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Al Wasl Properties leads the way with first Stratavault installation in the UAE

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Al Wasl Properties leads the way with first Stratavault installation in the UAE
by Sally Cameron

Leading developer, Al Wasl Properties, has set a new standard in innovation by being the first developer to implement Citygreen’s Stratavault™ solution in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). A public space within a medium-rise but high density development, the project in Muhaisnah – a region of Dubai close to Sharjah – is yet to be completed but has already caused a stir in the design and construction communities.

Laith Wark, Founding Partner at Verdaus Landscape Architects, says, “This is a complex of 3000 apartments, offering affordable housing. The client wanted to provide a quality park for future residents, with large trees needed to provide shade and privacy between the apartment blocks. Shade will increase the duration that outdoor spaces will be useable, which is especially important for the children who will live in these apartments and would otherwise have little access to quality outdoor space.

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“Planting large trees was therefore very important, but there was restricted space so trees needed to be planted in the pavement. The challenge was finding a solution that would provide the required soil volume and prevent trees from damaging surrounding infrastructure. The developer was keen to embrace an innovative solution, so Stratavault was selected due to a combination of good performance and because it was less expensive than Stratacell.

“Nine matrices of 3.6 x 3.6 x 1.22m (LWD) will house one tree each, two matrices of 19.35 x 3.6 x 1.22m will house four trees each, and one matrix of 8.1 x 3.6 x 1.22m will house two trees. Tree species include: Azadirachta indica, Zizihus spina-christi, Ceiba speciose, and Cassia roburghii. This is the first Stratavault installation in the UAE, so there’s a lot of excitement around the people involved in design and construction, and pride in being part of creating something that’s truly innovative with long-term value. The construction crews, consultants, and client had never seen this kind of technology being used previously.

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“Whilst the project isn’t yet complete, we expect to see larger, longer lived trees, and better quality outdoor space. This will create a clear point of difference between this development and other affordable housing developments. In this market, rental rates are fixed by a central authority, so clear points of difference – such as large healthy trees – will give this development a competitive advantage over others.”

James Palmer, Sales Manager Landscape at W T Burden agrees, saying, “This is the first installation of Stratavault in Dubai and shows a growing appreciation for trees and the space they require for growth. Previous projects in the region have given little consideration for trees and the space they require, so hopefully this is the beginning of a change in attitude towards trees and their role and potential in the landscaping of projects.

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“Overall, working with Citygreen was simple and easy, and there is a clear application for their products. They have global project references, with proven results, and great knowledge and technical support. They also assisted with site visits and provided installation supervision during the initial construction phase.”

With this first project drawing to a successful close and praised for leading the way in innovative urban tree design, we hope to see many more similar projects in the UAE. Stay tuned.

Mackay Centre revitalised with striking Hill’s Weeping Fig Trees

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Mackay Centre revitalised with striking Hill’s Weeping Fig Trees
by Sally Cameron

In August 2014, a significant overhaul of Mackay’s City Centre commenced, known as the City Centre Revitalisation Project. This tropical CBD resides along the Pioneer River, and houses the bulk of Mackay’s hospitality and commercial businesses.

Designed and built over twenty years ago, the CBD was aesthetically outdated and often subject to minor flooding and drainage issues. The narrow sidewalk was also unsuitable for al fresco dining, and failed to offer a social, multi-faceted shopping experience. Through the revitalisation of the CBD’s aesthetic and environmental qualities, Mackay Regional Council sought to resolve these issues, and in turn promote local and regional economic development.

Dave Watt, formerly Landscape Project Manager at Vassallo Constructions, said, “The primary goal was to increase public access and better utilise the area while beautifying it and displaying some of Mackay’s existing features such as the many art deco period buildings. The project also enabled the upgrade of services to the area.”

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Ben Ewins, formerly Landscape Architect at RPS Australia Asia Pacific, said, “Once Mackay Regional Council had confirmed the preference towards using Hill’s Weeping Fig Trees (Ficus microcarpa var. Hillii) in the central medians, we identified a disparity between this species and the prospective available root space and volume. Ultimately, we needed a solution that would allow the trees to grow by creating a greater volume of space below the road pavement for root growth, without encroaching on the proposed civil works.”

Ewins said, “To achieve this, we required a sturdy support mechanism that would facilitate a number of outcomes:

1. Support significant road pavement vehicle loads
2. Prevent compaction of the soil / root zone
3. Achieve a high ratio of support structure soil volume
4. Address the concerns about warranties.”

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Jim Carless, Project Manager – City Centre Revitalisation at Mackay Regional Council, said, “This project was a hard sell, because historically there are problems with underground infrastructure being ripped up by figs and other big trees. Thankfully, Stratacell™ allowed us to kill two birds with one stone – providing a nice big volumetric space for healthy root growth, and providing a barrier to stop roots going further and causing damage. Essentially, it provides a giant planter box underground.”

Watt said, “Citygreen® were the specified supplier, because their products had the capacity to meet the complexities of the project.” In fact, Citygreen’s StrataCell system was the only product that delivered the required structural integrity needed for this application. Watt continued, “Citygreen’s products have been tried and tested on other projects. The products’ proven success provided us with confidence that we’d achieve a positive outcome in the required timeframe, and enabled different construction methods to be investigated prior to implementing the best procedure.”

Ewins said, “The resulting outcome has been extremely positive and all trees installed to date are in excellent health. The key benefit of working with Citygreen was without a doubt their immediate response times in providing solutions and inputs to what was a critical situation, which required a fast turnaround. Their expertise, along with the fast turnaround, was invaluable.”

Watt said, “A positive outcome has been achieved, with both the public and business owners in the area very upbeat about the end result. Using Citygreen technologies also provided us with confidence that there will be no rectification works required and we can be sure of longevity in this striking-looking project. We’re proud to have played a part in providing long-lasting satisfaction for the local community and visitors to the area.”

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Rob Guthrie, Principal – Landscape Architecture at RPS Australia Asia Pacific, added, “The trees are growing, and the system is proving to work well for us. Citygreen were excellent to work with, providing lots of helpful information on the product and assisting us to convince council to proceed. I’d absolutely recommend them to others.”

Carless concluded by saying, “So far, the trees are performing well with minimal leaf drop. We’re confident we’ll continue to see good growth rates, without any damage to surrounding infrastructure. Citygreen were great to work with, with helpful technical people who gave us lots of information, and were really involved leading up to construction. I couldn’t fault them, and would definitely recommend them and this solution to other organisations that have a similar challenges.”

Establishing Green Canopy in Rossland BC

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Establishing Green Canopy in Rossland BC
by Sally Cameron

Many Canadians would know and love the town of Rossland, BC. Nestled in the wooded mountains of the West Kootenay region, Rossland has been a charming ski resort and quiet mountain getaway for many generations of Canadian families.

With a population of less than 3500 that fluctuates significantly according to the season, Rossland depends on tourist traffic to maintain its reputation as a mecca for enthusiasts of the outdoors.

In 2011, the town engaged ISL Engineering to come up with a revised main street design, looking for a smart, well-planned central thoroughfare that would look beautiful for decades to come. ISL’s design was installed during summer 2012, and employed Citygreen® Stratacells beneath the sidewalks and under some of the angle parking areas. Stratacells™ were selected for their unrivalled compressive and lateral strength; other soil cells having been ruled out due to structural concerns.

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Allen Tower, Vice President of Sierra Landscaping, Ltd. and Director of the Rossland project, said, “The Stratacell was incorporated beneath the hardscaping for the length of the project, installed 1000 mm deep, 1500 mm wide, and included Stratacell, geo textile, subgrade base gravels, and topsoil. Water harvesting for irrigation and electrical was also included within the Stratacell matrix.”

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The installation of the Stratacell took about five weeks, which included subgrade, base installation, topsoil delivery and placement, and geogrid installation. Jeff Schurek, CSLA, Landscape Manager / Senior Landscape Architect of ISL Engineering and Land Services Ltd said, Citygreen was there throughout the various stages of the process in terms of technical review. They were out onsite solving real issues to work with the contractor to come up with better solutions in the best way possible.

Rossland BC_3The design for this project also required a drip-line irrigation system that was installed throughout the many linked tree pit systems. But due to the tree pits being enclosed, the ArborVent system was installed, which helps to provide oxygen as a permanent irrigation/aeration solution and to prevent soil stagnation. The tree root systems, being set in the Stratacells, allow for the tree roots to grow in the adequate and sufficient root volume which is necessary for healthy growth. This project also used the Stratacell system to provide for a storm water tree trench down the length of the street which bridged areas where there were existing utility lines.

Schurek said, “Within 1.5 weeks, the StrataCell systems were installed on one side of the street (approximately four blocks). That was extremely fast. The contractor was so pleased at the rate. He had worked without this product in the past, but the process took much longer. Another selling point of using the StrataCell system is that the price is reasonable. We were sold on using this product on the basis that it provides trees the room to grow. This is the most important thing for developing a healthy streetscape – healthy trees for the future.

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Now, 3 years post-installation, the streetscape has been transformed and is truly beautiful. Jim Markin, the Arborist on site reports that, “Tree uptake has been 100% successful, the trees maturing quickly and establishing well.” Allen Tower says he has been, “Impressed with the results, especially compared to a nearby installation where structural soils were employed, with very poor uptake and significant early failure rate in the young trees.”

Rossland considers the cost of this streetscape a worthy investment, and now it’s easy to see why. Downtown Rossland will have a manageable and sustainable urban forest forming a living heart through its downtown core for generations to come.

Stratacell brings Lat27’s striking landscape design to life at Ekka Plaza

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Stratacell brings Lat27’s striking landscape design to life at Ekka Plaza

Healthy trees with great vigour.

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The same trees at planting stage, showing excellent growth rates.

Stratacell brings Lat27’s striking landscape design to life at Ekka Plaza
by Sally Cameron

The visually-striking ‘Ekka’ Plaza was the first key public space to be delivered as part the Brisbane Showground’s rejuvenation. The new plaza delivers a much-needed and contemporary open space for the local community, and acts as the front door to the new Royal International Convention Centre (RICC). Officially opened during the 2013 Ekka (Royal Queensland) Show, The Plaza’s flexible design supports a variety of exhibitions and events.

Matthew Nolan, Associate Director at Lat27, worked closely on the conception and design of The Plaza. He says, “The redevelopment of the Brisbane Showgrounds was a key urban renewal opportunity for Brisbane, creating a new mixed use urban centre just north-east of the CBD. Lat27 was commissioned to prepare the landscape master plan for the public realm, supporting a submission to the Urban Land Development Authority (ULDA). The project presented the opportunity to reveal the historic narrative of a site traditionally only accessible during show times and to integrate it into its surrounding context.

“This new space was created through the removal of several small buildings, revealing the heritage RICC façade and providing a robust new open public plaza supporting the existing heritage spaces of Gregory’s Rest and Stockman’s Rest.  The hierarchy of the new space references the historic structure and functionality of the Showgrounds; with large flexible spaces for events and smaller densely shaded spaces for respite within a highly connected network.

“The inclusion of significant trees was critical to the success of the new plaza for shade and balancing the scale of the space. However, the project brief to provide multi-purpose, high-loading hardstand for event modes, circulation routes, and changing levels across the site meant we were unable to have broad expanses of open deep planting. High rock shelves and multiple service infrastructures added further restrictions on below surface designs.

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“During the design phase, development assessments between traditional structural soil trenches and tree pits with Stratacell™ were carried out in regards to achieving the required soil volumes versus the costs of excavating the surrounding rock, providing the 40t pavement capacities, and construction programing. At this point, we consulted Citygreen® to review options for soil pits and tree grate integration. Stratacell was the clear choice for its horticultural benefits and economic efficiencies.

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“The final design consisted of Stratacell Series 30 cells in 3x3m (wide) x 2m (deep) tree pits excavated into varying densities of rock. Into the tree pits, we planted nine advanced (6 – 8 metre) Elaeocarpus Grandis, which make a striking visual statement. Irrigation was imperative to the trees’ success, so the bases of the tree pits were interconnected with subsurface drainage lines back to the stormwater system.

“Two years down the track, the use of the Stratacells has achieved notable good health and vigour for the trees, while surrounding pavements have remained completely stable through multiple events including two Ekka Shows.

“Citygreen were fantastic to work with, and continually provided horticultural and engineering advice throughout the design development process, which was much appreciated. During construction, Citygreen provided on-site supervision for installation and structural certification on completion. The support provided by Citygreen throughout the whole project greatly assisted us to achieve the overall goal of significant trees within the physical and functional constraints of the project. The end result speaks for itself.”

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…more healthy trees.

Amazon leverages cutting-edge Stratacell solution in new Seattle headquarters

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Amazon leverages cutting-edge Stratacell solution in new Seattle headquarters
by Sally Cameron

E-commerce and cloud computing company, Amazon, has leveraged Citygreen’s cutting-edge Stratacell™ system in its new multi-million office headquarters in South Lake Union, Seattle. Purpose-built to accommodate 20,000 employees, the new headquarters consists of multiple buildings surrounded by mingling areas and plazas.

One plaza, located between two buildings on 6th Avenue, has been constructed above a parking structure, and is home to several feature trees (Cercidiphyllum japonicum and Magnolia laevifolia) requiring large planting areas.

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Engineering plans allowed enough soil volume beneath the plaza to house the trees, but a significant challenge emerged – how to provide sufficient structural support to cope with the weight of heavy vehicles such as a boom lift, to be used for maintenance. Soil cells were identified as an ideal solution, however many products were rejected because they lacked the structural strength required.

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Citygreen’s 60-series Stratacell system fulfilled the strength requirements, and Citygreen worked directly with the consulting landscape architect – Site Workshop of Seattle – to design the structural elements of the plaza. This consists of 500 StrataCells, supported by a concrete slab, a drain-mat, and another slab above. Citygreen provided plan views of the installation to calculate the quantity of cells required, and to show how the slab would be supported. Construction was completed by Pacific Earthworks.

Site Workshop, along with the project architect, are very happy with the solution, making particular note of how quickly the cells went together and how easy it was to thread the drip irrigation through the structure. Time will tell how the rigidity of the plaza structure performs, but all signs point towards to successful outcome, with beautiful trees for Amazon employees to enjoy.

Stratacell system resolves pavement lift on Chapel Street

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Stratacell system resolves pavement lift on Chapel Street
by Sally Cameron

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Chapel Street, South Yarra, is one of Australia’s most vibrant and successful commercial, residential, and cultural areas. Featuring premium Melbourne restaurants, designer shopping, and the iconic Jam Factory Cinema, Chapel Street has firmly cemented its place as an international tourist destination. 

Simon McKenzie-McHarg, Landscape Architect at the City of Stonnington, oversaw a streetscape upgrade which commenced in early 2014. “Chapel Street gets a very large volume of pedestrian traffic, and we were becoming increasingly concerned about the damaged pavement, which had lifted noticeably around the existing street trees. Not only did this look unsightly, it was also posing a significant trip hazard and was having a negative impact on the health of the trees.”

“We decided to remove the existing trees, and then re-plant the main street, but we recognised we needed a better long-term solution for the new trees to ensure we avoided the same problems with pavement lift.”

“Citygreen’s Stratacell™ soil cells were identified as the ideal solution, providing plenty of unrestricted root space for the new trees to thrive without damaging the surrounding pavement. We planted the new trees – nine Cimmaron Ash – within a continuous strip of Stratacells, repaved the footpath, and then installed custom tree grates and tree guards to ensure the longevity of the trees.”

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“Citygreen were great to work with, and really accommodating when we had some design and material changes mid-project. They came down to site several times to offer advice to the contractor around the installation process, which was really useful given the system was new to the contractor.”

“Two years down the track, the streetscape looks fantastic. None of the trees have died, and they’re all growing really well – particularly given the highly-urbanized environment. The tree guards have also done their job, protecting the trees from vandalism. It terms of the surrounding pavement, it’s still early days, but there’s been no pavement lift as yet which is very promising.”

“Overall, I’d definitely recommend Citygreen as an approachable team of professionals who are happy to work closely with clients and adapt to changing site conditions.”