Tournesol Siteworks

A visit to El Paso…

IMG_3268Last week I had the opportunity to visit our new plant in El Paso, TX, meet many of the people we have working there, and see some of our newest products.

They’ve already begun producing many of Tournesol Siteworks’ GFRC products (planters, TWIG and Rune benches, garbage cans, etc.), but there is a full line of Stonewear products that I wanted to learn about.

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Antonio, moldmaker extrordinaire and operations manager of the Juarez facility along with Isaias, operations manager of the El Paso facility.

We have complete mold-making capabilities in the new-to-us facilities, so we’ve been working to coordinate how we exchange information between our California engineering staff and the toolmaker. Because everyone builds their molds differently, we’ve had to get used to their process (and vice-versa). Things are progressing as well as we could hope.

Planter Barrier

A planter barrier, showing the internal barrier mold – just add concrete!

The planter barrier products that Stonewear has offered for the past decade is something we’re looking forward to promoting. While other manufacturers create a barrier by simply pre-casting a massively heavy planter and shipping it cross country, Stonewear figured out a better way. The barrier products are all light weight GFRC and designed to ship anywhere across the country. Each barrier integrates a lightweight internal mold and rebar system that lets the local contractor add the weight using inexpensive premix concrete. For a simple barrier inside a round planter (shown above), the form creates a jersey barrier inside the planter that will stop 4,000 lbs moving at 50mph!

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Stops vehicles in their tracks – a maximum-security planter barrier

For maximum security applications, Stonewear designed a planter barrier to the US government’s DOS K-4 standard. Buried up to the base in the soil and then filled with premix concrete, it can stop 15,000 lbs. moving at 50mph – adequate for most government buildings. There aren’t many easier, more attractive ways for a designer to integrate a maximum security barrier into a project!

Decorative bollards

Typical lightweight concrete bollards

We’ve offered metal bollards and bike racks from our partners at Street & Garden Furniture in the past, but Stonewear bollards introduce a new element into our line. Either as a high security bollard cover over 8″ steel pipe that can stop 5,000lbs moving at 30mph, or simply decorative bollard covers (as seen above) that sit over 6″ steel pipe – we now have an answer for any application.

Packaging pots

Packaging up several Downtown Collection GFRC pots

Of course the largest component of what Tournesol Siteworks does (and what Stonewear did) is make pots and planters. We’ll be producing all of our shapes and sizes, and most of the offering that Stonewear has had over the years. It’s a great fit – a little overlap, but our offering will grow dramatically in GFRC. We’ll also be introducing many of their shapes in FRP fiberglass over time as well.

Stonewear Fountains

Isaias and Raoul trial-fit the seat cap on an 8′ fountain basin. Looks perfect!

And finally, fountains! I spent quite a bit of time working to understand the turnkey fountain products. While somewhat complex with lots of options, Stonewear turnkey fountains offer exceptional value for a complete fountain system. They have hundreds of impressive installations across the country, proving the reliability of the system design.

Dolby Labs – why good project management counts…

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When Dolby Laboratories (the brilliant company behind Dolby Sound that you see at movies and on consumer electronics) wanted to spruce up the 16-story older building that they purchased in the up and coming Mid-Market area of San Francisco (just two doors down from Twitter), they turned to Gensler Associates in San Francisco.

The building had a number of large terraces that were neglected and unused by the previous tenant. Gensler wanted to create usable, elegant space for Dolby. To keep the occupants away from the railings, they designed a series of planters that would border the perimeter. Additionally, on the top deck a series of window-washing davits needed to be hidden with matching covers. Gensler, and Dolby’s general contractor DPR Construction, turned to Tournesol Siteworks to work through the complicated installation.

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It was an enormously complicated project. There was a significant amount of coordination that had to be done between Tournesol Siteworks’ project management team, Gensler, and DPR. Tournesol worked from the architect’s initial concepts to create products that could be manufactured off common tooling wherever possible. There were more than 200 custom planters required, each of which needed to be ready as the project was completed floor by floor. Scheduling and prioritization were critical. When the project ran behind and the floors began to be occupied, certain floors could only be installed on weekends.

A 30″w pad was poured at the edge of each deck to support the planters. The planters were sized precisely to fall at the railing mullions. The color of the pots was matched to the color of the mullion, and took 6  attempts to finally land on a color that all approved.  30″square concrete pavers on adjustable pedestals fell along the same lines to complete the look. “Inner” and “Outer” corner planters had an unusual shape to accommodate mechanical fixtures at each level.
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Each Wilshire Collection style planter was fitted with our CWM Modular container irrigation system. The planters were installed without holes, with our DR drainage pump-out system. In San Francisco they don’t worry about rain and drainage in the Summer, and with recent conditions, they might not need to in the winters either!
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On a massive project like this, it was inevitable that a few complications arose. An initial drawing by the architect had a length transposed, which wasn’t caught by the installing sub-contractor during field verification. The already completed units were returned to Tournesol’s facility, and adjusted their sizes to fit – then changed the tool for the other similar units (no mean feat based upon the critical schedule). There were also some pots that were scratched during installation, which required some touch up after everything was done – not bad for over 200 containers! Find out how Tournesol Siteworks’ project management team can help you with your next challenge!

A Living Penthouse

Some jobs just seem to take longer than others! In Jan. 2014, we were looking forward to being part of the renovation of Time Square’s Knickerbocker Hotel. It was in the process of being restored to its former glory, thanks to a $115 million makeover by new owners, FelCor Lodging Trust.

Architect Peter Poon and Designer Gabellini Sheppard took the interior down to the floor plates, so it is essentially a “brand new hotel”, except for its extraordinary, original Beaux-Arts facade, which was preserved. A NYC landmark since 1988, the building had functioned as an office building, but it is better known for hosting such guests as John D. Rockefeller, having its own subway entrance, and is thought to have been the birthplace of the original martini!

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The living wall, part of a design by landscape architect M. Paul Freidberg and Partners  of Manhattan, is finally complete! It is the highlight of an amazing Penthouse Suite, and features our VGM modular living wall system. Tournesol shipped over 500 of the 8″ deep VGM3-10 modules, which were installed on three of the exterior walls. Installation contractor  Blondies Treehouse  was responsible for the project installation. We’ve worked with them on a number of living walls in the NYC area.  Blondies was assisted with plant and soil design by Sempergreen and Moerings Green Roof Maintenance.

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The VGM were planted and installed early this year (a year after we anticipated), but have grown in through the summer and, according to Howard Freilich of Blondies. He commented that it was a tough installation, but that we can all be proud of the results.  Thanks, Howard – you make us look great!!

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Stonewear now part of Tournesol Siteworks

As of June 1, Stonewear Composite Stone Products of El Paso, TX has become part of Tournesol Siteworks. We’re rapidly growing, and acquiring Stonewear gives us the opportunity to take advantage of their maquiladora-based lightweight concrete manufacturing footprint straddling the Texas-Mexico border.  In addition, Tournesol will now be able to offer turnkey fountains, security and barrier products and an even larger selection of site furnishings and planters.

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a turnkey 12′ Stonewear Fountain

Tournesol will be consolidating the full current Stonewear product offering into its existing lineup. Stonewear’s focus on products for urban landscapes fits perfectly with Tournesol’s existing strategic direction. Most exciting is the line of pre-engineered fountains  that Stonewear has been manufacturing for the last 20 years. There are hundreds of  options, and when combined with Stonewear’s installation services, adding a dramatic splash to a project couldn’t be any easier.

Turnkey fountains from 8'-16'

Turnkey fountains from 8′-16′

We’ve been close with Stonewear for nearly a decade, and have always admired the level of craftsmanship of their work. Their focus on operational excellence in GFRC will enhance Tournesol Siteworks’ offering in that material, and we’re looking forward to expanding our sales in lightweight concrete with the improved capacity.

Security planter barriers and bollards

Security planter barriers and bollards

Stonewear has a been a leader in lightweight concrete with a history going back over 30 years. Their craftsmen are some of the best when it comes to GFRC, and will be also manufacturing much of our concrete product in the El Paso and Juarez locations. This will free up space and labor for more FRP fabrication in Northern California. We’ll explore more of their product options and features on future blog postings.

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Aventine urns, with base

Former Stonewear owner Ben Vandenbossche commented that “Tournesol will be a great home for the Stonewear product line. They understand selling and marketing to designers, and we’re looking forward to them continuing the Stonewear tradtion”  Ben will remain active in a consulting role for several months. The rest of the employees will join Tournesol Siteworks as Stonewear’s operations in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez will be expanded as volume increases.

It’s Tuesday – where am I??

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Roofdecks at the CCDC project (using our planter liners), Washington DC

“Why do all the industry trade shows get stacked on top of one another?”, I found myself thinking after ten days on the road. The last six weeks have been full of travel & conferences – Bond MultiFamily (a meetup of architects & product manufacturers specializing in multi-family residential construction) in April, followed by the mid-year meeting of the Landscape Architecture Foundation in Washington DC in early May.  The photo above was taken of the CCDC project in Washington during the LAF meeting. We provided planter liners for the roofdeck gardens for this spectacular project – we’ll feature it in a blog post soon.

HD Expo

Visiting with designers at the HD Expo in Las Vegas – the South Chair in white, the Pillow Chair in orange

From there it was on to trade shows – Over the past two weeks we’ve exhibited at the American Institute of Architects National Convention (Atlanta), the Hospitality Design Expo (Las Vegas), the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (in New York with our partners from Luxxbox), and finally RECon (Las Vegas), the exhibition of the Intenational Council of Shopping Centers.

We met with well over 500 architects, interior designers, landscape architects and shopping center owners/managers.  There’s nothing like listening to your existing and potential customers – enlightening, to say the least.

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Viewing installed GFRC Urban Collection planters at the Linq, Las Vegas

 

Some of the highlights from the shows:

The South Chair and the Pillow Chair (see photo below). Both come in bright, interesting colors which grab designer’s attention. We knew that bright colors were in – but this confirmed it. While very different in execution, they herald our entrance into the cafe and casual furniture business.

Combine wood with brightly colored metal or concrete and people will notice it. Our Boulevard wood, whether in planters, furnishings or flooring, was the clear star of the show. The sustainable story, combined with its natural good looks makes it easy to get excited about.

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Tournesol partner James Shaffer of Streetscapes with an architect in our booth at RECon – The South Chair in black and berry, the Pillow Chair in orange

We’ve traditionally found our “sweet spot” with landscape architects.  Nevertheless, architects have been showing greater interest in the range of products we offer – especially living walls, wood decking and pedestals, Wilshire Box hanging planters and VersiCell drainage panel.  Being at the AIA convention was a great experience this year.

A surprise from this series of shows was the number of commercial interior designers that actively specify products in our markets. We met several that have specified us in the past (especially in the hospitality business), and most really like the work we do. It was a great reminder that our reach is sometimes greater than we think!

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Checking out the recent installation of Brisbane benches featuring Boulevard wood near Las Vegas

Taking it on the Road – from our May email blast

With the additions to cafe and casual furniture line and the enthusiasm for our Boulevard Wood products, our sales staff is being kept busy this month making sure that we are where you are!

HD Expo – A Hospitality Design Event
May 13-15, Las Vegas

To kick things off, John DenmanJon Willingham and Chris Lyon will be exhibiting at the HD Expo (Booth #1333) at the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, May 13-15. We will be featuring theSouth Chair by our Australian Design partner, Luxxbox as well as our new Boulevard Wood plantershttp://www.hdexpo.com

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AIA Convention
​May 14-16, Atlanta
Regional Sales Representatives Brian Mitalo (Midwest/Southeast) and Cliff Goodman(Northeast/Mid-Atlantic) will be manning booth #838 at this year’s AIA Convention. It has been a few years since we attended this conference, but we are encouraged by the response to our ads in ArchRecord (we were on the short list for best ad award) and our outreach to the architecture community. http://convention.aia.org/event/homepage.aspx
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International Contemporary Furniture Fair
May 16 – 19, New York
Chris will be following up the HD Expo with a trip to New York for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. Jason Bird from Luxxboxx will be exhibiting at the Fair, showcasing his contemporary furniture line that we’ve begun carrying, like the South and Pillow Chairs.  http://www.icff.com
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ICSC RECon
​May 17 – 20, Las Vegas
We will wrap up the month back in Las Vegas, May 17-20 for the ICSC RECon Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. RECon is the global convention of the shopping center industry. Chris, John and Jon will be joined by David Shaw, the president of our partners at Street & Garden Furniture of Australia. We’re looking forward to introducing Street & Gardens’ newest product, the Yarrabilba Bench. We’ll be in booth #N1834 in the products section of the show. Be sure to stop by and see our products specifically targeting the Shopping Center community.
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A Designer’s Delight: Our New Cafe & Casual Furniture Category

As we’ve been introducing site furnishings into our lineup, designers keep asking for more – more mobile, more fun, more casual!  We dipped our toe into the water last year with theBase Collection table and stools, but now that we’ve joined in partnership with Luxxbox of Brisbane, Australia, we’re diving in the deep end!

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In addition to the cool Buzz Bike Bench and the enigmatic Rune lounge, Luxxbox features a range of stools, tables, benches and casual furniture. Head designer Jason Bird creates using bright, fun colors in lightweight materials, engineered for commercial-grade use. Their product provides a whole new dimension to our range, giving us more solutions for rooftop spaces in any kind of installation.

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The South Chair (shown above) recently was a finalist for the NYC Battery Conservancy’s  “Draw up a Chair” competition.

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Brisbane’s design scene is on the upswing – Jason and Luxxbox were recently featured in a fantastic article in Travel & Leisure magazine. Read the entire article about the design scene down under here.

Boulevard decking at home…

A recent trip so SoCal found us at the LA Expo in Long Beach, not far from one of our early installations of Boulevard Wood decking. It’s a private residence that belongs to friends of Grace Sullano of Place. The sustainability of Boulevard decking was a real draw for Grace and her friends.  Because we were close, we stopped by the owner’s home to find out whether we could take a few pictures of their home. While at first surprised to find us on their doorstep, the owners (and their children) graciously invited us in to see the results.

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Boulevard Wood decking is made thermally-modified, domestically harvested  and processed ash. It’s treated with high-temperature and steam – no chemicals or plastics – to create a 100% natural product with a 25+ year life span and Class A fire rating.  Through the process it takes on a natural, rich dark color, making it directly comparable with tropical hardwoods like Ipe or Teak, without the environmental baggage. The decking here has been sealed, so doesn’t show the typical gray patina that develops when exposed to the elements.

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Boulevard decking is 50% lighter and far easy to modify and work with on site than tropical hardwoods. All Boulevard wood is 100% free of the arsenic, copper, chrome and other hazardous metals present in pressure-treated wood.  It’s available in 1×4, 1×6, 5/4×4 and 5/4×6 conventional decking planks, as well as in dimensional lumber sizes.

Mobile upload from Jon Willingham at 31315, 311 PM

To see the full story of where our wood comes from, click here: http://tournesolsiteworks.com/wordpress/index.php/2015/01/where-boulevard-wood-starts/

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Pinkberry, clad in green!

We recently became involved with the Avalon development in Alpharetta, GA, providing them with our VGP living wall system. From the Avalon website:  “It’s located in the heart of Alpharetta.  It is a sustainably designed, 86-acre development with more than 500,000 square feet of retail, a 12-screen all premium theater, a full-service hotel (coming in Phase II), Class A office, single-family residences and luxury rental homes. It infuses resort-level hospitality throughout a walkable, seamlessly connected community of shopping, dining, entertainment, living and working. It’s more than just another place to go, it’s a place to be—a hub of local art and activity that delivers the luxury of the modern South.”

All photos are courtesy of our friends at Greenroofs.com, based in Alpharetta. Join them at the Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2015: Connecting the Planet + Living Architecture on April 6-12.

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Cool greenroof on Chicago Bulls’ Practice Facility

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This past year we worked with Christy Webber Landscapes in Chicago when they did the greenroof on the Advocate Center, the new Chicago Bulls Practice Facility. Chicago remains at the front of the pack in the green roof race, so it wasn’t too surprising that the team went to the effort of putting an extensive greenroof on the building.

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Christy Webber purchased the product through our local distributor, Lake Street Supply, who also provided several of the other elements on the project. We supplied 72″ squares, 120″x30″x30″, 96″x30″x30″, and 72″x30″x30″ rectangles. The lightweight fiberglass pots framed the outdoor seating area that turns the greenroof from a functional element to a attractive outdoor recreation space.

DSC_3172This is a pretty typical use of our lightweight FRP planters for a rooftop amenity space. Most of the clients, however, aren’t as famous as this one.