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Frankston Creates Safer Walking Lanes

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Frankston Creates Safer Walking Lanes
By Kristyn Levis

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The City of Frankston in Victoria wanted to encourage its residents to walk more by providing a safe and aesthetically pleasing environment.

This goal was achieved through the Principal Pedestrian Network Demonstration (PPND), which was partially funded by the Department of Transport Planning and Local Infrastructure, and with the help of the CityGreen modular StrataCell system. Its aim is to promote walking as a means of transport and “providing suitable improved public amenity”.

The design phase started early 2013, with construction starting in February 2014 and completed in April 2014. The total project budget was $1,132,000. The Frankston City Council and Aspect Studios, in consultation with the local community and traders, developed the plan to “promote walking between key destinations and enhance exploration of Frankston’s central laneways”.

The route includes north – south pedestrian access to retail outlets including Bayside Shopping Centre, local traders and the Frankston Transit Interchange.

The design included new lighting, trees, new furniture and art components following the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles to enhance safety and avoid graffiti and neighbourhood waste.

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Marti Fooks was the Frankston City Council project manager involved in the design phase up to the completion of the construction. She now works with Aspect Studios.

As a registered landscape architect, Fooks supported the use of Stratacells “to provide the optimum conditions for the trees to establish”.

“This was the first application of Stratacells in Frankston, demonstrating Frankton’s commitment to healthy trees in urban environments and hopefully paving a way for future projects,” she said.

Fooks said the project “employed a range of innovative spatial design outcomes, suited to the site context that would make walking a more desirable experience”.

“Trees were a key aspect to the proposal in Park Lane as they completed a continuous avenue of green foliage and provided a screen to the unsightly car park behind,” she added.

Adrian Cadenazzi, project manager from 2Construct – the principal contractor engaged on the project, said they were only involved when the final design was in place.

“It was evident from speaking with the client and architect that to a large extent, the design was based around the Stratacell system, which was one of the main selling points to the council members during the planning stage,” he said.

Fooks mentioned that there was some initial resistance to the use of Stratacells because of the additional cost to the project. But advocating for their use “was made easy with a cost benefit analysis as well as showing photos of the existing poor soil conditions”.

She said that the Frankston City Centre is in a floodplain and because of this, water logging can constrain the establishment of trees.

“Water logging will not only cause unhealthy trees, but tree failure is also very costly. Park Lane was no exception with heavily compacted clays reducing drainage and soil media to promote tree establishment,” Fooks said. “By using Stratacells we were able to provide the three new Platanus Acerfolia with more than 100m3 of growing media rather than only 8m3 per tree.”

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Cadenazzi said that the soil volume required for tree pits very much depends on the species of tree specified. Fooks agrees saying that soil volumes and qualities are absolutely crucial to the success of plants and trees in urban environments.

“In this instance, Plane trees were required which grow quickly and to a large size so soil volume needed to be extensive to support the growth. The system did provide enough volume while maintaining trafficable pavement above,” Cadenazzi said.

Like other similar projects, underground services were discovered during construction. They were in a slightly different alignment compared to the service proving information. Cadenazzi said the existing electrical services required “a slight reduction in the overall size of the system to avoid lengthy delays with relocating live power”.

“Of the different options such as bridging Stratacells, it was determined that to keep on track with the program the number of cells was reduced to four rows rather than five,” Fooks said.

“In consultation with Citygreen and Aspect studios, it was concluded that the reduction would not cause significant issues with supporting the growth of the trees,” Cadenazzi said.

Aside from underground services, Cadenazzi said the installation of the guy wires prior to placing the trees was “a tricky process requiring a combination of finesse and brute force”.

“Also, the trees themselves being 400L specimens, are cumbersome to handle and, having to work with limited room once the Stratacell system was installed, can make it a fiddly process,” he said.

However, installing the Stratacell system was itself a straightforward process. “We relied on the web video tutorials provided on the Citygreen website for guidance and these were extremely useful in having the entire process broken down step by step,” Cadenazzi said.

Fooks seconded this saying that the installation was “incredibly simple” and that the cells simply locked into place ready to be filled with soil media.

With their experience on the Frankston project, Cadenazzi said that although they don’t get involved during the specifying and design stage, they have no hesitation in endorsing the Stratacell system.

“As the trees are deciduous and were planted in late autumn, they are currently dormant so it is too early to comment on the success. From a structural perspective, there have been no issues with pavement failure that we are aware of,” Cadenazzi said.

As an associate at Aspect Studios, Fooks said she would definitely consider the use of Stratacells where the project calls for it.

“Where a pedestrian or vehicle grade surface is required adjacent to trees, Stratacells are the best solution to provide soil underneath while holding up the finished surface,” Fooks said.

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In August 2013, Frankston City Mayor Sandra Mayer said she was very excited about the improvement given that the route down Park Lane and through the car park was not safe.

“These improvement works will ensure these pedestrian walkways are safe and easier to navigate. The urban art work and lighting elements will also brighten up the city at night time,” Mayor Mayer said.

Urban Tree Conflicts Solved in Bendigo

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Urban Tree Conflicts Solved in Bendigo
by Kristyn M. Levis

The Citygreen® modular Stratacell system® answered another urban development issue in a streetscape project for the City of Greater Bendigo, Victoria.

The Edward Street revamping is part of a bigger makeover of the area with the construction of the new $14.9 million car park on the same street. The 420-park complex opened in July 2012. The Landscape Architect for this project was Liesl Malan from Liesl Malan Landscape Architects.

Gary Lantzsch, landscape architect for the City of Greater Bendigo, said the Stratacells were placed on the Edward Street footpath around late 2012.

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“Carparks are not usually seen as attractive structures but the architect produced something special. We needed to create a street scape to complement it,” Lantzsch said.

He added that they wanted to trial the tree cell because Bendigo predominantly uses Plane trees and they tend to have a fairly invasive nature when it comes to infrastructure, pipes and gutters.

“We are noticing now after planting these trees in the city for the last 15 years that a lot of the paving is heaving along with kerb and channel and damage to other infrastructure,” Lantzsch said.

“We still want trees, of course, because we want a beautiful environment. We looked for a solution that would enable us to still use trees but at the same time limit the damage and protect our infrastructure.”

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Lantzsch said the Stratacell system was presented as a sound product in terms of research, logic, and the science behind it. “We wanted to protect infrastructure and provide optimum growing conditions, which this product offers.”

He added that they used some structural soil in the past and it was okay but had limited life before the invasiveness started to occur such as heaving. “Structural soil is good for trees with more passive root systems but trees like Planes can still cause heaving.”

Aside from the Stratacells, the project also used it in conjunction with anchors and root barriers. Root barriers are typically used to guide roots away from infrastructure The Citygreen root barriers include the ribbed modular units, ribbed linear material and also the dimpled and non-ribbed linear material.

Lantzsch said that aside from providing optimal growing conditions, the Stratacell system also offered several other benefits to the project.

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“It’s always tricky. You want to provide trees with as much root growth potential as possible but that can depend on the surrounding infrastructure. The beauty of the cells is that you can have services like pipes and telecommunications go through it and you can work around it,” he said.

The Stratacells, however, were such a good fit with the overall design that they have used it again on the $3.8 million redevelopment of Mitchell Street. The Edward Street project was the first time that they’ve used the Stratacells.

“It’s like Lego, very lightweight and very easy to use. They didn’t have much trouble with the installation,” Lantzsch said. “The cells are also much more cost effective when you factor in the cost of infrastructure damage without them.”

1166It’s unfortunate, however, that the Edward Street site has faced some vandalism issues since its completion.

“The trees would have looked great if not for the vandals snapping branches off. Some trees have been replaced and are now starting to look okay. There have been no issues with the cells after the project was finished.”

Lantzsch also said they experienced excellent after sales support from the company and they always received responses very quickly.

“When we explored the tree cells, Rod Gooden was there to ensure the soil mix was correct and to provide support to make sure we were doing it all properly. Arborgreen is fantastic to deal with. Very helpful and they provide excellent support,” he said.

Historic revitalisation of Main Street Markham with Stratacells

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Historic revitalisation of Main Street Markham with Stratacells
By Kristyn Levis

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A prominent roadway in the City of Markham, Ontario, Canada, has been redesigned using various products from Citygreen®.

The project, which started in 2012 and set to be completed this year, involved revitalising the historic downtown Markham with an estimated overall cost of $8 million.

The roadway, commonly known as Main Street Markham, is a well-known north-south roadway through the city, connecting Highway 407 in the south to Major Mackenzie Drive to the north.

Regan Hutcheson, the City’s Manager of Heritage Planning, provided valuable input to ensure that the streetscape design was sensitive to the heritage conservation district character. Dan Foong from the City of Markham was the project manager while Sally Campbell acted as the city’s urban designer.

“There are three distinct sections of Main Street and the reconstruction phasing was broken down into corresponding sections. At the heart of the overall project area located in the middle of the road corridor is Markham Village,” Campbell said.

She added that there has been a long history in planning for the enhancement of Markham Village. In 1999, the Main Street Markham Committee developed Main Street Markham: A Vision for the Millennium to address “the growing need to protect and enhance the historic Markham Village as a result of rapid growth in the City of Markham”.

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This was followed by the Main Street Markham Streetscape and Traffic Management Study in 2003. It recommended that developers look at the wishes of the community to transform the street from a vehicular dominated one to “one that better supports commercial activities in the core and respects and enhances the Markham Village heritage Conservation District”.

The Markham Transportation Planning Study in 2002 found that the current traffic volumes “warranted the widening of certain sections of Main Street Markham to four lanes whilst respecting the need to preserve the heritage character of the Markham Village section of the roadway”.

Citygreen’s range of products was a good fit in what the city was trying to achieve with the city space. Campbell said the “structural integrity of the Stratacell system® to sustain heavy loads supported by solid technical evidence coupled with comprehensive range of components to suit each situation” appealed to them, pushing them to choose Citygreen over its competitors.

“Citygreen’s representative did a great job of outlining the benefits of using Stratacell system over other soil cell systems. The city decided to go with Citygreen because it offered a complete system, such as cells, root barriers, tree grates, and irrigation system, versus just the cells. With other soil cell systems, we would still need to purchase all of the ancillary items,” Foong said.

The City’s team had relatively limited experience in the installation of soil cell systems within the municipal boulevard, but they have seen other systems used in the regional right of ways and in private developments with varying degrees of success.

They knew that in order for trees to sustain their health and growth potential to provide the most benefits, they needed as much room to grow as possible. They anticipated that the spaces available for trees in the boulevards and bump outs along Main Street Markham were crowded with above and below ground infrastructure and utilities.

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“We knew an innovative solution to provide sufficient soil volume was required,” Campbell said. “Having explored alternative methods of achieving the required soil volume, including an in-house tree pit design as well as other soil cell products, we opted for Citygreen’s product and saw benefits on the comprehensive system offered.”

“We appreciated excellent customer service and numerous presentations by the Citygreen representative to different departments within the City of Markham to explain the product.”

Foong said adequate soil volumes are extremely important to the health of urban trees and the Stratacells provided sufficient soil volumes. The local government have previously committed to planting more trees. To support this, the city produced a Streetscape Manual: Trees for Tomorrow in 2009, which contains technical requirements to support healthy tree growth.

All public and private trees planted in the city have to follow the standards in the manual. This includes achieving minimum 30 cubic metres of soil for a large stature tree, “which can be reduced if trees share the soil in a connected pit”.

“In the majority of cases along Main Street, the use of the Stratacells did help us attain the required soil volumes. In some instances, a smaller stature tree species was selected where other constraints meant that we could not achieve the optimum soil volumes even with the use of the cells,” Campbell said.

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During the project, it was determined that open decorative tree grates around the base of the trees was not a good setup for the area. It creates a potential trip hazard, and coffee shops and restaurants wanted to have the ability to place tables and chairs in the boulevard. Businesses were concerned the chair legs would go through the grates.

“Citygreen provided information about their paver grate product that allows for the surface pavers to be laid on top of the grate as close to the base of the tree as possible while allowing for growth. This application has proved very successful and provides a clean look and maximises the amount of useable space around the trees,” Campbell said.

Although the City will continue to select the most appropriate and cost effective solution to their future projects, based on their experience now, they are open to using Citygreen systems again.

Aside from the Stratacells, the Main Street Markham project also used Citygreen’s paver grates, reroot root barriers and rootrain irrigation system.

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A Village Revitalized with WSUD Treatments and StrataCells

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A Village Revitalized with WSUD Treatments and StrataCells
by Kristyn M. Levis

A community village in need of rejuvenation has been transformed into a busy economic and social hub with the help of the CityGreen® modular StrataCell system®.

The Eaton Mall project in Oakleigh (Victoria) – jointly funded by Monash Council, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Department of Planning and Community Development, and Melbourne Water – was a “highly innovative and significant initiative in liveable public places”.

Its aim was to support social, economic, environmental and cultural development for Oakleigh Village through the addition of safe, connected and accessible public space, psychological calming of traffic using “naked” street design techniques, and pedestrian and child-friendly places.

The project also included extensive water sensitive urban design (WSUD) treatments, high quality sustainable and durable street furniture, lighting and finishes, creating a unique and enhanced cultural experience. The design subtly references southern European influences through the use of hard and soft landscaping, custom street furniture, public art and architectural lighting.

Eaton Mall is located between Atherton Road and Portman Street and has been a suburban pedestrianised street for over 30 years. This area was identified as a “high priority for rehabilitation and rejuvenation” in a public space enhancement study.

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Jonathon Makaay, senior project architect at Monash Council, said the $2.6 million project started in June 2012 and finished in December 2012. Monash Council’s Urban Design and Architecture Department handled the design and management of the project with a “design vision based on the street being treated as a community room”.

“The rejuvenation project builds on the strengths of the human qualities of the village to create a robust, vibrant and liveable setting for people. The design response allows for sustainable economic growth and tourism through highly innovative evidence-based and human-centred design. This includes a series of highly accessible, connected, and multi use public spaces,” Makaay said.

The council selected the Citygreen system for several reasons. First, they needed structural integrity, a class C loading to the streetscape paving. Second, the project needed appropriate space for root growth for advanced street trees, without compromising the pavement behaviour over time with problems such as uplifting.

IMG_00000189Makaay said soil volumes are very important for the success and growth rate of street trees. “The calculations for root volumes were all done during the design process and led us to the StrataCell product.”

Third, the system was able to integrate with the council’s water sensitive urban design. “All the street trees are rain and stormwater fed. Water has been harvested for reuse from the street, overhead canopies and large shade structures,” Makaay said.

Fourth, the system’s ease of assembly gave good practical design results with very minimal complications when installing the system. Finally, the fact that the StrataCell system is made from 100 percent recycled polymers gave it an edge as the council prefers to use responsible and sustainable products for all its design solutions.

The Eaton Mall project’s economic vision is to enhance commercial yield by promoting “multicultural branding and quality place making”. This has been achieved by stimulating activity through the strategic placement of community gathering places, enhanced pedestrianisation and connectivity.

The vibrant living street is an important part of the council’s quality retail and commercial initiatives. By improving the outdoor retail trading space, visitors are encouraged to stay longer. The council was able to provide a quality public space to attract private investment, branding the Oakleigh activity centre as a village precinct.

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Aside from that, the design actively promotes a safer walking and cycling experience through the adoption of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPETD). By decluttering the space and improving pedestrian lighting, the result enhances facial recognition and psychological comfort, which provides for a safer nighttime street environment.

“Some of the main design intentions were to create a more open, accessible, spacious, sustainable, and more contemporary impression. The StrataCell product allowed us to use a flexible pavement base and to include water sensitive design components. It meant we could provide for advanced tree growth without compromising on the aesthetics of the project,” Makaay said.

This was the first time that the council has used the system or anything like it and so there were a few initial teething problems around the installation. But Makaay said once the contractor had completed the first one, it was smooth sailing from then on. They encountered some services that could not be integrated with the StrataCells so instead, two of the tree pit sizes were reduced.

Makaay said he would certainly consider using the system again after his experience with the Eaton Mall project. Today, the trees are looking healthy and vibrant and they have encountered no issues with the system since the project was completed.

With its successful implementation, the Eaton Mall project celebrates the village’s existing culture by providing a more “aesthetically focused, environmentally sensitive public environment”.

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Increased soil volume allows for larger trees in Canberra suburb

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Increased soil volume allows for larger trees in Canberra suburb
by Kristyn Maslog – Levis

The Citygreen® modular StrataCell system® is starring in Canberra’s new hot residential subdivision of Casey.

Oculus designed the landscape works and opted to use the system after realising the constraints of the area. Sellick Consultants were the chosen engineers for the project. The Casey project, which started in 2012 and was completed only February this year, required the planting of sizable trees on the street in front of the retail centre on Kingsland Parade.

Keith Stead, associate director from Oculus, said that by planting big trees on the street, it connects the surrounding areas to the retail centre. However, they were struggling to do that because of the constraints on the area, such as the lack of available space, the presence of services and street parking on one side.

“Initial investigation was clear that the available areas we had weren’t going to be enough to have large oak trees used in the neighbourhood. We needed to come out with an approach to increase soil volume while still allowing also enough room for the parking to work. The obvious solution was to use the system, which allowed us to take advantage of the ground underneath where the parking was going. We used that to increase soil volumes,” Stead said.

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Although Oculus have previously investigated the system for other projects, this is the first time they’ve used the StrataCell system. “The system worked well. They were the right size for the tree down that street. With other solutions, we couldn’t have done that,” Stead said.

Like with everything else, trying out something new for the first time needs a lot of discussion. As the contractors were new to the system, it needed “a bit of working through to get everyone on board”.

“Everytime you try a new system, there’s always a learning curve. It’s just a new way of doing things,” Stead said.

They didn’t have difficulty installing the system but they experienced some issues trying to get the soil into the cells.

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“We wanted to make sure it was consolidated enough so that we got soil in there and allowed for settlement without over compacting it,” he said.

[Editor’s note: The StrataCell has a honeycomb-like structure for high strength to support pavement while accommodating structural roots.]

They had to find a solution for the use of permeable pavement over the cells. “It wasn’t enough depth for the paving. We had to have a custom approach and had to place a thin layer of [porous] concrete with reinforcing mesh. The cells had projecting nibs on them and we had to get them cut down because they were sticking out,” Stead said.

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He clarified that it’s not a criticism of the system. “If adequate depth had been allowed for the permeable paving in accordance with how Citygreen normally have in their standard detail, it wouldn’t have been an issue.”

Stead said the project received a lot of support from Citygreen, replying to their queries through phone, email and personal appearance on the site. “It was a bit of team effort. The engineers, contractors, Citygreen and myself had a few discussions on the installation.”

There were no major issues with the project, as it’s all very straightforward. But there were some areas where they had to break out rocks to make the services work. “It’s a tough environment, it’s quite windy on the site. Canberra is pretty cold in winter and hot in summer. There are some environmental concerns to work on.”

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**photo courtesy of Andrew Easey at Sellick Consultants

 

Still, Stead is quite certain that they picked the right system for the job. He said that the StrataCell is the only system that gives the additional volume for the space.

“We used structural soil before but in reality a large percentage of structural soil is not actually available for rooting. Whereas with the StrataCell system, something like 95 percent of the volume is available to be filled with soil and available for rooting. The additional volume gives Citygreen the significant edge to other options,” Stead said.

Everything is working well since the completion of the project. They’ve tested the parking bay on top of the site and actually drove a concrete truck on top of it.

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“It all appears to be very rigid. The expectation is that there will be no issues, which is obviously a key consideration,” he said. Although the trees were only put in early this year, they appear to be doing well.

“At the moment they’re doing as well as can be expected. The additional soil volume will give them that stability in the long term,” Stead said.

“This is definitely a good system and we’re considering to use it in other projects. I think the landscape industry in general are more aware with issues of street tree health and how small soil volumes given to street trees are not a good thing for their long term health. We have to work harder to give street trees proper soil volume and the Citygreen system provides a good way of doing that,” he added.

StrataCells extend Elm life in Edmonton

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StrataCells extend Elm life in Edmonton
By Kristyn Levis

A very old American Elm in the City of Edmonton in Canada, valued at around $25,000, has been given a new lease in life with the help of the CityGreen® modular StrataCell system®.

The 99 Street Plaza project was designed in 2013 as part of a larger streetscaping project. The small plaza was essentially a sidewalk/boulevard project aimed at improving the existing sitting node adjacent to a neighbourhood café.

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Jim Black, the project’s landscape architect from the City of Edmonton, said the old site was a 1.5 metre sidewalk with a three-metre wide hard packed gravel boulevard. In the gravel boulevard stood a 150mm caliper Brandon Elm and a very old 500mm diameter American Elm.

“It was a great concern to the city and within the community that it be saved and, if possible, its environs improved. The community desired that the concrete walk and gravel be removed and replaced with a hard surface area for café tables. At the same time, it was recognised that this could reduce oxygen/water penetration to the roots,” Black said.

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A design using Citygreen’s StrataCell system beneath a permeable paving stone surface was developed. Black said the system allowed the introduction of topsoil to the root area and the permeable blocks allowed penetration.

Kevin Donaghey, project manager at SG Landscaping, said the streetscape upgrade involved the installation of bollards, decorative poles, two patio areas and related site furnishings. The project costs around $400,000 with some items ready for completion this Canadian spring. The Citygreen system was used under pavers in high traffic areas where tree plants are in close proximity.

“There was some judicious root cutting on one side of the elm, but it was felt that regrowth of roots into the improved growing medium would quickly compensate and over time, these roots would be able to colonise a much larger topsoil area,” Black said.

The trickiest part of the project was setting the ground elevations to accommodate drainage while minimising depth of excavation.

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“There was some hand digging and exposing of larger roots. We have funneled much of the surface water in the area toward the permeable pavement,” Black said.

Since the project is still fresh, there hasn’t been time to evaluate the effect on the trees. However, Black is confident it’s all going to turn out as planned.

“Our experience with similar excavations are that the construction damage to the roots was within tolerable levels and the improvement to the growing medium will give this tree an advantage that similarly impacted trees in the past did not have,” he said.

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He found that the cells were straightforward to install and “within budget on a cost benefit basis”.

Donaghey echoes the positive feedback with using the Citygreen system, finding the installation quite simple. The presence of a Citygreen representative prior to the start of the project to discuss installation methods with the crew also helped make the process much easier.

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“This system is much better than similar fabric-type systems as it is easier to install and fill with soil and in my opinion, a stronger system overall,” Donaghey said.

“The biggest issue with the project was getting site furnishing delivered on time and having the suppliers live up to their word on delivery. The StrataCell was the only product we used that was delivered on time,” Donaghey said. He is very positive about using the system again in future projects.

Although he added that material cost is a bit higher, the labour involved to install the product is cheaper. “With the high cost of labour here, overall it was a little cheaper,” he said.