News

Notes on the Power of Maintenance / Carducci Associates Principal Bill Fee Reflects

“The design and construction process is a short term solution, maintenance is the long-term improvement.”

Maintenance is an ambivalent figure in all landscape projects, an unsung hero, a menace, a practice unsightly or celebrated; regardless of its specific disposition, it is powerful. The designs of landscape architects are ultimately a temporal product of an interaction between numerous agents, within and beyond the agency of the site owner: development in and around the site, climate change, plant diseases and invasive newcomers. Maintenance practices insert an element of control over the original design and guide its form and function over time, whether the design is meant to remain as visually similar as possible to the initial design or to evolve in a specified direction.

“Those who maintain the landscape have the final word on how the landscape looks.” A 17th Century vegetable garden at Versailles still has its central fountain scrubbed clean, 300 years later. In contemporary California, water-loving plant shrivels quickly here without adequate irrigation. Labor, time, money (usually), and tools are central to both. “Synchronizing” with those who maintain landscapes, and accounting for maintenance practices and resources from the start of a design process guarantees a higher-quality site for the long haul. Carducci Associates Principal Bill Fee shares his thoughts on this, quoted throughout this article.

Maintenance and Synthetic Turf

“A balance of synthetic and natural turf allows for more maintenance resources to be committed to natural grass fields.”

Healdsburg High School now has an outdoor classroom and surrounding plaza grounded with synthetic turf. The absence of mowers quiets the learning environment.

For athletic fields withstanding rigorous use - especially public multi-use sports fields and school fields accessible by the public under joint-use agreements - the endurance of the material is critical. Daily use will test a material. We design with synthetic turf in these cases to minimize the cost and time of high maintenance demanded by a living, organic turf grass.

Maintenance and Public Agencies

“Optimally, we design for maintenance by including the maintenance personnel as part of the project team.”

For the City of Millbrae, Carducci designed Taylor Middle School’s multi-use athletic fields, which are a publicly shared resource under a joint-use agreement. The Parks Division supervisor and superintendent responsible for maintaining the fields were included from the beginning of the design process as owners. Eight years later, the Division continues to maintain the fields in good condition.

As demand grows for Taylor and Millbrae’s other joint-use school district sports fields, we continue to work intimately with the Parks Division in a broader Parks and Facilities Master Plan Update. Maintenance is “the backbone of American parks. Historically, they are trees and mowed grass. The modern park is trees and mowed grass, with shrubs and groundcovers, and stormwater treatment.” Knowledge from those maintaining not only these joint-use athletic fields, but also public medians, parks, street trees, and trails, is fundamental to all aspects of the planning process: an inventory, evaluation, vision, goals and recommendations for the next twenty years of the city’s landscape elements.

Simultaneously, shifting the burden off of athletic fields allows for those maintenance resources to be allocated across often tightly-stretched cities. Public agencies not only care for highly visible sites like parks and fields, but also medians, street trees, and other in-between spaces.

For city on-call services, Carducci recognizes maintenance as a driver of the landscape experience. Working with cities, including Berkeley, Hayward and Oakland, we discuss habits and aesthetics. Today we advocate for landscapes that “look natural, not manicured.”

Principal Bill Fee inspects the joint-use Millbrae Scool District athletic fields with Millbrae's Parks Superintendent Ken Crosetti.
Planning for high-quality, high-use public recreational facilities requires simultaneous planning for medians and other small spaces. Here, a map of Millbrae's maintained landscape.
Strategic use of synthetic turf for an outdoor classroom at Healdsburg High School replaces the noises and emissions of natural turf grass mowers.

Site Visit

The Completion of Emerald Glen Park / “The Wave” Aquatics Center Opens Memorial Day Weekend

Carducci Associates has worked on a large variety of project types and scales throughout California. Some of our designs are completed and built within months, while others are implemented in phases over many years. We are excited to announce that we have reached the end of a long journey in the city of Dublin, California: the completion of Emerald Glen Park’s final phase and the grand opening of “The Wave” aquatics complex.

Emerald Glen Park is a 48-acre park in the heart of Dublin, dubbed “The New American Backyard.” Our firm’s team, Principals Bill Fee and Vince Lattanzio, Associate Principals Jin Kim and Jamie Beckman, Senior Associate Alvin Tang, and Associate Lee Streitz (bios here), has had the privilege of designing and overseeing the construction of several parks in the city, including the last three of Emerald Glen Park’s four phases.

Phase Two (2001-2004) introduced a grand entry with a dramatic water feature, welcome plaza, and centerpiece for public art. A new connection on the southern edge invited Dublin residents and visitors to their new park.

The park expanded during Phase Three (2003-2006), where we designed and directed the construction of group picnic areas, a children’s playground, restroom facilities, a cricket pitch, and two large soccer fields. Upon completion of this phase, two-thirds of the park transformed into public open space. The park began to come alive as the community embraced the park and made use of every corner.

When funding became available, the City once again hired Carducci Associates to design the final phase of the park’s master plan: the central plaza, amphitheater, and outdoor aquatic recreation facility. Our partner, Dahlin Group, served as the prime-architect to oversee the project and design the iconic wave-shaped community building and natatorium. Our other design partner, The Aquatic Design Group, provided expertise in the development of pools, slides and water-play throughout the site.

The result of the team’s collaboration was the “The Wave” at Emerald Glen Park, a boardwalk-inspired, public aquatics center that spans 31,000 square-feet of park space. The $43M facility accommodates 1,400 people and features three pools, six water slides and a children’s play pool. In addition to water play, the picnic areas, group cabanas, fire-pits, and outdoor ping-pong tables create a place one can visit often and experience something new each time.

A project of this scale is not completed overnight; we began preliminary designs for the final phase over four years ago. Pencil sketches turned into hand-rendered drawings, which then were revised and massaged using computer aided drafting and 3D modeling. After many years of design, followed by over a year of construction administration, The Wave had its official ribbon-cutting ceremony last week and will open to the public on Memorial Day Weekend. Grab your swimsuit and come ride The Wave in Dublin, CA, Carducci Associates’ latest built project.

View the project page here.

View from the top of one of The Wave's new water slides.

Site Visit / Event

Alameda High School Breaks Ground

Occasionally, we get the opportunity to work on a project that is interesting not only for its site conditions and context, but also for its highly personal connection to our own history. Philip Dinh, Associate, who attended Alameda High School, says, “This was a place that I spent four of my favorite years, attending classes [and] creating memories with friends. Not many people get to say they were part of a team to help redesign their high school, and I am proud to be able to say that!”

Carducci Associates is part of the team, working with project architect Quattrocchi Kwok Architects, that is restoring Alameda High School’s 1924 neoclassical campus to its former glory. Renovations to this registered Historic Landmark will deftly weave 21st century classrooms into the fabric of this remarkable building. At the April 24th ground breaking ceremony, Carducci Associates was recognized by Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer, and Alameda Unified School District Superintendent Sean McPhetridge, for our work in designing improvements consistent with both the historic site and future-forward sustainability goals of the state, city, and district.

Philip and Wesley Bexton, Associate Principal, (bios here) coordinated work with the district, architectural team, the City of Alameda, and East Bay Municipal Utility District (commonly known as East Bay MUD) to modernize the landscaped frontage, and maintain the historic character of the site, in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and with the State of California’s new Division of the State Architect (DSA) irrigation efficiency requirements.

April 24, 2017. Carducci Associates' Philip Dinh and Wesley Bexton attend Alameda High School's Ground Breaking Ceremony.
The earthquake barrier dismantling begins.
Project architect QKA provides a rendering of the neoclassical campus renovation.

Site Visit / On the Boards / Event

Contested Turf in San Francisco Bay Area Sports Field Design / Designing for Synthetic Turf Fields

Sports fields provide a surprisingly complex terrain for landscape architects. Multi-use athletic fields ground significant contemporary themes in landscape architecture’s professional and academic worlds: the duality of the natural and the artificial, ecology as the protagonist of a design, and the unsung role of maintenance. Conversations during their site design process can play into a cultural aversion to material artifice or into the aesthetic preference for an evergreen lawn inherited from England.

Benefits to Synthetic Turf Field Applications

The following land use, ecological, and athletic issues contribute to the growing use of synthetic turf:

- conflicting demands of natural turf for maintenance (which, like other biotic things, needs to breathe) and of a large population for play space in the expensive San Francisco Bay Area,
- shrinking maintenance budgets,
- creating a literal ‘even playing field,’ by avoiding soil’s lumpiness and grading for drainage, and
- growing public demand for low-water, drought-resilient landscapes.

Evolving Scientific Research and Site Design

But a synthetic turf sports field also raises emotionally-charged concern over its impact on the environment and on health and safety of athletes, especially children.

On public projects, landscape architects are caught in between those convinced synthetic turf is harmful and those convinced synthetic turf is safe, each citing different studies. Anticipating this challenge, Carducci Associates mediates between the diverse priorities of public field users, scientific findings, and clients. Bringing scientists, with expertise in the material components of synthetic turf and in research processes, into design and public processes helps.

Within the nuanced process of designing a synthetic turf field, infill has become one of the most controversial components. A granular material that works as a synthetic stand-in for soil, infill is often comprised of crumbled, recycled rubber tires. Crumb rubber has raised concerns nationally and locally, from a recent artificial turf installation at the Beach Chalet Fields in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, to a multi-agency federal initiative launched in February 2016 known as the Federal Research Action Plan on Recycled Tire Crumb Use on Playing Fields and Playgrounds. In June 2015, the California Environmental Protection Agency the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) committed under a contract with CalRecycle to conduct a new study on synthetic turf and potential human health impacts.

While crumb rubber is under scrutiny, user groups are calling for infill alternatives that contain materials like recycled athletic shoes, cork and coconut, or other synthetic materials. The Los Angeles Unified School District and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation no longer use crumb rubber. In the greater San Francisco Bay Area, dozens of facilities (including schools, public parks, the Facebook Corporate Campus) have used infill alternatives fabricated with cork, organic fiber, recycled turf, sand and TPE (a plastic).

Carducci Associates’ Leadership in Sports Field Design

For community meetings, Carducci Associates has analyzed more than a dozen synthetic turf infill materials with its team of experts: Principals Bill Fee and Vince Lattanzio, Associate Principal Wesley Bexton, Senior Associate Alvin Tang, and Associate Philip Dinh (bios here). While comparing playability, cost, material components, and maintenance, alongside a timeline of political, funding, and construction processes, we record and respond to public questions and concerns. Attendees’ priorities at recent community meetings focus on long-term ecological, economic and health concerns:

1. Install a non-crumb rubber field that allows for healthy recreation.

2. Study the lifecycle costs of crumb rubber and alternatives, beyond capital cost, to address disposal and longevity.

3. Consider phasing strategies that permit for more expensive alternative infills.

4. Cost is less of a priority than health and safety.

The results of current federal and state studies on crumb rubber infill have yet to surface in part because the health impacts of exposure will be studied during the hottest months of 2017. While agencies, designers and athletes wait for the outcome, landscape architects should study and incorporate the research findings that are available on crumb rubber and alternative infills, and engage in outreach and discussion with athletes, coaches and families on their preferences for and experiences with synthetic turf fields and different infill.

References

California Environmental Protection Agency Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, “Synthetic Turf Studies,” last modified March 9, 2017, https://oehha.ca.gov/risk-assessment/synthetic-turf-studies.

Gutierrez, Melody, “US to mount multiagency study of health risks of synthetic turf,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 12, 2016, http://www.sfgate.com/nation/article/US-to-mount-multiagency-study-of-health-risks-of-6827632.php

United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Federal Research on Recycle Tire Crumb Used on Playing Fields,” last modified December 30, 2016, https://www.epa.gov/chemical-research/federal-research-recycled-tire-crumb-used-playing-fields.

Typical Composition of Synthetic Turf
Fallon Sports Park, Dublin, California. Designed by Carducci Associates, Constructed in 2010.
Redwood High School, Larkspur, California. Designed by Carducci Associates, Constructed in 2005.
Sir Francis Drake High School, San Anselmo, California. Designed by Carducci Associates, Constructed in 2005.

Site Visit / Community Meeting