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Trees Stand the Test of Time at Cornmeal Parade


Trees Stand the Test of Time at Cornmeal Parade
By Kristyn M. Levis

In a span of six years, Maroochydore’s Cornmeal Parade has flourished into a beautiful green scenery despite the harsh exposed conditions that worked against establishing trees in that area, thanks to the Citygreen® modular Soil Cell system®.

The project aimed to refurbish the waterfront along Cornmeal Parade in Maroochydore. This is a significant area that links the Sunshine Plaza with Cotton Tree Park, First Avenue, and Duporth Avenue.


In April 2008, then Sunshine Coast mayor Bob Abbot turned the first sod on the Cornmeal Creek Pedestrian Promenade project. The $1.7 million public walkway along Cornmeal Creek aimed to provide “landscaped access for pedestrians and cyclists on the south side of the Cornmeal Creek”.

The improvements allowed for “safe and easy access between the Sunshine Plaza and Cotton Tree”. The added lighting, street furniture and landscape amenity created a pleasant environment for the area.


The promenade followed the $3.17 million Maroochydore Urban Improvement Stratagy project, which was completed late 2008. The state government provided 50 percent of the funding as part of the Regional Centres Program.

The project was originally part of planning for the development of a Civic Centre near the Cornmeal Creek carpark. Rhys Pollett, Landscape Architect from the Sunshine Coast Council was responsible for developing the design of the project. “Cotton Tree had been upgraded and this was one of the key links to the renewal of the waterfront,” Rhys said. The Cornmeal Parade project lifted the area and created a pedestrian friendly environment.

“The reason why we used Citygreen was because of the harsh conditions down on the site. There is fill along the length of the site and we wanted to optimise conditions for tree growth. There is a lot of wind blow and challenges establishing trees in those conditions,” Rhys said. “We really wanted to maximise the root area for the trees and support pedestrian pavements.”

Rhys believes that the simplicity of the Soil Cell system is its real advantage. “It is easier to specify, detail and document than using a traditional structural soil. The Soil Cell is certainly more simple compared to others and takes the complexity out of it. It comes back to dollars and the fact that using a proprietary system can save you time, money and headaches,” he said. It’s easy to find out information about the system and get good product support.

Because it was a new product for them, the council decided to use the Cornmeal Parade project as a trial for the Soil Cell, which garnered a lot of interest. Although the client and contractor were unfamiliar with the product, a Citygreen representative was on the site to guide the installation. “The installation was relatively easy. We had heaps of support. Even though the contractors were relatively unfamiliar with the product, it went pretty smoothly. Since then everyone’s become more familiar with the technology.”


He added that the system fitted in very well with the whole intent of what they wanted to do with the site. “Technically, it enabled us to address and resolve the constraints and optimise the outcome that we wanted to achieve there. The system went well with the intention of the design.”

As clearly shown in the photos, the trees have established very well since the completion of the project. It also helped that the timing of the project coincided with several wet seasons. “They are in pretty good health given the exposure down there where the conditions are very harsh,” Rhys said.


At the moment, the Sunshine Coast Council are trialing various products and construction technologies for street trees establishment and works around existing trees. But he added that they are likely to use the StrataCell system in future projects.

Creating a Grand Entrance with StrataCells


Creating a Grand Entrance with StrataCells
By Kristyn M. Levis

Monash University’s Law Forecourt in Victoria has been remodelled into a pedestrian friendly green space using the CityGreen® modular StrataCell system®.

Arborgreen worked with Outlines Landscape Architecture to create a tree pit design for the trees in the forecourt that would allow the trees to establish in good health and provide the needed canopy cover for the shading of the area.

“The design team chose the CityGreen StrataCell system to provide adequate volume of uncompacted, friable growing medium below the expanses of pedestrian pavement,” said Rod Gooden, Arborgreen Area sales Manager.

The Law Forecourt redevelopment project, which started in January 2012, was one of the many upgrades in the university. The rejuvenation of the area is part of the strategic aims of the Monash Masterplan.


The project was done alongside works at both the Law and Menzies buildings to “provide a seamless, high quality forecourt space with improved accessibility and visual appeal”. The area has a series of canopy trees, which will provide good shade when they mature.

The project’s complex brief included creating a sense of arrival to the campus, as well as at each building entry point; stimulating activity and pedestrian access; improving the interface between the Law and Menzies buildings’ facades; mitigate the discomfort caused by the extensive shading from the Menzies building, particularly in the South East Garden by encouraging solar access; and preventing crime through environmental design.

Rod from Arborgreen said the first delivery of the subsurface components was made in February 2012. The landscape works were completed at the end of 2012. The architect picked the 60 series high strength StrataCell due to the access required of heavy service vehicles like EWPs.

“We achieved a vastly increased volume of quality soil for the establishment of the tree’s root, without sacrificing the valuable pavement space,” Rod said.

The ReRoot root control barrier was used to surround the primary tree pit opening to protect the pavement from root intrusion. The Hawthorne DuraPlate tree grate was also chosen to provide an uninterrupted pavement surface due to the volume of pedestrian traffic.

The development remodelled the area into a striking design that suits the current main entrance to the campus. “The previous space was a bowl of pathways and stairs intersecting at various levels, and proved to be not sufficiently accessible. The area has now been updated into a grand entrance and forecourt to the Law faculty and Arts and Humanities faculty,” the university website said.

“The Menzies Law Forecourt project is representative of Monash’s new, University-wide curated approach to landscape developments, with a consistent urban design to be considered for all major spaces on the campus,” the university said.

Damon Obst, director at Outlines Landscape Architect, said the design’s intent was to create a strong civic scale space with great amenity for gathering and socialising, as well as providing legible access and movement through the space. The StrataCell system was used to maximise the performance and long-term success for the grid of trees within the site.

“Trees were typically within pavement areas and the system allowed an expanded subterranean zone for lateral root growth,” Damon said. “It provided a structural matrix, meaning vehicular rated pavements can be laid over the top without heavy compaction. Other systems we’ve used don’t allow this to the same extent.”

Although the system adds some cost to the project, Damon said the “long-term value of the large, healthy trees in urban spaces is one we, and the client, placed a high value on”.


As with most projects, Rod said they encountered un-chartered services, but they were able to adjust the matrix to work around the services. Damon added that in some areas they needed to modify the extent of the StrataCell to allow for below ground services. They had to ensure that irrigation, drainage and other services are all installed and integrated within the system.

“There were some challenges due to the need to match the tree grate location to the final pavement design, but we were able to overcome this by adjusting the dimensions of the tree grate slightly,” Rod said.

These issues were easily dealt with and no other problems were met after that. Damon said the modular system seems to help with the whole installation process.

The trees have established well and the last time Rod visited the area, they appeared to be in very good health “especially considering the existing compacted soil type and the volume of pedestrian traffic”. Damon agrees saying that “the trees are growing well and consistently”.

This year, students were greeted with colourful sculptures as the final touch to the $2 million refurbishment of the Law Forecourt outdoor area extending from the southern façade of the Menzies Building to the Law Building Forecourt and The Gallery Building.

Dianne O’Neill, Law Faculty Facilities Manager at Clayton, is delighted with the wide-open pedestrian thoroughfare that brings arrivals at the bus loop to the campus.

Built in 1962 and first opened to students in 1963, the Menzies was said to be the largest university building in Australia, standing more than 50 metres tall. It was regarded for its architectural brilliance during its prime. With the refurbishments completed, the “grand old lady of Monash” can now once again shine.

Safer Streets in The Shire With StrataCells


Safer Streets in The Shire With StrataCells
By Kristyn M. Levis

The beautiful Gymea Town Centre in Sutherland Shire NSW has joined the ranks of safer streets around the world with the completion of its revitalisation project.

Using the Citygreen® modular StrataCell system®, Sutherland Shire Council slowed down traffic and made the village more pedestrian-friendly by installing much needed crossing points and widened footpaths.

Sutherland Shire Mayor Steve Simpson said that Gymea is one of the Shire’s many attractive local shopping villages. The upgrade was intended to make it safer for pedestrians and improve accessibility.

“It was a large project and unfortunately it did take us a little longer than expected and Council apologises for any inconvenience caused. We have learnt from this process and acknowledge the importance of working with the right suppliers and contractors,” said the Mayor. “The end result is very impressive and we are proud of what we have achieved.”


“The Gymea Town Centre upgrade was initiated as a jointly funded grant project between the Federal Government and Sutherland Shire Council in 2010. The objective was to revitalise the town centre and enhance the economic viability by introducing high quality finishes,” said the Mayor.

The designers placed emphasis on the improvement of pedestrian access and safety. Another important part of the project is the undergrounding of power lines to free up footpaths for pedestrians and make the area look more attractive.

New kerbs and better drainage was installed, lighting was improved, extra seating was added near bus stops and new motorcycle parking was included in the street.

A new pedestrian crossing was added at the northern end of Gymea Bay Road near Warburton Street and a new drop off area for the train station was created outside Gymea Hotel. Some trees were retained and new street trees were added to the town centre, maintaining the village atmosphere.

The civil construction started in 2011 while all major work components were completed in late 2013. The Federal Government provided funds for the upgrade of three shopping centres. Around $3 million was allocated for the Gymea Shopping Centre upgrade and the Council provided a matching fund for the works.

Mayor Simpson said the council sees the Citygreen system as an “investment for the future”.


“The main reason for choosing Citygreen was to protect the Council’s new high quality pavement from uplifting in the future and to provide the trees with the best possible growing environment to reach their full potential,” the Mayor said.

The council did a comparison between structural soil and the Citygreen system and found that the volume of soil in the Citygreen system was significantly greater than that in structural soil for the same sized hole. The system also provides opportunity for larger root growth as the voids with the Citygreen system are bigger than that achieved with structural soil.

“This means the trees that were selected for their quality at maturity and long term performance. They will have a better chance to grow into their characteristic healthy form in our man-made urban centres,” Simpson said.

The sidewalk treepits are being passively irrigated by rainwater from the roofs of the surrounding commercial premises, creating an efficient way to conserve water in urban green spaces.

The challenge they faced with the StrataCell modules was that it needed redesigning with different projects as some locations had different surface finishes. There were also other variables such as proximity of services and availability of water source (down pipes) to allow self-watering system.

The team requested for a Citygreen representative to help familiarise themselves with the installation tutorial before construction started. The representative supervised and checked the first module installation on the site.

Juan Vargas, contractor from Sydney Civil, was the project manager for Civil and Structural Engineers. He said they have used earlier versions of Citygreen products but they found that for this project, the most challenging step was refilling the excavated area.

“For this system, it is slower to fill the voids with the soil when backfilling,” Juan said. “The major issue we faced was time wise when backfilling the cells.”

In terms of module installation, the most challenging issue was working around existing services. To resolve this, the team had to be ready to alter the design at a moment’s notice. The Council said the current StrataCell system is easier to install than the earlier models and that the difficulties lessened with experience.

Citygreen is an all around provider for urban developers. For this project, the company also supplied the complete integrated tree protection package including heelsafe treegrille with treeguard and deep watering system in custom finishes chosen by the client.

With the Citygreen system fitting quite well with the project’s design, the Council is considering using the system in similar situations in the future.

StrataCells at the Zoo


StrataCells at the Zoo
By Kristyn M. Levis

Sydney’s popular tourist attraction, Taronga Zoo, has added a new exciting exhibit using the CityGreen® modular StrataCell system®.

The Lemur Forest Adventure exhibit, officially launched in November 2013 by NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and Member for North Shore Jillian Skinner, was created to replicate the lemurs’ natural habitat on the island of Madagascar, off the east coast of Africa. The endangered species are now enjoying their new home with more than 5,000 trees and plants from Madagascar.


Michael Ryan from Landscaping By Design installed the landscape elements of the lemur enclosure including soil, mulch, plants, climbing poles, and irrigation. The project required them to demolish the existing seal ponds and build a new exhibit, which includes a forest walkthrough adventure, play area, and lemur walkthrough area. It started in September 2012 and took 12 months to complete.

DSC_1041 copy

The CityGreen StrataCell system was used to allow trees to be planted directly in the soft fall play area. The cells provided sufficient root zone growth and at the same time allowed the soft fall to extend over the entire section.

Because of the module’s advanced engineering design, the interconnected skeletal matrix provides over 94 per cent void space for filling with soil media, or storing/detaining storm water. Due to the high structural integrity of the modules, these matrices can be used beneath trafficked areas.

The modern and interactive exhibit is made up of a forest path and a custom-built playground with complex climbing structure that allows young visitors to mimic lemurs’ climbing behavior. The walkthrough path, which allows visitors to walk among lemurs, is set to open Easter 2014, giving animals a chance to get used to the presence of humans.

Although this is the first time that Michael used the system, he found it easy to install. He said that initially the cell structure did not fit into one side of the holes but it was easily dealt with by adjusting the layout to fit the modules.

“It fits in very well with the design. I would use it again in future projects,” Michael said. “The trees are looking good and the play area is well used.”

The Zoo was impressed with the fact that the modules were made from recycled plastic. The StrataCell modules are manufactured from 100 percent recycled polymer. As there are no steel components, the modules are corrosion free.

The world-class exhibit is part of Taronga Zoo’s award winning tourist attraction. Last year, the Zoo won Gold in the Best Attraction category at the NSW Tourism Awards.

Then and Now: The Laycock Walk, Mascot project

Then and Now: The Laycock Walk, Mascot project
By Kristyn M. Levis

Laycock Walk in Botany Bay, NSW has blossomed into a thriving green space after the project’s completion just short of two years.

The project used the CityGreen® modular StrataCell system® in the conversion of the street from a vehicular road to public open space in May 2012. It provided a link for pedestrians between Mascot Station and the surrounding commercial, residential and industrial areas.

Laycock Street_Before

Scott Champion, Landscape Architect from Botany Bay City Council, said the Chinese Tallowwood trees are now “well established and showing very strong canopy and trunk calliper growth”.

“The understorey planting has also flourished and this is without the use of an irrigation system with the plants and trees relying on run off from the surrounding pavements,” Scott said.

Laycock Street_After 1

The transition from Laycock Street to Laycock Walk was important as it provided valuable open space to the public given the expected residential and commercial increase in the Mascot area over the next 10 years. The walk provided locals with a safe, attractive, and usable space.

Since the completion of the installation, Scott said the trees have required very little maintenance and there has been no issues with the StrataCells.

The council previously looked at a variety of systems before choosing the StrataCells. It was the percentage of void space available for root growth that the CityGreen system provides which won them over. At the same time, the system is also able to adequately support the structural pavement surface.

Laycock Street_After2

Each tree pit in Laycock Walk was designed with understorey planting to allow for the interception of stormwater surface runoff negating the need for an irrigation system. To further enhance the growing conditions for the new trees, the planted tree pits were linked beneath the pavement via the use of the StrataCells. This provided a greater combined area of uncompacted soil that the trees root zone could utilise

Laycock Street_After3

“We were confident that the linked tree pit system we designed for Laycock Walk would provide optimal growing conditions for the new trees. However, it is always satisfying to see the results on the ground validating the selection made at the start of the project,” Scott said.

The Laycock Walk was the first project within the local area that used the CityGreen system but it won’t be the last. The Council has designed a new street tree specification for developing the Mascot Station Precinct streetscape. The street trees within the surrounding pavement will now incorporate CityGreen’s StrataCells, tree grille, tree guard, and aeration/irrigation products. The first trees utilising the system will be installed in the coming months in Bourke Road, Mascot.

Devonport Upgrades Cityscape with StrataCells

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Devonport Upgrades Cityscape with StrataCells
by Kristyn M. Levis

Another street has been transformed into a vibrant city streetscape with the help of the CityGreen® modular StrataCell system®.

The Devonport project in Tasmania has transformed Stewart Street by “calming traffic and promoting pedestrian use” primarily by the installation of a narrow tree-lined median down the centre of this inner city shopping street. They also wanted the design to promote on-street dining by creating a unique CBD precinct with an “identifying palette”.


Randell Stott, Urban Design Coordinator and Project Manager for Devonport City Council, ensured that the appropriate urban design features were incorporated into the streetscaping project. He managed the onsite works and provided information to the public during the construction of the project, which started in March 2010 and finished in December 2010.

The estimated cost for the Stewart Street redevelopment from Formby Road to Rooke Street was $1.6 million, with a further $120,000 estimated for the stormwater installation.

A couple of years after the completion of the project, Randell commented that the “trees have put on incredible growth unlike any that we have planted using traditional in-ground planting”.

In order to convert the street, the council used wider footpaths with large format decorative pavers, high quality street furniture, and the introduction of correctly chosen plant species into the city.

“The narrow roads act to calm vehicular traffic and created an opportunity for pedestrians to reclaim our city,” Randell said.

A central planting median narrowed the lane widths and calmed traffic in the street. The combined turn lane at the Formby Road corner created additional parking spaces in front of the Post Office.

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“A detailed traffic analysis showed that after incorporating the new traffic calming measures, traffic movements would still be within an acceptable level of service,” Randell said.

The footpath area near Churchers Arcade was widened, with an added safe crossing point for pedestrians. These extra wide footpath areas were made available for on street dining and seating space.

“An overall increase in parking spaces was achieved even with the new widened footpath areas, by the smart use of available road space. The existing loading zone was relocated to an underutilized taxi zone near Rooke Lane. Additionally, a new delivery access was provided from the Formby Road carpark,” Randell said.

Devonport c C, Stewart St 20131112 (9)

The new seating, a combination of benches and seats with back and arm rests, feature wood/plastic composite slats that are not only environmentally responsible but also comfortable. New bins, tree guards, and bollards were also added.

“A maritime theme has been adopted, the signal red colour also linking to the Spirit of Tasmania which berths at the opposite end of the street,” he said.

The project opted for a selection of deciduous trees. The ornamental pear provides autumn interest, filtered sunlight in colder months and shade in summer. The trees were planted in StrataCell modules and specifically chosen soil material that retain roots and prevents infrastructure damage.

“Work started in March 2010 with the upgrading of the underground stormwater main followed by the street upgrade. Overall, the stormwater installation took four weeks and the street upgrade 32 weeks,” Randell said.

The council decided to use the CityGreen system to support both the road and the trees. The road needed the structural integrity provided by the StrataCells and the trees needed the root growing space and aeration that the cells provide.


The StrataCells come in modular units, which can then be assembled to form a skeletal matrix that supports pavement and traffic loads. The StrataCell system features almost five times more available growing media compared to the traditional rock/soil method, therefore facilitating healthy root growth.

“The StrataCell system has allowed the trees to flourish in the inner city environment in a narrow median without compromising the strength of the road,” Randell said.

Devonport c C, Stewart St 20131112 (8) copy

“We have used structural soil in the past but have experienced difficulty in getting consistency in the mixes. Using the StrataCell allowed us to just use a good friable soil and rely on the strength of the modules,” he added.

Randell said that the StrataCell modules were very easy to handle and install, and that they didn’t have any difficulties installing the product. “Arborgreen sent their representative over to provide the technical advice and training to ensure that our first installation went smoothly and correctly.”

He is happy to report that the system fits well with the overall design and concept of the project.

“Although completely unseen by the public, the StrataCells provide the strength for the road pavement and the space for the tree roots.” With the success of the project, Randell said they are planning to use the StrataCell system in future ventures.

Project Supplier: Arborgreen
Web: www.arborgreen.com.au
Email: sales@arborgreen.com.au