Overseeing the build
Site layout and timetable
With the help of your co-chairs, create a detailed site layout that shows the location of all the teams' activities. Start by sketching the location and orientation of the playspace (including where each piece of equipment will go) and any side projects. Then indicate where you'd like to see the following activities: equipment assembly, side project assembly, tool storage, tool check-in, the safety surfacing pile, and cutting/sawing operations. Take into consideration where items will be dropped off, and how far they need to be transported (especially heavy materials like dry concrete). Note where fences, trees, or hills will prevent easy movement.
An official build timetable is another way to make sure that everyone is on the same page...literally! It's essentially a script for site prep and Build Day(s), a single document that pulls together all the teams' activities and lists them in order. Use this sample playground build timetable as a starting off point.
Your co-chair(s) have probably scheduled a walk through, or "dress rehearsal," a day or two before the build. This is your last chance to make sure that your co-chair(s), fellow team captains, and build captains are all up to speed. When it's your turn, be sure to answer the following questions:
- How and where will the equipment and hardware be organized/staged?
- How are the projects assigned, and how will volunteers be deployed for construction tasks?
- Once volunteers are assigned to a project, who will give them specific instructions? Who is responsible for which project?
- How will tools be distributed and collected?
- What is the general overview of the installation process?
- What are some of the biggest safety hazards to look out for?
It's important to expect the unexpected and plan for contingencies. Avoid rescheduling your build, even in the case of foul weather. You'll just need to adjust some logistics and consider alternate plans for site prep (i.e., no power tools). You may also need to store certain materials - tools, equipment, and dry concrete — indoors. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Expect fewer volunteers. Prioritize your projects: Playspace construction comes first, then installation of safety surfacing, and then any side projects that don't require electrical machinery.
Keep everyone and everything as safe and dry as possible. The other team captains will work on getting ponchos and rain tents. Remind volunteers to take extra caution; muddy ground and slippery surfaces can create slip-and-fall hazards. Rain can also ruin the installation instructions; have them laminated or bring plastic page protectors. Make sure you stash an extra copy of the instructions inside somewhere. Once the rain lets up, remember to dry off all tools to prevent rusting.
Reinforce the holes during site prep. If you're digging post holes in severe rain, the holes may start to cave in as you dig. The best remedy is to insert fiber tube forms (Sonotubes) of the same diameter as the post holes. These are available from hardware or home improvement stores, and they will support the sides of the holes until you install your equipment. The tubes may be longer than you need, but they are easily cut with a saw. Cover the holes with plywood or another durable cover until the build. Additionally, a sump pump can be rented or purchased (electricity and hose required) to remove any water that may have collected since the site-prep day(s). If heavy rain is predicted on Build Day(s), you may want to consider having gravel laid down for the safety of volunteers building. However, this needs to be coordinated a few weeks in advance.
Just in case, do set a rain date with your installer. The final decision to postpone the build should always rest with the project co-chair(s).
Watch out for sun and heat! Rain is not the only weather that poses a hazard. When it becomes hot, volunteers should be reminded to drink lots of water and wear sunscreen.
In severe weather emergencies, evacuate the site. Although playspaces can be installed under most weather conditions, your safety captain should prepare an evacuation plan in case the build site does become dangerous.
It's inevitable that minor delays and snags will crop up throughout the day, so don't panic! Here are some common build problems and their solutions:
Low volunteer turnout:
Building the playspace and moving the safety surfacing should be your first priority. Use all the volunteers that you can to install the play equipment, and then move on to other projects that will only be tackled if there are enough volunteers.
Extra people crowding the site:
A crowded site can become a safety hazard, so put everyone to work. Transporting loose-fill surfacing is a huge job, so hand them a tarp or a wheelbarrow. Are you keeping old play equipment? Buy some cleaning supplies and something like ArmorAll (to give extra "umph" to those slides!) and create a "playspace maintenance" crew. Finally, think fast! Look around the site and think of where you could spruce up the landscape, paint fences or four-square markings, or help volunteer traffic flow more smoothly.
Tools are missing at the end of the build:
Volunteers often slip small hardware (like nuts and bolts) into their pockets to free up their hands...and then forget about them. Announce pocket checks every couple of hours (lunch time and breaks are ideal) and ask volunteers to please check their pockets one last time before leaving. These announcements don’t have to sound incriminating; check out this funny end of day announcement from a KaBOOM! Build Day!:
"Take your right hand, and raise it in the air! And give the person on your right a pat on the back and tell them they did a great job. Then take your left hand, and raise it in the air! And give the person on your left a pat on the back and tell them they did a great job! Now, put both your hands in the air! And put them in your pockets - and if you have any of my tools, bring them to the tools and materials table before you leave!"
An important material (e.g. concrete) runs out:
Quickly send a runner to go to the nearest store to pick up what's needed. Be sure to have petty cash as well as a few cars readily available.
Avoid as many last-minute issues as possible by making a punchsheet and checking it off.
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Overseeing the build
First, use this sheet to make sure everything is going according plan.
Ensuring proper installation
Can you believe it? YOU DID IT. Before you go home and get a great night's sleep, there's one last thing to do — make sure that the playspace has been properly installed. Your installer should "sign off" on the job with a formal inspection certificate; look it over and store it in a safe place, like the playspace file that the Safety & Maintenance team has created.
Depending on the agreement you've made, your installer might also meet with your playspace maintenance crew to brief them on the new structure. Anyone who will be responsible for ongoing maintenance checks should become familiar with the playspace components now, while they are in mint condition; take advantage of your installer's presence to ask questions. You should also make sure that you have inspection forms and a maintenance kit for the new equipment.
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Thanks to your efforts, your community is now a better place for children and their families. Great work! You've shown people what can happen when citizens fight for positive change, and you've created a working model for future projects. To make sure that these seeds of change grow and blossom in the years ahead, we suggest taking a few simple steps toward maintaining your playspace and its network of supporters:
Return tools and clean the site.
Make sure to return or replace all donated tools. Unused materials should be cleared from the site, and dumpsters and recycling bins should be emptied or hauled away.
Complete the punch list and coordinate maintenance trainings.
Immediately draft and begin implementing the maintenance plan, and make sure that someone takes over responsibility for regular maintenance checks. Ask your play equipment representative about what maintenance forms and supplies you'll be receiving. Also create a system for recording and filing maintenance reports.
Send thank-you letters.
Can you think of people who deserve a special thank you for their hard work and support? Let them know! By taking the time to recognize them and make them feel appreciated, you ensure that they'll stay involved in your community in the future. For many people, the thrill of participating in a playspace build is the start of a lifelong commitment to service. Better yet, have a child who uses the new playground make a thank-you card like this one.
Evaluate your planning process.
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently? What worked, and what flopped? Your experience will prove invaluable to community organizers down the road, so take the time to record your team's thoughts on the evaluation form in the Appendix.
Contribute to a "Friends of the Playspace" group.
Your co-chair(s) or fellow team captains may be interested in forming an ongoing group to support the maintenance and programming of your new playspace. Construction team members can contribute their talents by designing future side projects to enhance the play environment, organizing community clean-up/repair days, and participating in future programs and fundraisers. This is only the beginning!
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