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Green Spaces Positively Influence the Mental Development of Children

Many parents hope their child will get into a good college. That motive is frequently behind where parents choose to buy a home. They want the best possible school district for their kids.

Heckscher Park, Huntington, NY

Heckscher Park, Huntington, NY

But as study after study shows, parents might want to also look at how green the district is — or how green their own residential neighborhood will be. For one recently published study suggests that growing up among green surroundings can improve a child’s IQ. 

This study covered in The Guardian earlier this week analyzed what happens to a child’s IQ when the green space is increased. The average IQ score of children in the study went up by 2.6 points in both richer and poor neighborhoods. 

Analyst believe that perhaps this cognitive development came about because green areas lower stress levels, encourage play, and that a quieter environment is conducive to increased social contact.

Other studies, like a Danish one published last year proved, for example, that living near a park or forest may aid a child’s mental health later in life — giving children a 55% lower risk of developing a mental disorder. 

In addition to choosing a town or area with lots of green public spaces, one’s private residential property can be landscaped to ensure sufficient green space for your children. 

“We love being in the business of creating such harmonious landscapes. Of course, not all properties make it easy to design such a space,” says our owner Dave Stockwell. “Sometimes the property’s grades or its size make it a challenge. One of the things we do well at Deck and Patio is manipulate grades within the different levels so the family can get the maximum enjoyment.”

Landscaping for Children (Long Island/NY):

Landscaping for Children (Long Island/NY):

This is a good example (left) of just such careful manipulation.

Deck and Patio worked with True Blue Swimming Pools (Dix Hills) to design and build a lagoon-style pool on this property which included a swim-up bar, yet we still managed to leave some lawn space where their children could play.

“The homeowners had previously spoken with other pool and landscape companies, who all wanted to put the pool where the lawn is. But Michael Truehart of True Blue felt it was a pity to use up that flat piece of lawn, where the children loved to play,” adds Dave. 

“What was required in order to allow for that was a lot of creative landscaping within the grades, including the pool design. We just had to sculpt the unusual elevated terrain so as to incorporate all that was on their wish list.”

 

Green Space with Water Features

‘Green’ doesn’t mean only an expansive lawn. A natural environment that aids in the reduction of stress in both children and adults includes lush vegetation as well as, perhaps, a pond, or other water feature for that extra dose of tranquility. 

Deck and Patio’s design for this project not only included lots of green space and a waterfall area but an attractive patio for relaxation.

Green/Natural Spaces (Long Island/NY):

Green/Natural Spaces (Long Island/NY):

“We also try to keep as many trees as possible when we design an upgrade to someone’s landscaping,” says Dave Stockwell. “Trees are a precious commodity for our well being in so many ways, not to mention they offer a haven to birds.”

Indeed, one of our blogs a few months ago reported on another study regarding the benefits of birdsongs to humans. It said, “depending on the particular birdsong and its type and frequency, the sound of birds can actually help one feel better and react more positively to life — offering restoration from stress and cognitive fatigue.” 

Even a small waterfall and/or pond is a perfect place for birds to refresh themselves and have a drink.

 

Ponds, Pool, and Green Space

Keeping Plenty of Green Space (Long Island/NY):

Keeping Plenty of Green Space (Long Island/NY):

This project (left) was actually 3 bodies of water if you include the swimming pool. Our client wanted 2 ponds, one for fish only, and one for water garden plants. 

What happened was surprising. The lower pond was the fish pond (it made sense, because the fish might swim down stream into the lower pond if it were the other way around).

“However we were shocked when the client called and told us that the fish were jumping over the waterfall stone and swimming up stream and into the upper pond. I guess you can’t beat mother nature,” says Dave.

This project shows the opposite of our first example above. This property is not sloped at all, which shows it’s not necessary to have a yard with a slope to plan a beautiful water garden. Not to mention, a flat property allows for lots of green space for play. 

“It’s all about scale and proportion to achieve a serene vista,” says Dave. “And of course, utility. We were able to leave lots of green play space as well. It’s great when you can plan the landscape for both children and adults.”

 

 

Backyard Upgrades: Time to Spring Into Action

“If there’s one thing we dislike in our work,” says our own Dave Stockwell, “it’s disappointing a potential client’s request for a special backyard upgrade in time for the upcoming outdoor season.”

Mid February, he adds, may sound to some very early to plan. But once robins are singing and trees are budding, the phones at Deck and Patio have been ringing for many weeks with requests for projects. 

“So it’s best to begin the process in late winter,” Dave adds. “Beginning early not only allows time to come up with a design plan that isn’t rushed, it also provides sufficient time to check on local variances and to secure permits. Many towns and villages on Long Island, for example, have different codes and requirements; delays in approval are common.”

Other key parts of the design/bid process include pulling the right people together for every aspect of the project. Starting early ensures each team will be available at the right time to work in a way that doesn’t slow the job down.

The "A" Team: Deck and Patio Works with HGTV's Pool Kings

The “A” Team: Deck and Patio Has worked with HGTV’s Pool Kings

Choosing the right designer/builder is perhaps the most important decision you have to make when planning your outdoor retreat. Here are just a few of the questions you should consider:

—  Will your design/build firm be using subcontractors and if so, are they licensed and insured? Who will be responsible for any repairs during the warranty?

—  Will your design/builder obtain town codes and zoning information or will you be doing this? Some firms such as The Deck and Patio Company can introduce you to an expeditor to help in the permit process, if required.

—  Take the time necessary to verify the references of your designer/builder and how many workers will be on the site at any given time. Will there be a supervisor there, for example.

—  Review any contracts carefully before signing on. Ensure you have all the warranty information that was promised.

 

 

 Hiring a Landscaping Contractor Booklet

Hiring a Landscaping Contractor Booklet

“In fact, there are so many important things to consider early in the process that we have created a booklet, “10 Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Landscape Contractor,” says Dave.

“This brochure spells out in detail a variety of things to be considered before you begin. You can get a copy by stopping by our design center, or just call or email us for one.”

 

 

 

Landscape Planning Should Begin in Winter (Long Island/NY):

Landscape Planning Should Begin in Winter (Long Island/NY):

Even if there’s snow on the ground, a good design/build firm is able to see underneath it to plan an outdoor retreat. In fact, we built these dual ponds (immediately above) for a client during winter. 

“The ground was getting hard and it was brutally cold,” says Dave. “But, in one way, it was a good time of year for such a project because we had more time in our schedule than we usually do in spring. So it was cold, but stress-free.”

This water feature was designed as an ecosystem pond with a natural-looking moss rock waterfall. It includes a stone bridge. And the stream we added just behind the pond feeds the pond area and boasts an additional waterfall.

 

Planning Landscape Projects in 3-D Animation (Long Island/NY):

Planning Landscape Projects in 3-D Animation (Long Island/NY):

It is great if your designer/builder can show you through computer animation what your backyard upgrade will look like before you commit to the plan. Everything in this project, including the house (unseen here) patio, pool, waterfalls, outdoor kitchen and expanded pond were shown clearly in the animation — even the natural gas campfires.

 

Natural Vanishing Edge Pond (Eatons Neck/NY):

Natural Vanishing Edge Pond (Eatons Neck/NY):

This serenely unique vanishing edge pond belies the challenges (town codes/design planning) that were required to bring it all about. Being located on a bluff on a highly regulated area of Long Island’s north shore (Eaton’s Neck), there were lots of regulations regarding building near the cliff’s edge.

Deck and Patio came up with a natural vanishing edge “pond” design instead of a pool which satisfied the code regulations. But it took early planning to not only get permits but to also create the pond’s complex natural biological filtration system that maintains the pond’s crystal clear water.

 

Backyard Water Features (Long Island/NY):

Backyard Water Features (Long Island/NY):

Planning glorious backyard water features takes time, especially if you want a man-made feature like this to appear as if Mother Nature designed it herself. This requires ordering and installing the perfect-sized rocks and boulders that urge the water to flow in natural spills into either a pond or pondless-reservoir.

 

 

When To Start Planning a Backyard Retreat

When landscaping firms such as Deck and Patio recommend planning an outdoor retreat before spring arrives, it isn’t self-serving. It is because, if left too late, it may not be possible for a client’s dream backyard to be completed for the year’s outdoor season.

“It’s best to begin in late winter,” says Deck and Patio owner Dave Stockwell. “Beginning early not only allows time to come up with a design plan that isn’t rushed, but it also provides sufficient time to check on local variances and secure permits. Many towns and villages on Long Island, for example, have different codes and requirements, and delays in approval are common.”

Other key parts of the design/bid process, says Dave, include pulling together those needed for every aspect of the project. Starting early ensures each team will be available at the right time to work in a way that doesn’t slow the job down.

Deck and Patio at work

Deck and Patio at work

Choosing the Right Designer/Builder

Choosing the right designer/builder is perhaps the most important decision you have to make when planning your outdoor retreat. Here are just a few of the questions you should consider:

—  Will your design/build firm be using subcontractors and if so, are they licensed and insured? Who will be responsible for any repairs during the warranty?

—  Will your design/builder obtain town codes and zoning information or will you be doing this? Some firms such as The Deck and Patio Company can introduce you to an expeditor to help in the permit process, if required.

—  Take the time necessary to verify the references of your designer/builder and how many workers will be on the site at any given time. Will there be a supervisor there, for example.

—  Review any contracts carefully before signing on. Ensure you have all the warranty information that was promised.

 

Deck and Patio brochure

Deck and Patio brochure

 

“In fact, there are so many important things to consider early in the process that we have created a booklet, “10 Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Landscape Contractor,” says Dave.

“This brochure spells out in detail a variety of things to be considered before you begin. You can get a copy by stopping by our design center, or just call or email us for one.”

 

 

Landscape Planning Should Begin in Winter (Long Island/NY):

Landscape Planning Should Begin in Winter (Long Island/NY):

Even if there’s snow on the ground, a good design/build firm is able to see underneath it to plan an outdoor retreat. “We use surveys and Google Earth, etc. to plan any backyard refurbishment,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

 

Planning Landscape Projects in 3-D Animation (Long Island/NY):

Planning Landscape Projects in 3-D Animation (Long Island/NY):

As we highlighted in last week’s blog, it is great if your designer/builder can show you through computer animation what your backyard upgrade will look like before you commit to the plan. Everything in this project, including the house (unseen here) patio, pool, waterfalls, outdoor kitchen and expanded pond were shown clearly in the animation — even the natural gas campfires.

 

Home Contractor and Landscaper Cooperation (Long Island/NY):

Home Contractor and Landscaper Cooperation (Long Island/NY):

These homeowners brought Deck and Patio on board early on when they were designing their home. This helped create a seamless integration of the landscape and nature with the home’s architecture — the architect even changed his design of the home’s turret in order ensure views from within would capture the various outdoor vistas. (Note: The town involved had strict setback requirements; we brought our 3-D animated landscaping plan to the town which aided in getting the permit granted quickly.)

 

Natural Vanishing Edge Pond (Long Island/NY):

Natural Vanishing Edge Pond (Long Island/NY):

This serenely beautiful vanishing edge pond belies the challenges (town codes/design planning) that were required to bring it all about. Being located on a bluff on a highly regulated area of Long Island’s north shore (Eaton’s Neck), there were lots of regulations regarding building near the cliff’s edge. Deck and Patio came up with a natural vanishing edge pond design instead of a pool which satisfied the code regulations. But it took early planning to not only get permits but to also create the pond’s complex natural biological filtration system that maintains the pond’s crystal clear water.

 

Backyard Water Features (Long Island/NY):

Backyard Water Features (Long Island/NY):

Planning glorious backyard water features takes time, especially if you want a man-made feature like this to appear as if Mother Nature designed it herself. This requires ordering and installing the perfect-sized rocks and boulders that urge the water to flow in natural spills into either a pond or pondless-reservoir.

 

 

Property Upgrades: Time To See Under the Snow…to Spring

Attention fellow snow-bound Northerners: Now this may be difficult. But, if you are thinking of any upgrades to your property, it is best — despite all the white stuff  — to look under the snow and see Spring.

“Everyone thinks because there’s so much snow on the ground, they can’t plan or figure out what can be done,” says Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter. “But, all of a sudden, the snow melts, and our phones ring off the hook.”

Although Deck and Patio has several designers on staff, Renter says that because so many wait until Spring to contact us, it can take weeks for someone to get out to see them.

“What potential clients don’t realize is, we don’t have to see the ground to plan,” says Renter. “If there’s an existing patio or pool, that’s one thing. It’s helpful to see those. But for the most part, we can work through surveys and Google Earth.”

That’s fine you might be thinking. But you don’t want to just begin blind. Well, consider this. Deck and Patio will work up a plan and also provide a 3-D rendering, or video so clients won’t have to rely on their imagination.

 

Landscape Planning

Landscape Planning

Believe it or not, good design/build firms can “see underneath the snow” by using surveys and Google Earth, etc. to come up with a property upgrade plan for spring: be it adding a pool, spa, pond, waterfalls, or just lush plantings.

 

"Pool Studio" 3-D Animations

“Pool Studio” 3-D Animations

Our team worked with this homeowner (see photo above) through the use of a computer software program called “Pool Studio,” which is a 3-D animation program that allows viewers to literally fly over and walk through a project as it is developing.

All aspects of this project’s design  — from the existing house to the proposed patio, pool, waterfalls, outdoor kitchen, and expanded pond – could be experienced in motion — even the gas campfires. This was particularly helpful, in order to fully appreciate the water-to-water views of the proposed vanishing edge pool.

 

Winter Landscape Planning

Winter Landscape Planning

These clients (photo above) say that when work began, the initial piles of dirt and stone panicked them. “I soon learned everything Bill

[Renter] did had a purpose and I came to enjoy watching each stage unfold,” said the client. Because the property was flat, our 3-D renditions showed how different patio levels would make the yard appear bigger — even what the views would look like from various parts of the house.

 

AutoCAD 3-D Animation

AutoCAD 3-D Animation

Again, we used AutoCAD and 3-D animation to show how this multilevel pool area would change. We showed how we would turn what the client described as a problem area into a feature, by enlarging the upper area, where the client liked to sit in the shade and enjoy the view. The lower area was expanded for sunning; an outdoor kitchen was added for entertaining.

 

 

Backyard Upgrades

Backyard Upgrades

It’s okay if you look outside and have no idea how to plan for Spring. The key is: design/build experts do know, and those such as The Deck and Patio Company have the ability to show you what to expect during, and after, the work takes place.