Creating a Grand Entrance with Stratacells

Creating a Grand Entrance with Stratacells

By Kristyn M. Levis

Monash University

Monash University’s Law Forecourt in Victoria has been remodelled into a pedestrian friendly green space using the Citygreen® modular Stratacell™ system.

Arborgreen worked with Outlines Landscape Architecture to create a tree pit design for the trees in the forecourt that would allow the trees to establish in good health and provide the needed canopy cover for the shading of the area.

“The design team chose the Citygreen Stratacell system to provide adequate volume of uncompacted, friable growing medium below the expanses of pedestrian pavement,” said Rod Gooden, Arborgreen Area sales Manager.

The Law Forecourt redevelopment project, which started in January 2012, was one of the many upgrades in the university. The rejuvenation of the area is part of the strategic aims of the Monash Masterplan.

The project was done alongside works at both the Law and Menzies buildings to “provide a seamless, high quality forecourt space with improved accessibility and visual appeal”. The area has a series of canopy trees, which will provide good shade when they mature.

Monash University in Victoria

The project’s complex brief included creating a sense of arrival to the campus, as well as at each building entry point; stimulating activity and pedestrian access; improving the interface between the Law and Menzies buildings’ facades; mitigate the discomfort caused by the extensive shading from the Menzies building, particularly in the South East Garden by encouraging solar access; and preventing crime through environmental design.

Rod from Arborgreen said the first delivery of the subsurface components was made in February 2012. The landscape works were completed at the end of 2012. The architect picked the 60 series high strength Stratacell due to the access required of heavy service vehicles like EWPs.

“We achieved a vastly increased volume of quality soil for the establishment of the tree’s root, without sacrificing the valuable pavement space,” Rod said.

The ReRoot root control barrier was used to surround the primary tree pit opening to protect the pavement from root intrusion. The Hawthorne DuraPlate tree grate was also chosen to provide an uninterrupted pavement surface due to the volume of pedestrian traffic.

The development remodelled the area into a striking design that suits the current main entrance to the campus. “The previous space was a bowl of pathways and stairs intersecting at various levels, and proved to be not sufficiently accessible. The area has now been updated into a grand entrance and forecourt to the Law faculty and Arts and Humanities faculty,” the university website said.

“The Menzies Law Forecourt project is representative of Monash’s new, University-wide curated approach to landscape developments, with a consistent urban design to be considered for all major spaces on the campus,” the university said.

Damon Obst, director at Outlines Landscape Architect, said the design’s intent was to create a strong civic scale space with great amenity for gathering and socialising, as well as providing legible access and movement through the space. The Stratacell system was used to maximise the performance and long-term success for the grid of trees within the site.

“Trees were typically within pavement areas and the system allowed an expanded subterranean zone for lateral root growth,” Damon said. “It provided a structural matrix, meaning vehicular rated pavements can be laid over the top without heavy compaction. Other systems we’ve used don’t allow this to the same extent.”

Although the system adds some cost to the project, Damon said the “long-term value of the large, healthy trees in urban spaces is one we, and the client, placed a high value on”.

As with most projects, Rod said they encountered un-chartered services, but they were able to adjust the matrix to work around the services. Damon added that in some areas they needed to modify the extent of the Stratacell to allow for below ground services. They had to ensure that irrigation, drainage and other services are all installed and integrated within the system.

“There were some challenges due to the need to match the tree grate location to the final pavement design, but we were able to overcome this by adjusting the dimensions of the tree grate slightly,” Rod said.

These issues were easily dealt with and no other problems were met after that. Damon said the modular system seems to help with the whole installation process.

Monash University in Victoria

The trees have established well and the last time Rod visited the area, they appeared to be in very good health “especially considering the existing compacted soil type and the volume of pedestrian traffic”. Damon agrees saying that “the trees are growing well and consistently”.

This year, students were greeted with colourful sculptures as the final touch to the $2 million refurbishment of the Law Forecourt outdoor area extending from the southern façade of the Menzies Building to the Law Building Forecourt and The Gallery Building.

Dianne O’Neill, Law Faculty Facilities Manager at Clayton, is delighted with the wide-open pedestrian thoroughfare that brings arrivals at the bus loop to the campus.

Built in 1962 and first opened to students in 1963, the Menzies was said to be the largest university building in Australia, standing more than 50 metres tall. It was regarded for its architectural brilliance during its prime. With the refurbishments completed, the “grand old lady of Monash” can now once again shine.

“Great customer service, quick response times and a very in depth QA system with constant support.”

- Laura Wiesenekker, Project Engineer, Densford Civil -

“Citygreen is a very professional  business, and I found everything was great in terms of deliveries, product supply and information. It was all forthcoming and helped us to complete the project.”

- Keith Burns, Architect/Designer, Keith Burns Architect -

“Citygreen offered training and invaluable technical assistance during the works.”

- James Callan, Estimating Manager, Complex Co Pty Ltd -

“Our experience, in working with a Citygreen Design Studio was second to none. We found responses from the design studio to be very timely, and technically thorough. We went backwards and forwards a number of times, looking at different iterations of the design and, nothing was too much trouble to examine and explore different possibilities. I would highly recommend the Citygreen Design Studio to any future client considering using your services.”

- Sandra Smith, Principal Landscape Architect, City Of Monash -

“We are big on compliance on all projects, and the fact that their SmartCertify cloud platform covers all bases, and supports their 20 year warranties, is critical – especially that these pits are being installed under roadways and footpaths.”

- Johny Purkaystha, Civil Program Engineer, Central Coast Council -

"I reviewed all the previous projects that we have installed in the past couple years using your product and I can happily report back that we have 0% mortality in the soil cells, which is incredible!"

- Brendan Wilton, CEO, Trim Landscaping, Bedford, Canada -