By Angela Maloney
Outdoor spaces can offer a place to play, to work, to explore, to connect and to learn. After a year of changing guidelines and imposed restrictions, the outdoors have become more important than they ever have been and perhaps should always be. Are your school facilities and exterior spaces equipped with the appropriate site amenities to promote safe and effective outdoor experiences?
Site furniture is an increasingly important element to campus design. It is essential in welcoming outdoor interaction and guiding how a common area is used or perceived. Furnishing your exterior spaces with the right products provides essential functions for students, faculty and visitors:
- Table sets can serve as resources for outdoor classrooms, cafeteria extensions, study areas, courtyard furnishings or for interactive playground seating.
- Benches provide outdoor waiting areas at school entrances and bus stops or function as amphitheater-style outdoor classroom settings. They can also be used for prayer gardens or “Buddy Bench” playground applications.
- Litter receptacles keep trash in its place and help to maintain a clean campus, especially in busy spectator areas near sports fields or where students gather outdoors.
- Bike racks encourage alternative transportation and define bicycle parking zones.
- Recycling containers promote responsible campus-wide disposal practices.
- Bollards offer perimeter security and can restrict vehicular access to student areas.
- Planters add floral aesthetics and an inviting atmosphere.
Beyond the essential functions, here are some other considerations in choosing site furniture for your school property.
Look for Durable Materials
Outdoor furnishings need to be built to withstand wind, weather and the daily abuse of high-volume usage. Powder-coated, fully welded steel products offer the best durability for lasting installations. The weight of steel keeps the products in their place, while the powder coat finish provides protection from rusting, fading or peeling to keep your products looking beautiful year-round. Powder coating offers a smooth, lustrous finish that is low maintenance and easily wiped cleaned. For additional health and safety, inquire about anti-microbial powder coat finish options.
With many product choices and different prices on the market, keep in mind the price-to-life ratio. In the simplest terms, you get what you pay for. When looking for a bench, bike rack, litter receptacle or any other site furniture piece, make an investment in something that lasts. Consider the value of a time-tested product that will not require frequent replacements and will continue to enhance your grounds for years to come.
Coordinate Your Property
When choosing product designs and colors, take note of the overall architectural themes and styles of your property. Whether your property has new, modern buildings or classic architecture, select site amenities and product colors that appropriately blend in with the surroundings and complement existing campus décor.
It is beneficial to use the same site furniture supplier for all of your furnishings to ensure the color and design elements are consistent throughout your campus. Choose a standard for your site furnishings and stick with it for future additions to maintain a cohesive campus plan.
If you have a specific vision in mind, no need to compromise. Make sure you get products that exactly meet the needs of your school. Find a site amenities company that can accommodate custom requests if needed. ADA-accessible tables, benches with center arms for separation, kid-sized options or completely custom ideas should easily be possible with a made-to-order manufacturer.
You can even utilize custom outdoor furnishings to reinforce your school’s identity. Choose a custom powder coat finish to showcase your school colors or plan to incorporate school logos, crests or names. With laser cut logos, decals or cast bronze plaques on furnishings, you can personalize your products and help generate school pride and recognition throughout campus.
Fundraising with Furnishings
Limited funds and budget restrictions are common problems faced by many schools. Encourage fundraising and community involvement by offering sponsorships, memorials and dedications on site furniture. With the addition of personalized cast bronze plaques or other graphic customizations, it becomes easier to solicit donors to help fund campus improvement projects.
Specifically, donor benches are a popular concept for schools and educational facilities to raise funds. By offering donor recognition on attached plaques, these benches honor school benefactors and local sponsors while adding necessary outdoor seating to the property.
The Lasting Impact of Exterior Furnishings
Studies consistently show that getting outside and connecting with nature provides numerous health and wellness benefits. Beyond any pandemic concerns, outdoor spaces will continue to encourage and nourish students now and well into the future.
Whether you are looking for customized products to promote your school’s image or if you are just looking to take more school activities outside, make sure you are equipped with high-quality, lasting site furnishings to accommodate public use.
Well-placed outdoor furniture not only makes a great first impression to parents and visitors, but it also provides a lasting impact on the well-being of students, faculty and staff.
Angela Maloney is the director of marketing at Keystone Ridge Designs, Inc., which has been providing campuses and outdoor public spaces with a diverse line of high-end, commercial-grade and American-made site amenities for over 25 years, www.keystoneridgedesigns.com.