Thursday, October 29, 2009

Habitat Systems Inc.

When you visit as many playgrounds as we do, it’s inevitable that you reach a point where you start to pay attention to details. Some time ago I began being able to differentiate between brands of apparatus, started to notice playground design trends and then I started to wonder about how a playground comes to be. This curiosity peaked after I first visited Victor School Playground in Victoria, a playground that impressed me in a multitude of ways and has become a firm favourite. Beyond the obvious attractions of Victor School; the fantastic colourful equipment, the engaging activity walls and universal accessibility, I was intrigued by a plaque on the wall that thanked a number of organizations for helping to fund the playground. It set off a train of thoughts in my head about how a playground gets built, who designs it and who pays for it.

After a bit of research I stumbled across Habitat Systems Inc.- a playground distributor in Western Canada based out of Burnaby, BC. Habitat was the consultant on Victor School- helping to plan the fundraising, and then designing and supplying the project. What I didn’t know was that about the same time I was Googling Habitat, they were excitedly reading the Swings and Roundabouts review of Victor School playground which they circulated around their office. Weeks later we started e-mailing, talking on the phone and bouncing around ideas that have led to a partnership.

Habitat Systems provides full spectrum consulting that can take a client from the start to finish of a playground project. It’s an exciting BC grown company (now in Alberta too) that chooses to put people first and the more that I talk to them, the more excited I get about the work that they do.

The company was founded in 1996 in Mark Bodie’s garage where he and partner Jeff Musson alternated using the phone-line over a kitchen table. They formed a partnership with Landscape Structures who are a leading provider of environmentally preferable playgrounds and whom exemplify best practices and going the extra mile to ensure that equipment is engaging and safe, that their people are treated well and that their business is light on the planet.

Fast forward to today, and Habitat has moved out of the garage and grown into a company where knowledgeable and empowered employees work to build community spirit by providing play spaces that inspire, engage and put smiles onto children’s faces.

During a conversation with owner Jeff Musson I asked him about the importance of playgrounds in this day and age and he cited examples of playgrounds that Habitat has built that have become safe gathering places in their community; school playgrounds that are packed on evenings and weekends where safe, fun play can be experienced by children of all abilities- outgoing or shy, high-energy or with no body strength. When he talks about these things he is enthusiastic and you can tell that Jeff loves what he does.

All of the Playground Consultants at Habitat Systems are ‘Certified Playground Inspectors’ which means that they know what they are talking about inside-out and, unlike many other playground providers, their team in not commission-based. This encourages hand-holding throughout the process because it is not about ‘the sale’.

“It’s a cooperative, collaborative process between the clients and us” Jeff explains. This approach is especially important when Habitat works with PAC clients- Parent Advisory Council Groups, because Habitat is in a fantastic position to walk the group through every stage.

“The benefit of working with us for PAC groups is that we can be there for them making sure that each stage of their project runs smoothly. We know the local surfacing requirements and regulations and we have already made local contacts so the process can be efficient-right through to providing safety tips and grand opening items after the installation has been completed.”

Habitat has a Playground Planning Kit that they use with PAC groups which provides comprehensive information on every step of the project. The Playground Consultants work closely with groups during the fundraising process, which might mean helping to plan the fundraising or it might mean that the Consultant is there at PAC meetings or fundraising events to help answer questions and brainstorm for solutions.

Habitat has its own installation team in BC which means that they control every aspect of the installation. This team already understands what Habitat is trying to achieve and they have a vested interest in the project being done right. That means that if during installation they see a way to do something better, they have the ability to do it better. It means that they are not driven by time, but by doing things right. It means that unlike contracted teams, this installation team has an on-going relationship, an investment in making sure that the installation quality is of the highest standards and that safety comes first.

Working so closely with Landscape Structures, Habitat has had high standards set from the beginning for seeking out ways to be environmentally friendly in their work. This attitude has seeped through every aspect of the business from the literature which is printed on recycled paper, to office recycling and composting initiatives, to the processes and products used during the manufacturing of the equipment- making sure that the kids who use the playground apparatus are going to be safe. The plastics contain no heavy metals, the paint is lead-free and there is even a line of equipment that has a 30% smaller carbon footprint. For every Landscape Structures playground sold, there is a donation made through Global ReLeaf to plant trees to offset the carbon dioxide production.

You always get a good idea about an organization by the people in it and when you talk to Jeff, he is so excited and proud of what Habitat does that it’s infectious. Whether Jeff is talking about the way that Habitat approaches business, the fact that the Habitat team is so connected that he says that he’s working with his best friends, or the passion he has when he talks about particular projects. “When my own daughter is going to meet friends at the local playground that we built- well what better compliment can I get?”

To find out more about Habitat Systems, their equipment and partners go to

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Please VOTE for Swings and Roundabouts!!!

Swings and Roundabouts has applied for the Aviva Community Fund to enable us to go national and bring local playground reviews to the whole of Canada. We’d be involving parents, writers and aspiring teenage writers in the reviewing process, compensating reviewers to ensure consistent quality and creating resources to help get more playgrounds built.

To read our entry and learn more please visit our entry and vote for us. Voting closes soon so please vote now and spread the word to help us get the funding. It takes less than two minutes to sign up and vote and it could mean the difference between us getting the funding or not. You can read our entry on our slide.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Slocan Park Playground- East Vancouver

Guest review by Emily L

Slocan park is attached to the 29th avenue skytrain station at 29th Avenue and Slocan St in East Vancouver. As well as a great playground, there are large grassy fields and tennis courts, bathroom facilities (although they have been closed recently due to vandalism)and a covered area where people oftan do Tai Chi.

The playground itself has two seperate climbing structures with a total of three slides, one low wide metal slide for toddlers, a medium sized plastic slide and a larger plastic corkscrew slide. Both climbing structures are easy access for smaller kids, ramp and stairs.

Features also include a tire swing, two bouncy animals, two big-kid swings a baby swing and a toddler swing. Big kids can play on the rock "wall" and swinging monkey bar rings.

The playground is on sand which is great for castle building. My son has made a friend or two by being the only toddler with a pail and shovel! This park also features a wading pool/play fountain, it has 2 round cement mosaic picnic tables right at the edge of the playground as well as a smattering of benches surrounding it. Another great feature is that it is right across the street from the Renfrew Ravine which provides a great nature walk on the east side of the ravine. Street parking is easy in this residential neighbourhood and the playground is also on the bike path that follows the skytrain down to Trout Lake, John Hendry Park.

Hope to see you in the neighborhood!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

spud! Competition Entries so far!

You can enter our competition here or if you just want good food delivered to your door, take advantage of our spud! readers special- $25 off over the first 4 orders details also here!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September spud! Competition

Our sponsor for the first half of September is the fabulous spud! organic food deliveries –read on to find out more about them and about our newest competition.

When I first heard about spud! my husband and I were living in Vancouver, working far too many hours and looking for ways to improve the quality of our lives and our food. We stumbled across spud! and quickly made the decision to sign up for a weekly delivery. We squeezed behind the computer a couple of nights before our delivery day and picked the groceries that we fancied, loving the fact that our meals would now be somewhat planned. The day of our first delivery we rushed home excited to check out what had arrived, and we were not disappointed; the vegetables were always crisp and green, the fruits plump, juicy and colourful and unpacking them together was a little adventure.

spud! describes itself as being like a ride-share for your groceries. They target one neighbourhood at a time, bringing your delivery in a reusable bin with your customized selection of organic, local and affordable all-natural groceries. Because you can order online and the food is delivered right to your door, it’s all super-easy. spud! focuses on purchasing certified organic produce and grocery items as locally as possible and takes pride in being the most locally focused, greenest choice for grocery shopping in North America .

spud! was founded in Vancouver in 1998, opened on Vancouver island in 2003 and has been delivering local, fresh, organic groceries to customers ever since! Healthy and convenient, organic grocery delivery takes all the hassle out of grocery shopping and meal planning, giving you more time to play on the swings with your family. You can place your order online at

For a chance to win a $50 gift card for a spud! organic food delivery, enter our competition by sending in your favourite summer playground photo. We've put a couple of our favourites below to inspire you. See all the competition details here.

spud! has also extended a great offer to all Swings and Roundabouts readers- you can use the promotional code ‘SWINGROUND’ to sign up for spud! deliveries and get $25 off over your first 4 orders!

Lighten your footprint with the greenest grocer!

August Competition Winner!

Well, by a whopping lead it's official that readers of this site like firemen! Congratulations to Helen of Victoria for her review of Fireman's Park Playground......the fabulous prize of $100 Opus Gift Card is on the way to you.

Thanks again to everyone who sent in a review, everyone who voted and of course, to Opus Framing and Art Supplies.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Garibaldi Park Playground- North Vancouver

Garibaldi Park Playground is midway down Garibaldi Drive, off Mt Seymour Parkway in North Vancouver.

The park itself is a large grassy area with tennis courts, shade, some nice landscaping, the occasional large deer and a lovely playground. You can park along the road which is very close to the playground- good, if like me, you're juggling a feisty preschooler, a wriggly baby and a husband who cannot be separated from the exciting sports game on the car radio.......say no more.

The playground is a newer construction and has two main structures linked by various climbing features. The higher big-kid structure features a really nice high wobbly plastic slide- for extra static on hot dry summer days! There are bright activity wall features underneath the high platform which is accessible by a number of climbing options- curved ladders, platform steps and things to hang from. Between the two structures they have paid nice attention to detail using pod, flat steps and sort of hanging steps- wish I'd got a close up of these but my mind was elsewhere (feisty preschooler, wriggly baby and that darn sports game that had stolen my husband). Both sides have chunky platform steps and the smaller kid side has a lower plastic slide and a climbing wall.

There are toddler and big-kid swings, a bouncy thing, a very cool seesaw and an awesome climbing rope pyramid that 'A' got nicely tangled in- all on a bed of woodchips. I didn't see washrooms, but again, I stand to be corrected on that one because of the aforementioned diverted attention, but even without frilly amenities, this is a lovely playground in a pretty park that managed to have a cool breeze on a hot day.