We converted a car park to a playground

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The project of transforming an RSA building into a vibrant childcare center wasn't without its challenges. See how Steve from Zones overcame all odds in just 6 weeks and on budget.

Before After
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Transforming a car park in the Wellington suburb of Taita from tarmac territory to child care centre in just 6 weeks sounds like quite an undertaking. The old RSA building was under renovation to become an early learning centre and the car park was to become a playground.

Childcare renovations

Landscape design considerations

For these Zones Landscaping specialists, the project wasn’t without its challenges. “The weather was one!” they say.  “It was a very flat area so we had to ensure we had enough drainage to remove excess surface water from the site.” Then there were the different requirements for the under two-year-old and over two-year-old children. “We had to think about how to create zones for the kids in such a way that there weren’t any supervision issues and so that less confident children had their own areas.”

“We were able to ensure all areas were age-appropriate for all children and they worked to the timeframe to complete the project.”
- Arlene, Zones client

The Landscaping specialists had worked with BestStart project manager Arlene Troy previously to create new playgrounds and revamp existing ones. For the critical design process, they sought help from a Bay of Plenty based Zones landscape designer, whose CV includes a number of similar projects which had impressed the Landscaping specialists. They say the ‘remote’ working relationship went well. “The landscape designer was able to interpret the discussions and ideas from meetings with the client and put those cleverly into the overall design.”

Play area renovated for a childcare

For the landscape designer, the aim was to create a natural, integrated environment that responded well to the different age groups of the children. “It wasn’t about a playground as such but about creating a space where kids could be outside in a play environment. I wanted to push the idea of kids getting into nature, so, to make the environment engaging and interesting for them, I focused on gardens and plantings, different textures, art and sculpture.”

Outdoor playground specifications

Arlene says she and the Landscaping specialists spent time on-site discussing BestStart’s aspirations for the playground, “the type of area we wanted to create and our expectations for the finished product. Because the Landscaping specialists is familiar with the regulations for the playground development of our Early Learning Centres, we were able to ensure all areas were age-appropriate for all children.” Arlene found the duo professional “and they worked to the timeframe to complete the project.” Requirements also included areas for water play, sandpits, turf areas and a ‘whare’ type structure, purchased from a specialist supplier; many of the other elements were made on site.  

renovated childcare with a kool fences red slide

The asphalt car park provided not just a physically hard environment but one with tricky shaped spaces, says the landscape designer. “It’s also in a very urban environment so creating the feel of nature was a challenge. I incorporated as much green space as I could, using things like Nikau palms which don’t take up much space in terms of root structure.” The design also included interesting sculptural elements such as Perspex work structures. If we needed to do a screen it became multi-purpose, children could paint on it and have visual connections to other spaces.”

“It’s a beautiful natural environment with lots of features including water, sand, carpentry, and areas to sit and read, or play with age-appropriate learning equipment. Children love the playground!”
- Arlene, Zones client

The Early Learning Centre is effectively an all-weather environment with sheltered and open-air spaces and synthetic grass, says the Landscaping specialists. “In the past BestStart centres have used real grass but it doesn’t get a chance to grow, requires too much maintenance and becomes a mud bath over time.”  

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The final result

The project came in on the budget at $120,000 and, in spite of the weather, on time. The result, says Arlene, is an exciting outside environment which has areas that allow children to play as a group or take time out to relax on their own. “It’s a beautiful natural environment with lots of features including water, sand, carpentry, and areas to sit and read, or play with age-appropriate learning equipment. Children love the playground!”

safe childcare renovation in Wellington

For the Landscaping specialists there’s been real satisfaction in seeing the transformation from a car park to a vibrant play area where children have different spaces to develop. And for the landscape designer? “The most satisfying part is when you see kids playing in the spaces and enjoying themselves. Getting mucky and doing what kids should do. Challenging them.”

Get in touch

Zones can support you with every stage of your landscaping project. Get in touch today to schedule a free consultation.

This project was completed in
September 2018
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Project description
Transforming a former RSA car park in an Early Learning Centre playground
New Zealand
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Weather! Transforming asphalt into a living, breathing natural environment
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