Brock Elementary School Natural Playscape (with cost information!), Skala Design, Vancouver Canada, 2010

One of the things I wish I could bring you more of on the blog is how much projects cost, but I often simply can’t access that information.   So I really appreciate Alexa Uhrich of Skala Design in Vancouver providing me with the expenses of their project to help those of you planning a natural playscape or classroom garden.

“Generous donations were received from the surrounding community. Douglas Fir logs were supplied and delivered by the Vancouver School Board and the boulders were sourced from an adjacent construction site and delivered free of charge to site by Ventana Construction. A special thank you was also extended to local real estate agent Paul Eviston for his contribution by means of a stone carving.”

Communities are often very willing to donate to playground projects, but we need to question why we’re asking them for $50,000-$100,000 when a space like this was developed for under $9,000?   To be fair, there was ‘equipment’ already available at the school, so this installation didn’t even require swings or slides, which should not be neglected in even the most natural of playgrounds.

Project Costs:
$6,763: School Board construction crew costs for demolition, base preparation, supply and installation of timber edging, bark mulch pathways, topsoil and composted mulch, planting, placement of Douglas-fir logs and placement of boulders using truck crane.
$935: Supply and delivery of plants from a local nursery.
$500: Stone carving to thank donor.
$500: Grant from Evergreen ( that went toward purchase of native plants.
The total project construction cost was under $9,000

“As the garden has grown over the last two years, its play value has increased. Kids play hide and seek inside mature native shrubs, dig holes to compost their recess snacks and use the boulders and logs to play games. One of the wonderful things that has been observed in the garden is that kids of all ages play together and often choose to play in this space rather than on nearby equipment.”

I love that they compost their snacks!

[all photos from Skala Design]

5 Responses to “Brock Elementary School Natural Playscape (with cost information!), Skala Design, Vancouver Canada, 2010”

  1. AnitaVan Asperdt said:

    Interesting to read that Cass feels this play area is a little “blah”. I wonder why, maybe perhaps because it is simple and just focusses on some boulders, trunks and planting and there are no exciting big things for climbing. Nature play areas can look very unassuming to adults, just a bush to play under can be an endless imaginary world to children. I think this is actually a good example of what schools with very limited budgets can do. Michelle is correct though by mentioning that planning , design and project management are not accounted for, I would add at least another 2K for that when using this as an example. Nonetheless, an important example.

    November 25, 2014 at 8:37 pm

  2. arcady said:

    Thanks for the comment, Cass, but I note from your company's website the following budgets for playground builds:


    That's alot of dough.
    I'm pleased to show my readers what can be done with $9000.

    August 02, 2012 at 4:53 pm

  3. landartista said:

    Thanks for posting this! I think the cost issue is such an important piece. One thing I did not see accounted for is design and project management/ coordination. Someone has volunteered a lot of time to make this happen and that is often overlooked.

    The resulting space is really nice. I like the large plant materials, boulders and logs. They create a nice scale. It is so hard to tell how much play can happen in this space. It really depends on how the kids use it and how the adults encourage playful use and exploration.


    August 02, 2012 at 4:02 pm

  4. said:

    Picking up Cass's comment: I'd say it's more of a play garden than a playground [discuss] – and a modest one at that. Nice to hear the planting is growing and creating new play opportunities as well as offering children insights into everyday nature and seasonal change: a definite plus in a good natural playscape, which you just don't get in a conventional play area. Still: it was $9000!

    August 02, 2012 at 2:25 pm

  5. Cass Jenis said:

    I love natural, sustainable playgrounds as much as the next girl, but I have to say, this one seems a little blah.

    Love from Play by Design!

    August 01, 2012 at 10:37 pm

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