Designing a Splash Pad

The Auburn Trails splash pad has a backdrop beautiful trees.

A Splash Pad can also be known as a splash park, water park, spray park or spray ground. However, if you ask a kid, they would probably call it a FUN PARK! With zero-depth water, splash pads are considered safe and eliminate the need for lifeguards because there is practically no risk of drowning. The parks can include ground nozzles, rainbows (semicircular pipe showers), mushroom and flower showers, dump buckets, movable nozzles for squirting and little rotating creatures that squirt water, usually in bright colors, the options are endless! You can spot splash pads at public parks, hotels and resorts, planned housing communities, daycare centers and even at the Houston Zoo.

As safety has become paramount in today’s world, especially for children, private communities have added splash pads, in addition to pools, as amenities offered to the families living in those communities. As well, some public parks have offered splash pads in addition or in place of public pools. Some local Houston public splash parks are at Hermann Park, Discovery Green, and Terry Hershey Park area, these parks are always busy with local area families, so having a splash pad in your “backyard” so-to-speak is a great perk of some master planned communities.

When Kudela & Weinheimer designs the landscape for a splash pad several factors go into the concept:  safety, end users, client budget, maintenance and aesthetics. Kudela & Weinheimer usually specifies Vortex equipment, because of their high quality and great reputation. The Vortex equipment can withstand a high level of commercial use and has a “SmartFlow “ adaption to reduce the environmental impact of water usage of splash pads designed with their equipment.

The landscape architecture recipe for splash pads includes tried and true design, as well as a dash of common sense. Here are the main factors the Kudela & Weinheimer team takes into consideration when designing a splash pad:

Surface Material:  Must be nonporous to prevent bacteria and buildup, must also be slip resistant, and have a good grip for running children. Brushed concrete surfaces can be made more interesting by stamping, etching and coloring and are a low-cost choice that has excellent traction and minimal maintenance. Other surfaces might be a rubber safety surface such as Pebble-Flex® which is specifically designed for splash pads and outdoor play surfaces.

Placement of Equipment:  Most of the time spray pads/parks are set up in zones depending on children’s ages.  Usually divided into 3 zones – toddler play, medium action and high action play zones, the right design can entertain children from 1 year of age to over 10 years of age, and some of you adults out there too, as long as you have a plastic mug with a margarita.

Safety:  The splash pad areas drain off immediately, making them “zero-depth” and eliminates standing water and risk of drowning! These parks accommodate the young children who haven’t learned how to swim just yet. Although some very shallow depth pools also integrate water cannons, mushroom showers and dumping buckets. Other criteria to consider for safety are slope grade, drainage, trip hazards, water flow rates and large diameter stainless steel components to discourage climbing.

Budget:  Developers have budgets, of course! When designing a splash pad / spray park / water park, Kudela & Weinheimer considers the overall site which will contain the splash pad and the developer’s specific requirements for water usage (see below). Splash pads start out with a ‘baseline’ cost of the underground system that you cannot see. However, there are several ways our firm can design splash pads to stay in budget; designing  in phases so that the splash pad can be made bigger and better as more funds become available, determining the size and number of components and design for minimal maintenance. Kudela & Weinheimer will never sacrifice the quality of the equipment or materials, which might end up in increased maintenance and repair costs!

Water Administration:  There are a few popular ways to use and/or reuse water on these structures. 1. Potable water that drains to a waste system and uses fresh water each time. This reduces any risks that may be associated with unclean water. This is not usually a good option for large spray parks or parks looking to maximize water conservation.  2. Re-circulating systems are similar to treatment systems used in pool facilities. Water is drained to a holding tank, filtered and chemically treated through one of the following procedures: chlorine, chlorine plus ultraviolet [UV] light, CO2).  A lot of thought goes into the planning of water consumption, to help conserve resources. 3. Controllers and Activation systems: Most splash pads use controllers for activation of the water jets. Of course there can be timing activators and activators used by the children where they push a button to get the water going.

Taking all of the above criteria into consideration, Kudela & Weinheimer can creatively design a splash pad that is fun for all ages but attainable for the developer’s budget and site requirements.

For developers the really different aspect to splash pads is that by Texas code they are not required to be fenced – although we usually fence them to prevent vandalism -and can be separated from the pool area for access all year if the weather is nice (Houston happens to have many nice days outside of pool season)! That brings up another point, splash pads can usually be maintained by the same company that maintains pools and needs about the same level of attention.

And that’s how landscape architecture for splash pads is done!

Kudela & Weinheimer has recently designed and finished construction administration for the new Fairfield Community splash pad with adjacent dog park and recreation center (construction drawings came from the San Antonio office); Lakes of Savannah splash pad; Oak Crest splash pad; and Auburn Trails splash pad and Eagle Springs recreation center and splash pad, which hasn’t been built yet. Visit our website to see more parks and community design.

2 thoughts on “Designing a Splash Pad

  1. Pingback: Splish Splash « Mom on the Move

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