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It's hard work designing play spaces

Architects and landscapers are turning to specialists to test their playground designs for safety, compliance and maximum playability

In association with
Castle or elephant's head? Playequip's high spec bespoke treehouse designed and built for Lend Lease Developments in Elephant and Castle, London.
Castle or elephant's head? Playequip's high spec bespoke treehouse designed and built for Lend Lease Developments in Elephant and Castle, London.

As space becomes more restricted and the need for play has become a requirement for developments, many architects are realising the value of complementing their buildings with equally impressive play spaces.

Playequip is a play design specialist that works with architects and landscapers to ensure that designs for playgrounds and outdoor play areas are not only feasible, but also offer high play value and comply with industry standards.

This provides reassurance and allows architects to be more ambitious in their designs. Playequip's top priority is customer and client satisfaction, achieved through building trustworthy relationships and ensuring a smooth design and construction process.

Playequip ensures designs are:
  • Engineered to meet European standards with structural calculations.
  • Compliant with European play safety standards (BS EN 1176).
  • Maximising play value to the budget’s full potential.
  • Continuing the initial concept set out by the architect or landscape architect.
  • The Playequip design includes larch cladding and stainless steel play components.
    The Playequip design includes larch cladding and stainless steel play components.
  • Ground level structure with 'tub' foundation.
    Ground level structure with 'tub' foundation.
  • Fire pole and opening.
    Fire pole and opening.

Playequip creates all designs initially using 3D CAD to help visualise the project. Models are built based on the general arrangement drawing provided by the architect or landscape architect along with the initial concept design.

This process helps identify and address any play safety concerns that may not be apparent in 2D. Once Playequip is satisfied with the 3D model, it extracts 2D drawings for fabrication and final submission.

Ensuring play safety is a crucial part of the development process. Playequip works alongside an independent play safety inspector throughout the design development until the project is finally approved. While it has extensive knowledge of play safety regulations, involving a third-party inspector guarantees every detail has been thoroughly considered, resulting in the safest possible final product and minimising the risk of future legal issues.

The Playequip process for ensuring safety:

  • Designs are developed in 3D and reviewed by the inspectors through a desktop review, where most potential issues are addressed.
  • A pre-completion inspection is conducted on-site to identify any issues that may not have been apparent during the desktop review.
  • The Playequip team resolves any identified issues.
  • The inspector returns to sign off on the project and submits a risk assessment for the architect or landscape architect.
  • Bespoke play features.
    Bespoke play features.
  • Custom-made tube slide.
    Custom-made tube slide.

To ensure high quality, most of the fabrication work is done off-site. The components are then transported to the site as manageable modular pieces. Playequip prioritises low-impact construction methods during installation, especially in sensitive environments such as schools.

The installation process is managed by a team of designers, site managers, carpenters, fitters and landscapers who have specialist knowledge in installing customised playground equipment. This expertise significantly reduces the chances of on-site play safety issues.

Although Playequip offers standard playground equipment such as climbing frames, swings and slides, many of its latest projects include semi-bespoke play structures that make the most of budgets and spaces or entirely unique structures.

Case study: Elephant & Castle Treehouse

The challenge with this treehouse - designed for client Lend Lease Developments with landscape architect Gillespies London - was to build a large structure with high play value around an existing London plain tree. The trees on the site were highly valuable, requiring careful attention to protect their root zones.
To address this, Playequip collaborated with an arboriculture specialist to develop a treehouse foundation that wouldn't harm the trees' health and would promote their growth.

The special foundation, known as a 'tub' foundation, was engineered to sit on a perforated steel mesh base and was filled with crushed concrete. This evenly distributed the weight of the structure, provided proper drainage and avoided excavation that could disrupt the root system.

Playable features include a curved ramp accessible by wheelchairs, stainless steel tube slide, tree house seating, cargo net access, fire pole and storage for the adjacent nursery.

Until recently, access to well designed play spaces has been limited to off-the-shelf equipment. But thoughtful design and the courage to do something different can result in a fantastic and highly appreciated outcome. Now, play areas have the opportunity to add something truly exceptional.

Find more on this case study at

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