Revisiting the past – How our pots hold up

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Jon Willingham, our regional sales rep in Southern California, recently was at a meeting in Long Beach and realized he wasn’t far from one of the first projects he worked on when he joined the company in 2009. He stopped by to see what the project looks like today, and how our product is holding up.

100_1949The project was known at the time as  The Lofts @ Third & Promenade, but is now simply referred to as The Lofts at Promenade. It was designed by Jon Cicchetti Landscape Architects and installed by Enzo Caserta Landscaping. Both their teams have done a lot of work with us over the years, and have proven to be very valuable partners.

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Our Urban Collection pots, in 36″, 30″ and 24″ squares, as well as 24″ and 48″ rectangles, continue to look great five years later. The tricky thing about fiberglass pots and planters is that nearly all of them, no matter the quality, look good when they go in. The mark of a quality product is how they hold up over time.

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When we started manufacturing large planters in fiberglass in 2003 there weren’t many quality lightweight options available. We understood the needs of commercial designs – pots have to look good, hold up, and not be a headache for the owner. We started with walls twice as thick as the typical fiberglass products available at the time, and applied a high-quality paint system to make sure that it looked good for the life of the project.

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We’re proud of the work we’ve done, and continue to look in on our jobs to make sure that they are performing to our standards. Since this project was installed we’ve continued our lead in the commercial landscape market, moving on to add lightweight GFRC concrete to the lightweight materials we manufacture in. Jon W. was happy to see the pots he sold when he started were still looking good – and so are we.

Weekend Wow!

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Here’s yet another spectacular green wall using our  VGM green wall system - this time at The Nanjing South Railway Station, People’s Republic of China . Adorning the entire length of a prominent high retaining wall near the station, the majestic VGM Green Wall is part of an effort to beautify the station for the Summer Youth Olympic Games, being held this month in Nanjing. The Nanjing South Railway Station serves four major high-speed railway lines and a network of other railway lines traversing China. It is the world’s second largest railway station in terms of GFA (Gross Floor Area) at 458,000 square metres (4,929,871 square feet) with 28 railway platforms. Solar panels capable of providing 7.17 megawatt of electricity cover the majority of the railway station roof and the VGM Green Wall covers 12,000 square feetof the retaining wall. This bold statement in sustainability sends a welcome “green” message to international athletes and visitors arriving for the Summer Youth Olympic Games 2014.

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Upcycle … An email blast update

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Boulevard Wood – Now Upcycled & Class A

If you’ve read anything from us lately, you’ll have heard about our Boulevard thermally modified wood . The story is getting even better! Our supply chain is finally coming together. We can ensure our starting lumber is not from FSC forests, but from the city! We’ll be taking urban wood, which otherwise would be chipped or made into mulch, and using it as a starting point for our Boulevard thermally modified wood. Every urban log we start with not only saves a tree in the rainforest, it saves a tree in the forest as well – truly an example of upcycling.

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Originally developed for our bench and table site furnishings , Boulevard wood is now available in tiles ,  decking and dimensional lumber . We’ve recently had it tested, and in addition to a 25+ year lifespan, it also has a Class A flame spread rating. It possesses all the performance advantages of ipe’ and other South American hardwoods, but none of the environmental baggage. We’re especially pleased to be one of the only domestic producers of thermally modified products, keeping production jobs in the U.S.

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We’re looking forward to the opportunity to share Boulevard with you and your customers. Contact your sales rep for samples, or see our ad in this month’sArchitectural Record and Landscape Architecture magazines .

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Revitalize – From our August email blast

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The Village at Chandler Fashion Center, Chandler, AZ is a showcase of revitalization and how pots can add life and landscape to any hardscape. The Villages, surrounded by numerous restaurants and retail spaces, had seen a decline in sales. Some vacant retail spaces had become available for lease. The owner, Macerich, wanted to create an outdoor destination area that would attract crowds, and one that could be used for, and flexible enough to handle, various events from outdoor vendor markets to birthday parties.  Mike Faulkner, of SmithGroupJJR, to ok on this project to revitalize the underperforming outdoor courtyard space. 6 Space constraints and the need for continued customer access during construction was a challenge. “Designing in raised planters and usage of the huge Tournesol Downtown collection pots allowed us to add landscape, shade and a modern look and feel without disruption to the facility. The pots are a great way to add landscape to any space that would typically require tearing out and replacing hardscape.”  Other major design features include a new splash pad, shade parasols, outdoor lawn terraces, site furnishings and attractive night lighting. 4 Because visibility of The Villages had also been an issue, SmithGroup specifically designed a space that would stand out in a big way. They chose a bright burst of colors  – fluorescent lime and aqua. Faulkner said “Adding color to the space was a primary design goal which the client latched on to. The pots look amazing! And, allowed us to bring in variegated agaves, purple and good flowering Lantanas and Mulga trees.”  According to Mike, the client loves their new space and retailers are already scheduling outdoor events at The Villages.

Project Manager in the house!

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Tournesol Siteworks is pleased to announce that Geoff Neary has joined the team as inside salesperson for our Northwest region. But, even more exciting for us, he will also be acting as our first dedicated Project Manager, responsible for estimating, providing technical support and coordinating manufacturing for large, complicated projects throughout the country.  We’re excited for him to make an impact quickly, providing support to customers on especially difficult jobs.
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His background as an estimator and project manager for Green Effects in Seattle (where he worked with Tournesol Siteworks on several large, complicated projects) makes him uniquely qualified. Geoff also brings an insider’s perspective to the job having worked in the landscape industry for over 30 years. He hopes to “close the loop” having been on both sides of the process and raise the bar on the manufacturing end.

 

Geoff’s experience allows him the ability to analyze clients plans efficiently and with an eye toward production. Here, he can help our manufacturing team work with a customer’s specs to see what will work, what might not, where might there be issues, how can we build it better and make sure it is right. 

 

“I want production to double check everything. I am there to make sure there aren’t any surprises for the guys in the field. When you are installing a project on a downtown high-rise with a crane, you need to get it right the first time.” From an childhood in New England to raising his own family in Seattle, Geoff knows that from coast to coast competition is fierce and we need to make sure that the quality of our product is top notch from design and production to delivery, installation and years later on site!

 

Geoff is looking forward to working for Tournesol Siteworks. As he says it, “it is not a planter company, not an irrigation company, not a green wall company –  it’s all of them. Chris (Lyon) is not afraid to move into new areas, be it bike racks, recycling bins, or wood decking and tiles. It is exciting to be a part of company that has its eye on the horizon. And, not a small segment of the horizon, but 180 degrees.”

 

Geoff is particularly excited about any projects that bring landscapes into downtown areas and enhance city livability. And, as we all like to hear, Geoff is excited “to be a part of a company that is constantly growing – it’s a cool place to be!”

 

“We’re fortunate to have Geoff join our team”, says Chris Lyon, president of Tournesol Siteworks. “He was a loyal (albeit demanding) customer, and understands what it takes to run a project smoothly. He’ll be able to raise our game immediately!”

 

You can reach Geoff at extension 158 at our office (800.542.2282), or contact him via email – gnearyattournesolsiteworks.com

Chicago Road Trip!

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Things are happening in the Windy City! This summer I had the chance to spend several days traveling with our regional sales representative Brian Mitalo, visiting customers, specifiers and distribution partners. I was greeted by spectacular summer weather, an interesting, dynamic business environment, and one of the greenest cities that you’ll have the chance to visit. The landscaping throughout the Downtown area is really spectacular – you can tell that the city has made landscape maintenance a priority. The plantings along Michigan Avenue, the Millenium Park, flower baskets and hanging planters adorning every outdoor cafe – these people are serious about making the city green.

One of the companies we met with has been responsible for a number of green roof installations throughout the Midwest, including several huge projects out near O’Hare airport. Kurt Horvath and colleagues at Intrinsic Landscaping have installed several projects using Tournesol material, including a TerraScreen interior living wall at Pirch Interiors in Chicago and several large lightweight planter projects. They mentioned that things have got so busy quoting projects this spring that they have had trouble keeping up. Nice to hear our customers are keeping busy!!

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As I was driving to another appointment, I happened upon a project that had just been installed with our VertiGreen 3D Modular trellis system at a Mariano’s grocery store. The installation had only been installed the week before – but it looks terrific!

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It might not look like much yet, but within a few years, the vines should cover the trellis nicely. To get a perspective on the change, a few pictures below of another Chicago project – the Rivers Casino project. The first picture was taken several months after installation three years ago. The second was taken this summer.

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Brian and I spent a good deal of time talking about our new Boulevard structural wood tiles and decking as we were meeting customers. The architects at Wolff Landscape Architecture (located right near the river) were excited about the concept, but stressed that it would need to be Class A fire rated (it is!).  Up to that point, they’ve only ever been able to specify ipe because of this requirements. They do a lot of roofdecks in wood, so they’re looking forward to using it.

We also spent some time with one of our local distributors, Mark from Lake Street Supply. They are the closest shop to downtown, and have great relationships with all the contractors working down there. Mark has built a fantastic business by being willing to try new things and find new products for his customers. We appreciate that in him – he thinks that Boulevard could be an exciting new product for them.

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We took some time for fun, too. This view from the John Hancock building  shows just a few of Chicago’s many green roofs. In total, there are over 350 vegetated roofs in Chicago providing more than 5 million sq. feet of green roof coverage.

On our way out of town we caught up on another installation from last summer. The city installed hundreds of large concrete planters around the entrances on the departures level. They are both decorative, as well as serving as a force barrier.  To keep maintenance to a minimum, each one is outfitted with our CWM container irrigation system. The plants look terrific – as do plants all over the city.

ohare web 1ohare web 2It was great to be in the field and see what’s going on with our partners and customers. I could see from their activity levels that the construction market in the midwest is really gaining steam. We’ll continue to work to be part of it!!

 

Upon Completion…

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In January, we highlighted a couple of 2014 installations that we were specifically excited about including a green wall at the new Kaiser Permanente Medical Offices in Antelope Valley.

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Right on schedule, the wall went up in June, and we are thrilled to show you the final product.

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EPT Design specified 220 VGM modules to be installed on an outdoor walkway/parking area, and given the grow-in by Instant Jungle, the wall creates immediate and complete coverage of the vertical space.

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Antelope Valley (named for the herds of Pronghorn that were found here in the 1830′s), is the gateway to the western Mojave Desert.  The average temperature here is 61 deg, but that disguises lows down to 2 deg and highs up to 110 deg. It’s a dry heat, though, with low humidity year round. Due to the weather variance, this was a challenging project and a will prove to be a testament to our 8″ deep VGM3-10 module . With the generous soil profile, root growth isn’t restricted to baffles or pockets, which will mean lower maintenance, less water usage and healthier plants.

 

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And special thanks to our partners, Valley Crest, who always does a great installation of this product, and, Instant Jungle, for growing in the plant product.

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The Town of Dedham – Plant, Preserve, Promote

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Dedham, originally called Contentment, was founded in 1635, when the General Court granted land south of the Charles River to twelve men. The fertile grassy meadows of the Charles River provided an ideal spot for the new settlement of Contentment, now Dedham.”  Today it continues to grow thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers known as The Friends of Dedham Civic Pride.

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This non-profit group is “dedicated to improving the overall physical and aesthetic appearance of Dedham.” This years’ projects include sidewalk and traffic landscaping, sidewalk curb appearance and durability, addition of new bicycle racks and a tree planting and parks improvement program.

John Haven, a town resident and a landscape architect with Keith LeBlanc Landscape Architecture, stepped up to help Dedham Civic Pride with these major improvements. In a volunteer role with the organization, they worked closely with local boards, agencies and civic organization to develop, plan and implement the landscaping projects.

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Thank you, John, for including Tournesol Siteworks in the plan! Throughout town a variety of our Downtown collection pots were used including 24″ and 36″ Rounds and 36″ Bowls. Shark color was specified in a P1 texture. This lightly sanded finish helps the planters stand up to pedestrian traffic. It is less likely to show scuff and dirt marks which keeps down maintenance labor and cost. Each of the planters also includes a CWM Modular container irrigation system that has helped keep the new plants healthy and thriving in the recent Boston heatwave. Our irrigation systems are available for any pot size, and, again, help keep down maintenance and water costs by providing more efficient watering.

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The City of Dedham is just finishing up a 3 year, 6 million dollar streets cape renovation, and the last thing missing were planters and site furnishings. Our planters proved to be just the right scale for the project. Thanks to LeBlanc Landscape Archtiecture for recommending us partly based on their firm’s past experience with Tournesol Siteworks on other commercial projects.

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Congratulations to Dedham Civic Pride on completion of a great project and special thanks goes out to those involved in the “planter project:”

Dedham Civic Pride- Sue Hicks and Amy Black
Town of Dedham- Jason Mammone and Joe Flanagan

Monthly Blast – June 2014 Vol 2, Issue 6

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On A Greening Mission

We’ve been working with  Mission Landscape Architecture  of Irvine, CA recently on several living wall projects. They are on a “mission” to enhance the So. California urban environment with living walls. Their designs resulted in two important Tournesol green walls in San Diego and Los Angeles. As they note in their project information sheets, the walls stand (no pun intended) as a “testament to the creativity of the architecture community and the continuing trend of green walls within the industry.” (emphasis ours!)

As Seen in Living Architecture Monitor
One of these green walls was just highlighted in the most recent issue of Living Architecture Monitor (Summer Health Issue, 2014). The Tournesol VGM living wall was installed at the Irvine Company’s Westwood Gateway 1. In the article (entitled “How Green Roofs & Walls Have Impacted Occupants’ Well-Being”) Sherry Mashadian, manager of operations for the Irvine Company Office Properties, reflected on how their green wall project has affected their tenants.

100_1500-1According to her, the living wall is located in a courtyard with a fountain and soft seating that give customers and staff an opportunity to take breaks, eat lunch and even conduct team meetings in a lushly landscaped environment. “The living wall is definitely one of the greater features of the building and an added value to the project. The visitors and guests are always admiring the living wall. It’s also a tour stop for our leasing team. The living wall is definitely an amenity for the tenants of the property.

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The property owners specifically charged Mission Landscape with enhancing the existing courtyard. They removed an overgrown hedge to create the “canvas” for the new Tournesol living wall. Initial plans proposed covering the entire wall, but eventually they decided upon one wall panel that serves as an art piece to the adjacent cafe seating area. Surrounding the VGM panels and structural frame is a custom metal picture fame to complete the linear design. Multi-textured shade tolerant plants of green ferns, moneywort and grasses accented by plum-colored coral bells create the “living picture.”

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Sherry did touch on maintenance in the article. She mentioned that they have kept a specialized contractor on to maintain the project (our friends at Greenscaped Buildings ), and that other than a few replacements in the initial period, there haven’t been many issues in the year that the wall has been up. 

And, an underground update

We acquired the  Root Solutions root barrier  business from Vespro of California nearly a year ago, and thought we’d give you an update on what’s going on with the product. Large Bay Area contractor and regular customer Jensen Landscape  was recently installing the product at a new Kaiser Permanente Hospital c omplex in Redwood City, CA and invited us in to take some pictures. They were kind enough to leave several trenches open to allow us to photograph the product in its natural environment.

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Root barrier continues to be an important product. The eventual cost of tree roots damaging parking lots, sidewalks, and roads isn’t going down, and has made barrier into a very commonly-specified product for highway departments, municipalities, and commercial properties. We even hear of it being put in for many large residential developments – the minimal cost of the product saves thousands of dollars in headaches over time. Our biggest surprise in entering the market is that its use is more prevalent west of the Mississippi than to the east. It doesn’t seem like trees grow differently on one coast than another – why the discrepancy?

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We’ve had to learn a lot about extrusion and manufacturing the product, as you might have guessed. Despite a few hiccups, we’re in control of the process, sourcing the 100% recycled polyethylene (mostly post-consumer), and keeping production line running. One of the important things that we’ve mastered is the blend of high density and low density polyethylene. It’s critical to make the material supple enough to be easy to install, yet strong enough to resist tree roots.   The contractors we work with tell us it slips together easy, holds well, and flexes when it needs to. In general, they tell us that they like the material better than other direct competitor’s – it’s easier to work with and less time-consuming to install. With the creatively sourced recycled material, we’ve also made sure that the pricing is highly competitive!

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Architectural Record & the AIA convention

Congratulations are in order! Our continuing education course, ” Green Walls: Integrating Nature into Buildings ” has won the Audience Engagement Award  as one of the top five most popular courses offered through Architectural Record’s Continuing Education Center .  More than 150,000 CEU tests were taken in the past year through their portal, and the popularity of the course shows the high level of interest that architects have with living walls. We are pleased to be able to offer it to the AIA community.

TournesolSiteworksARJulyWe wish the best to all the AIA members who will be attending the upcoming annual convention in Chicago. We won’t be there to collect our award, but don’t miss our Australian product advertisement in the most recent issue of Arch Record!

 

 

 

 

 

A lightning-fast upgrade: First Street, Downtown Phoenix

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The City of Phoenix recently spent over a half-million dollars on street improvements, decorative sidewalks, new trees and pedestrian-friendly upgrades along First Street in downtown. The goal was to make the area more pedestrian friendly and inviting to convention attendees and tourists.firststreet3*304

The First Street road and sidewalk improvements run from Washington to Moreland Street and include 86 of our SeaCrest Series planters with built-in container irrigation. A similar quantity of pots was required for a different streetscape area as well. The SeaCrest Series is made differently than most other collections we feature here – they are rotationally molded of linear low-density polyethylene plastic (instead of FRP fiberglass or GFRC concrete). This allows us to make the SeaCrest as a double-wall unit, and integrate the self-watering system.

IMG_2674The city contractor who contacted us wasn’t specifically looking for the SeaCrest Series pots.  Instead, they approached us with a very tight deadline to get pots into place. Because a project of this size is made to order, and the FRP and GFRC process is relatively slow (one pot per mold per day), we needed a solution that could be turned around faster. When rotationally molding, we can make up to 5-6 pieces per day. The throughput of the process allowed us to get the project done on time.

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We also had to custom blend the material to match our painted apple color. There are two different ways to match colors in plastic – use an integrally colored base material, or “dry blend” pigment in with naturally translucent base material. The nature of the exposure, abuse, longevity and color consistency demanded we use the more time- and cost-intensive integrally colored material. We received the order on the 10th of the September, and were able to ship the entire project within 30 days – thanks to our hardworking manufacturing team.

The transformation must have helped – First Street has been transformed  into a pedestrian promenade that celebrates food and art in the desert during their Feast on the Street.

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The day that we were taking the pictures happened to coincide with watering day. Given that the city had paid for the benefit of our unparalled container irrigation system, we were curious to see if they were using it. Answer: No.  The young man (below) uses the browse head to water the plants, ignoring the tamper resistant stopper and the reservoir. It is one of the more frustrating parts of our business – you can lead a horse to water, but you just can’t make them drink.  This probably could be laid at our door – maybe we didn’t do enough to train them on the use of the system. Nevertheless, the watering system is tailor-made for a place like Phoenix, and it seems a waste that it isn’t being used.

At least the product design delivers value. The double-wall provides insulation for the plants from the hot desert air, and the durable plastic will hold up to anything that the street throws at it. We were glad to help the city when they needed the material, and pleased it looks so good!

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