prefer. Unfortunately, when it comes to accessibility, surfaces like bark, woodchip, and pea-gravel are terrible options. 

Click Here to Download ‘The Ultimate Guide to Playground Surfacing” Free eBook 

One of the reasons for this is because many children with mobility issues can only get around by crawling and as you’ve probably guessed, loose-fill surfacing makes this nearly impossible. 

But it’s not just crawlability (yes, I made a word) that’s important when it comes to creating accessible playgrounds… it’s also the access the surface facilitates…

When it comes to access, loose-fill surfacing is notoriously bad. That’s because it travels, and to keep from escaping and spreading everywhere, playground builders put high sides on their playgrounds. Unfortunately, these well-intentioned borders act as barriers for people with disabilities.

For these reasons, loose-fill surfacing should be avoided when creating accessible play spaces. Fortunately, there are much better alternatives to loose-fill that can give us the accessibility we want. Of these, wet pour rubber surfacing is the ultimate.

“But, it’s too expensive,” I hear you say.

We hear you. wet pour rubber is more expensive than bark or woodchip surfacing… but, only in the short term. In the long term, wet pour far outperforms those surfaces on cost.

Don’t believe me? Let’s break this down… 

Many people think that loose-fill surfacing is cheap. They think this because of its low upfront cost. What they are forgetting, however, is that there are considerable ongoing costs associated with loose-fill surfacing. For example, your typical woodchip play surface has annual top-ups, ongoing site maintenance, and replacement costs. If you were to add all of these up over 5-10 years, you’d see that loose-fill surfacing comes out just as expensive, if not more expensive than Pour’n’Play.

But, we get it… sometimes, the budget just doesn’t go far enough.

 If your short-term budget just doesn’t allow for full coverage wet pour rubber you might just be considering another order of woodchips… just to see you through another 12 months… right?

Well, if so, we want you to know there is another way.

Click Here to Download ‘The Ultimate Guide to Playground Surfacing” Free eBook

Integrated play surfacing – the best of both worlds!

Integrated play surfacing is simply play surface made up of multiple surface types. It gives you the benefits of each surface while reducing costs and any negatives associated with opting for just one surface type. In other words, it’s about getting the right surface for each area of your play space while keeping costs as low as possible!

With an integrated play surface, you can have Pour’n’Play paths and fall-zones providing the best possible access and safety, and loose-fill surfacing for your more general areas. And because your fall-zones are covered with permanent rubber surfacing, you don’t have the maintenance and replacement costs you normally have with loose-fill surfacing.

The upshot of this approach is that you get accessibility, safety, and a reduction in maintenance costs and you get it all for less than it would cost to cover your playground surface in 100% wet pour rubber. 

We’ve been installing integrated surfacing for three years now and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience seeing some rather inaccessible playgrounds converted into fun, safe, and most importantly, accessible places of play.

Do you need an integrated play surface design?

If you’d like to know more about this approach, the costs, and the various options available, then please give us a call on 0800 686 124. We’d love to chat!