Designing Modern Park Facilities: Part 1 of 3 Internal and External Building Components – The Unsung Heroes of Park Facilities


  • Engineering Leadership


Park Facilities

May 6, 2018

The National Recreation and Park Association (NPRA) estimate that Americans visit their local parks and recreation facilities an average of 29 times per year. Forest Park alone attracts 13 million visitors annually, and one-day events such as the Great Forest Park Balloon Race attracts thousands of visitors in a single day. With this type of high usage by the general public, it’s no wonder that park facilities, such as pavilions and comfort stations, can take a real beating and be the unfortunate targets of graffiti and other types of vandalism.

From an architecture and engineering perspective, designing park and recreation facilities is a challenge that can reap high rewards when their structures are put to the test and successfully survive the rigors of people and time. Which brings us to Part One of our three-part series – internal and external building components, the real unsung heroes of park facilities that serve as the backbone of good park design and (we are confident) silently appreciated by park visitors:

  • Non-absorbent, no-smell interiors with appropriate finishes and fixtures for longevity and ease of maintenance
  • Maintenance free, graffiti-resistant building materials and finishes with appropriate barrier coatings to promote preventative maintenance such as non-stick, non-mark paints and coatings or polyurethanes
  • Durable, exterior grade, high-performance light fixtures with freeze-proof components and vandal- resistant lenses
  • Vandal-resistant, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) compliant electrical power and distribution systems properly bonded and grounded within rigid water-tight conduits and incorporation of lightning protection systems with the ground grid
  • Environmentally-friendly composting toilets for non-urban parks that treat human excreta by composting or aerobic decomposition that eliminates clogged toilets and flooded bathrooms
  • Green eco-friendly mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that provide high performance and low operating costs as well as low maintenance and easy serviceability
  • ADA Standards for Accessibility for use by individuals with disabilities per the Code of Federal Regulations
  • Mechanical, electrical and plumbing utility infrastructure components (utility sinks, hose bib, trench drains, floor drains and electric outlets) that are placed in hard-to-reach areas for the general public, yet easily accessible to maintenance personnel

Ross & Baruzzini recently designed a new concession stand/comfort station and pavilion for the City of St. Louis Forest Park that successfully integrates the aforementioned design features, resulting in truly useful and functional structures built to withstand high usage for many years to come.

About the contributor: As Director of Government Services for Ross & Baruzzini, Mr. Michael Shea, AIA manages all aspects of the firms A/E services relative to delivering projects to government, including municipal, state and federal agencies.  He has over 30 years of government facility experience as a planner, designer, architect, project manager or principal-in-charge and has successfully executed over 200 projects in the government sector.

Stay tuned for part two of our three-part park series which will compare urban vs. rural park planning from architect/engineer and local landscape architect perspectives.