Lightning Talk: Bringing a Passion for Design, Build and Project Management into the Backyard

Lightning Talks are an opportunity for Roundarch Isobar employees in the Chicago office to give a 5-minute talk on any topic of their choice once a month.?The format gives participants a chance to practice their presentation skills in a stress free setting and for the audience to learn from and about their colleagues.

Sometimes your personality makes it hard to turn those attributes that draw you to a certain career off when you leave work.? For me, taking a requirement, in this case, a playground for my kids, and breaking it down into a wish list, turning that into a design, and then executing is second nature.? When my second son was born, I knew it was the right time.? I had seen all my neighbors taking down their playgrounds for their now teenage kids, so I decided to build it while they were young and make it flexible so I could convert it into a few other things later on (perhaps a gazebo or rock garden).

I started the project by digging eight 42 inch deep pilings.? I tried to use a rented towable auger, but that turned into a real interesting (read?panic then, funny now) moment when I got the bit stuck 3 feet deep with my rental time ticking down.? I ended up getting about 20 inches on each hole, then digging the rest by hand.? I used colored concrete for the supports, and then began constructing using 6X6 posts.? The day I began putting up the structure also led to a perilous moment, as I had 10 foot posts balanced by supports trying to get them level, when a very strong thirty mile-an-hour wind flipped one of the heavy posts into the air and sent a 2×4 hurtling at my head.? With great help from my father-in-law, I got the project started that day.? I continued to execute my plan throughout the summer, adding the suspension bridge, decking, the tunnel, eight yards of dirt, rock wall, and two tons of granite boulders.

One of my goals was to design the playground big enough so we all could play on it together.? One of my favorite moments in our backyard is climbing up the tree trunk steps taken from our family farm, going up the platform, across the bridge with my two sons and wife, and then sliding down the slide all to repeat the whole circuit.? The boys can circle like that over and over again.? The smiles on their faces and the fun they have make all the sweat, toil, bumps and bruises all worth it.