Tournesol Siteworks

GFRC concrete fits this multi-family residential project

We wanted to share a project in our own backyard that we particularly like.


Ambassador Residences in Emeryville, CA

Designed by Cliff Lowe Assoc., this was one of those projects that was conceived prior to the downturn, then mothballed for several years. We are glad to have been able to be part of the revival. Multi-family residential communities are the backdrop for a lot of the work that we do. They are demanding in terms of traffic and abuse, so demand something that wears as well as it looks!


Installed by our friends at Cohen Landscape (a division of Celtis Group), the project features our lightweight GFRC concrete containers, including the Downtown and Wilshire Collections, in a variety of sizes and shapes.

To create a visually interesting display, the design called for the Downtown pots in 24″, 36″ and the enormous 60″ sizes, as well as a large number of Wilshire rectangles 72 x 24 x 24. All of the pots were completed in our acid-etch finish in the shark color.


The containers have a natural stone feel that fit well with the modern design aesthetic. It’s a look and feel that can’t be replicated in painted fiberglass – the reason that we manufacture in both FRP and lightweight concrete.


While providing durability and value, these light-weight planters hold up to the rigors of an high-traffic, multi-family landscape. A great example of what we do every day!

October Round Up

The GreenBuild International Conference took place last week in New Orleans. It was great for us to connect with our partners at Ewing Irrigation, who showcased many of our products in their booth, including our Boulevard wood tiles and VersiJack pedestal system.
Chris Lyon (right) with the Ewing Water Management Team
When the show traffic slowed some, we ducked out to the New Orleans Riverwalk Terrace (also known as the Spanish Plaza) to visit with Rotolo Consultants and discuss a problem that had come up on the project. Overall, the design (by Studio Outside) looks great.

Finally, we didn’t want you to miss out on what’s going on in our Hayward facility. While we might be busy working on your future projects, we are also having a little fun with our pumpkin carving contest. Anyone who follows us on Facebook has had the chance to vote for their favorites! Looks like the competition is fierce. Happy Halloween to you all!


A Fashionable & Efficient Vertical Garden

The remodel need was obvious: Build a new fence that would screen the neighboring property. In addition, it needed to be a useful and aesthetic part of the back garden landscape while providing a water efficient and low maintenance place to grow fresh veggies and herbs.
The solution from James Davidge at Davidge Design Studio: Install a Tournesol VGP living wall just in front of the fence. The wall was installed by setting three 6×6 redwood posts in concrete and then creating a frame of 2×4 & 2×6 redwood upon which the plastic grid was attached.
“We installed separate posts and frame instead of just mounting to the new fence posts to make sure we avoided overloading the fence with the weight of the green wall.  We also ordered an extra plastic grid that we cut up and used on a diagonal to fill the gap between the green wall frame and the fence and hung the VGP from it.  We felt that this custom bit made a big impact on the way the wall ended up looking.”
 The wall faces due south so it gets lots of sun throughout the day.  They found that the top rows were the first to dry out so they added emitters to the rows below to better control overall watering. Allowing for the differences, the pots were filled with a variety of succulents, tender herbs, veggies, and a variety of greens – such as red leaf, butter, romaine and other lettuces and fancy salad greens. Also, planted were 3 varieties of Kale and dwarf golden celery.
In addition to the final visual effect, the VGP wall is it is easy to garden and installation is straightforward. Flexibility in layout and sizing for custom installations, easily removable pots and complete coverage once the plants grow in creates an eye-catching green wall that fits in well to the overall landscape composition. According to James, “It has become the focal point of the garden.”

Recycling & Reuse – a day in Minnesota

I had the opportunity this week to spend a day in the Twin Cities – a gorgeous fall day in the land of ten thousand lakes. Part of my reason for being there was to meet with our thermowood partner, Superior Thermowood. However, I was able to squeeze in several other activities while I was there.


The day started out with a meeting at Wood from the Hood, a company that will be supplying us with urban wood for our Boulevard wood products. Owner Rick and Cindy Siewart have built a vibrant urban lumber business. Ten years ago they began collecting logs from trees felled in the City of Minneapolis, and have gradually expanded to accepting logs from homeowners and tree services from the entire Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Initially they milled the urban lumber and sold it to craftsmen and builders in the area. Over time they’ve expanded to create a series of consumer products made from the locally harvested wood. They are one of the few companies across the country that have managed to create a business in urban lumber – they deserve credit as true pioneers, and we look forward to continuing to support their efforts.

The portable saw mill at Wood from the Hood

The portable saw mill at Wood from the Hood

Wood from the Hood will be collecting ash logs from around the Twin Cities and rough milling them for us. Unfortunately, the Emerald Ash Borer has reached the area and municipalities are proactively removing ash trees to proactively deal with the problem. Wood from the Hood has been turning down many of these trees, as they didn’t have demand for the amount of material available. We’re extremely pleased that they have additional milling capacity, and look forward to converting it to thermally-modified Boulevard products.

Cutting a log on the portable sawmill

Cutting a log at Wood from the Hood

From there I headed over to the Recycling Assoc. of Minnesota/Solid Waste Assoc. of Nort America (SWANA – MN chapter) conference. We were on the agenda in the “Innovative Recycling and Reuse” session. I introduced the combination of thermal modification and urban wood as a way to reduce the demand for South American hardwoods, as well as upcycle trees that would otherwise be chipped or mulch. While most of the group had never heard of ipe, it wasn’t hard to convince the audience that we’re really onto something with the concept of Boulevard wood.ram

If you think recycling and waste removal is mundane, you should see some of the creative and forward thinking programs that were being discussed. One of the other speakers spearheaded a program at the Univ. of Minnesota that kept more than 100,000 lbs. of student end-of-the-year throwaways out of the landfill, distributing the usable material to non-profits in the Twin Cities. Another speaker discussed the educational programming they’ve created to teach recycling to the elementary- and middle-school crowd. These are topics that truly affect us all!

at the RAM/SWANA conference

Speaking at the RAM/SWANA conference

By the way, the topic of my presentation was “Wood, technology and doing the right thing”. If any group would like to hear the 20 minute presentation, either live or via the web, just drop me an email.

From our latest Email Blast – Renovations & Renewals

This rooftop renovation just took a walk on the on the wild side! Pennsylvania Building Associates, owners of the property at 1275 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington D.C., needed to hide some mechanical units on their roof. Architect Hickok Cole suggested a green wall to create a decorative “screen.” Gregory Long ofCapitol Greenroofs (who took all the pictures here) worked and James Davis Construction to create this 42′ x 8′ free standing vegetated wall. The image below was taken midway through the summer, approx. 6 months after the initial installation.


The wall, shown below several months after install, is comprised of 92 vegetatedVGM3-10 modules planted with a mixture of drought tolerant perennials including Heuchera americana, Coreopsis verticillata, Allium, Carex, Pholx and Sedum. Each module has 8″ of growing media, which will provide good insulation for both the cold winters and hot summers of Washington. Capitol Greenroofs opted to use Tournesol’s VGM Media Block on the front half of the module (the front 4″), which they commented allow for a better grow-in.


The VGM modules were hung on the frame using  stainless steel mounting rails, and the the entire custom 4″ and 6″ tube steel support structure was mounted to the concrete roof deck. Capitol Greenroofs installed a fertigation system with a Dosatron injector and a 55 gal. barrel that holds water soluble fertilizer. The fertilizer, by Plantex Solutions, is 17-5-17 and contains several different micronutrients. The system is run off a Hunter controller, and each row of the living wall has a remote zone controller. While this is relatively complex, it points out the need to have an experienced professional collaborating in the design, and performing the installation and maintenance.


Capitol Greenroofs also incorporated our FRP Wilshire pots along with CWM modular container irrigation system (seen to the left and to the right of the living wall) to create an instant oasis on the rooftop. Tournesol is proud of our ability to provide a “one-stop-shop” for both designers and contractors greening a rooftop.


From Coast to Coast

Our partners, Tom and Sheila Boyce from DeepStream Designs, visited us from Florida last week. It was a great opportunity to show them our facility and give them a deeper understanding of our products and processes. While they were here, they shared with us images from one of their latest east coast Tournesol installations.

Movable fiberglass planters on casters at Rockerfeller Center by DeepStream Designs

Rockefeller Center’s Summer Garden

DeepStream Designs worked with Bob and Karen Hoffbauer of Julius Roehrs Co., and their client, Patina Group for this restaurant area located directly at Rockefeller Center.

Movable fiberglass planters on casters at Rockerfeller Center by DeepStream Designs

Our Wilshire Rectangles and Urban square planters were a perfect choice for this location – easily adding green to the urban environment and being able to stand up to the abuse of a heavily trafficked restaurant. Placing them on casters enabled easy and fast reconfiguration of the space – critical for this multi-purpose location!

Movable fiberglass planters on casters at Rockerfeller Center by DeepStream Designs

The Urban Collection is sleek, simple, elegantly proportioned and tapered to work with most modern designs. The Wilshire rectangles are a straight-walled product that when placed next to one another appears as a long continuous wall.  Both are available in FRP fiberglass and lightweight GFRC concrete, in a huge range of sizes and durable enough for most installations.

Movable fiberglass planters on casters at Rockerfeller Center by DeepStream DesignsWe’ve been working with DeepStream Designs for years, and appreciate them including us in this high profile location!


Revisiting the past – How our pots hold up

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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


Upcycle … An email blast update

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.


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.


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 .


Revitalize – From our August email blast

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.