A playground design guide with European Regulations, a practical example and 3D BIM model to download
Designing a playground for children allows to have a role in the reconfiguration of urban areas where there is lack of clear architectural/functional pattern or to create furnished areas within a green park. There is a certain variety of playground shapes and typology that can be used in multiple ways and combination. For this reason it is possible to create a large range of playgrounds, starting from the simplest and traditional concept to eventually articulate, innovative and inclusive spaces.
In this focus we’ll provide a project example with 3D model and DWG files ready for download, that you can use as a design guide.
Playground design: general aspects
A playground area is a furnished space dedicated at recreation time and physical education for children of different ages. It can be part of space in which it is possible to entertain children: a public park, a school yard, a shopping center, restaurants, sea side facilities, a sport center, etc.
Traditionally, designing a playground allows a certain creativity and copositive freedom.
In this insight we will try to systematize some advice and information to avoid designing errors and to facilitate and stimulate the creative process.
The site choice
The choice of the site is the first step to make when designing a playground.
It would be desirable to choose an area without any dangers or sources of pollution, possibly sheltered from the wind and versatile in the way that can be used under a large range of atmospherics condition.
The ground it should be without stagnation of groundwater, so it can ensure its usage in safe and healthy conditions. The vegetation variety is an important element to be considered: it is preferable to avoid trees typology that may cause allergies or which may have roots that run over the ground surface, and of course flowers, leaves or berries with poisonous properties.
The area should be available to anyone, located near parking areas and it should be reachable by emergency vehicles and personnel.
Playground design: arranging spaces
In all the stages, from the design to the realization, it is always necessary to keep in mind that a playground for children it should be stimulating, interactive, multifunction and safe environment.
A complete environment can be equipped with a dedicated areas for:
- with green and natural elements ( trees, water, lawn etc.)
- sport and physical activities.
All the spaces must meet the requirements of the European regulation, (discussed further below), with appropriate materials and certificated equipment.
The equipment for playing
The playing area is the heart of the playground for the children, so the equipment must be always stimulating in order to engage children and encourage them to play outdoor instead of using videogames and television.
The play equipment can be classified as follows:
- Multifunctional playground: modular combinations of different platforms and entertaining elements as walkways, slides, nets, climbing walls and tubes.
- Classical games: swings, small houses and slides
- Dynamical games: engaging in dynamic movements, management of the translation, equilibrium, speed and voids.
- Theme games: games that reflect tales environments, designed for 2 to 8 years old children, so that the playground can become an outdoor theatre.
- Constructive game: increase the cognitive and sensorial skills. They include various interactive activities or outdoor games.
Game involving balance and climbing skills: these games develop different skills such as balance, concentration and self-coordination.
Having a proper dimensioning of the area is essential to provide at least the minimum usage space. This general parameter needs to take in account the footprints of the playground toys, free space and rubber tiles flooring. The maximum and minimum “free height of fall” must be between 3 m and 1,5m and the floor must be made of a 30cm thick layer of pea gravel or some other Impact Absorbing certified materials.
Furthermore, for all the play toys, make sure that possible bolt threads are always covered and all visible welds are carefully sanded. When choosing the materials the attention must be paid to the prevention of risks related to head, limbs and clothing entrapment.
Choice of materials
The choice of flooring is a key point in the design and construction of this type of area.
The flooring for play areas must comply with the European standard EN1177, which establishes the requirements to choose the most suitable flooring, taking as reference the height of fall consequent to the characteristics of the toy certified by the manufacturers. Anti-trauma and anti-fall flooring is often a very important element in the safety of a playground.
Currently, on the market, it is possible to find different types of anti-trauma floors in different materials:
- pea gravel;
- bark chips;
- wood chips;
- honeycomb structure;
- elastic plates;
- rubber flooring.
For other materials there are no restrictive requirements. It would be good practice to prefer materials that are durable, sustainable and suitable for micro-climatic outdoor conditions of the place (anti-slip, anti-freeze, etc.).
Going deeper on the designing process of a playground, we must mention inclusive parks.
The inclusive parks are furnished areas where children with physical or sensorial disabilities or even with temporary movement issues can play and have fun with the others children in a totally safe environment. The “inclusive” name has been chosen to emphasize the needs to create spaces and toys accessible by children with all kinds of physical and mental abilities.
The “inclusive play” term means a piece of equipment that can be used by a wide range of users without special adaptations and special designs.
European legislation for the correct design of a playground
Once you plan a playground, you should consider at least two fundamental concept:
- . the equipment must be approved and comply with the EN 1176 standard;
- the surface on which they will be installed complies with the EN 1177 standard.
The European standards EN 1176 and EN 1177 are then declined in local norms for the single countries.
As mentioned before, the EN 1176 standard aims to rules the general safety requirements for the equipment; the EN 1177 standard establishes the minimum requirements for each type of play surface and the Impact attenuating playground surfacing.
Design of a playground: a practical example
The playground is organized over a flat area of 3,000 m² within a large existing green park.
The area is bordered by a greenbelt used as a visual and acoustic shield. The access to the area takes place near a circular structure covered in corten steel.
The whole area is characterized by the presence of multifunctional and creative games for the entertainment of children of different age groups with differentiated mobilities skills.
In order we find the platform with the tree houses, reachable by a ramp, the labyrinth, the water mirror, the classic games (swings, slides, little houses, springers, climbing frames, etc.), the meadows on curved surfaces. In addition to the games, there is a refreshment area for adults, with a kiosk and a picnic area with tables and chairs
Moreover, inside the coloured area, there are 2 m high ornamental numbers that makes the environment playful and other spaces identifiable and recognizable: a fountain with drinking water, shaded seating area, lush vegetation and wooden structures to be used as benches.
The materials chosen for the project are the rough-hewn stone for covering walls and ornamental walls, the prefabricated concrete panels for the pathways, the wood and the anti-trauma rubber for the playgrounds and many spaces green.
Download sample file
Here the drawings in dwg and the 3d model of the playground project realized with the architectural BIM design software.
DWG drawings and 3D BIM model of a playground project