Look outside – do you see snow and ice and the dreariness that is winter?
Keep in mind that spring isn’t far away and with it, the annual awakening. It’ll get warmer, baseball practice will start and the sound of lawnmowers will again drift through open windows.
More to the point, the “House for Sale” signs will sprout like dandelions. And across the country, minivans, SUVs and tiny hybrids alike will start the great migration every Sunday afternoon, their occupants spilling forth to walk through real estate open houses.
If you are selling your house, there are a number of things you can do to improve its curb appeal. Conventional wisdom suggests that a contrasting front door means a real “wow factor” during the day, while at night, dramatic lighting can be used to play up the front of the house.
One way that you can set the property apart is to go more permanent than a coat of paint and setting out a few exterior lights. Choose instead to install a walkway–or walkways–out front, made of genuine clay pavers.
Laura Schwind, a registered landscape architect on the staff of Pine Hall Brick Company, America’s largest manufacturer of clay pavers, points out that today’s clay pavers come in a wide variety of colors beyond the classic reds. That means they can be incorporated easily into the exterior design of the home.
“You can look at the trim color or at the roof color,” says Schwind. “Sometimes, people will go lighter to simulate concrete. Sometimes, they will match it to the roof, if they have a roof that lends itself to that. Sometimes, they will go with the traditional red colors, because that’s what they have seen most often.”
It’s a good investment. A study by RealEstate.com suggests that landscaping and hardscaping can deliver a return on investment as high as 150 percent – an ROI that puts it ahead of popular home improvement projects like kitchen or bathroom updates. (We wrote about it here.)
To get started, don’t be afraid to go big. Laying out a walkway that is at least four feet wide – wide enough for two people to pass – or even wider, will make a statement. Everybody else’s walkway on the block will look tiny by comparison.
“It makes even an economical house look like a million bucks,” says Schwind. “It adds so much to curb appeal. It makes it look richer and more impressive. It just makes your house a step up from all the neighbors.”
In terms of design, Schwind noted that a straight-on walkway works well for a formal Colonial house, while a curved walkway might be a better choice for a cottage or bungalow style.
Schwind also says that a common-sense, intentional approach works best for functionality. If there’s a driveway to one side or the other, consider installing one walkway from the street and a second one from the driveway, both ending at the front door.
“It really does make it more functional and you have more visual appeal, because it helps define the space,” says Schwind. “You could also build in an additional garden area in the front with two walkways as well.”
One of the biggest benefits is that the look will last. With clay pavers, the color goes all the way through and never fades. Leave it as it is and the color will become a rich patina over time; clean it with a diluted solution of bleach and water and a nylon brush and it will look exactly the same as the day it was installed. Read more here.
Maintenance is easy, as well. Should a tree root heave several pavers out of place, take out the pavers, set them to one side, dig down and cut the root out, then replace the pavers. Contrast that with a concrete walkway, which will have to be dug up and patched, or replaced entirely, to repair the damage.
After figuring out what kind of pavers you want, the next step is to choose a pattern. A herringbone pattern is effective but will require a lot of cuts, as opposed to a classic running bond or basketweave. Finally, before installation, find and mark where your underground utilities are located. Don’t stop there: offering a clay paver patio out back effectively adds an outdoor room to the living space.
If you are buying and not selling – and if the place doesn’t have a paver walkway up front – envision how it would look with one in place. If there is a poured concrete walkway or patio already there, you could put down thinner pavers made for the purpose atop them and instantly dress up your new home.
We wrote about that here.
In between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Trenton, New Jersey is Crystal Lake Park, an oasis of 370 acres built for hikers, fishermen, bird watchers and horseback riders. It’s an area where you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see 75-foot cliffs.
“We opted to use the Pine Hall Brick pavers to reflect the site’s history with the brick industry. We wanted a nicer paving material so we went with the red pavers.”—Steve Lennon, senior project manager with Taylor Design Group
But you do, because they used to dig into the clay-rich soil of southern New Jersey and make clay bricks, leaving hilly areas where there weren’t any before. Church Brick, which has been in business for 100 years and is across the road from the park, mined clay from the land and made bricks from it until 1970.
Steven Lennon, LLA, ASLA and a senior project manager with Taylor Design Group of Marlton, NJ, which specializes in landscape architecture and park planning and design, wanted to call attention to the brickmaking heritage of the area, so Pine Hall Brick Full Range Red Rumbled clay pavers were specified. (Rumbled pavers are tumbled after firing, which makes them look older than they are.)
Lennon said that the site remains rural in nature and represents an effort on the part of the Burlington County government to preserve a farm belt across the county, by purchasing development rights to farms or buying the land outright. And that’s a significant amount of land, because Burlington County itself goes across the entire state of New Jersey. For its part, Crystal Lake Park is still worked a farmer who rents the land and visitors are urged to stay away from ongoing agricultural operations.
Lennon anticipates one question. Farmland? In New Jersey?
“People don’t think that about New Jersey because it is so influenced by New York,” says Lennon. “But we are similar to North Carolina. We have the same pine woods. And Burlington County is part of the beaches, as well.”
There are, indeed, several similarities. Mansfield Township was once a booming clay mining area. During construction, workers found old bricks that had been used as backfill on the land. Church Brick once had a rail line that ran from its property across the road into what’s now Crystal Lake Park and workers during construction found brick fragments and clinkers, presumably used as backfill during mining operations.
Church Brick is still supplying brick, made by other manufacturers and supplied the clay pavers used at the Crystal Lake Park property. It is a top 10 dealer for Pine Hall Brick Company’s clay pavers and the two firms do share some similarities. Both companies have been around a long time, as Church Brick began in 1916 and Pine Hall Brick began in 1922. And both are still owned by the same families that began them.
At Crystal Lake Park these days, visitors find turf trails for horses and hiking trails, stabilized with gravel, along with dirt trails. Bird watchers, hikers and fishermen are regular visitors to the park. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a $2.6 million development project added about four miles of trails to the park, with special emphasis on leaving the park, as close as possible, to its natural state. Part of the project was to add picnic tables, barbecue grills and restrooms. Another new feature was to add a special horse mounting area to accommodate riders who use wheelchairs.
The newspaper also reported that future plans are to add features that will allow on-road bicyclists, roller-bladers and walkers to use the park. Plans are to pave a 10-foot-wide flat section of a trail, eventually linking it to the 60-mile Delaware River Heritage Trail, which will eventually link 24 towns in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
When the changes do come, the area’s heritage will be remembered in a red-clay reminder.
Photo credits: Taylor Design Group.
Winning awards in your industry, especially when you beat the competition, is a lot of fun. Over the years, Pine Hall Brick has certainly won our share.
But when your product is part of a project that wins an award that honors efforts to clean up the environment, then that’s something of which to be genuinely proud.
In Philadelphia earlier this year, two projects—the Stroud Water Research Center and the Lea Elementary School—won inaugural awards from the Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Partners. The group represents an initiative within the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of Greater Philadelphia.
Both projects used StormPave® genuine clay permeable pavers from Pine Hall Brick Company, installed in a best-practices installation.
(More about the awards are here: http://gsipartners.sbnphiladelphia.org/awards/)
The GSI Partners is a business group that was formed to support the success of Green City, Clean Waters, Philadelphia’s five-year effort to reduce stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows by investing in green stormwater infrastructure. The group acts to ensure that the greenest approaches to stormwater management are used and that public and private investments are spent with local firms.
Telling the environmental story
Older cities mix stormwater runoff and septic sewer. As the cities expand, more pavement means more runoff; more people mean more sewage. Combining the two overtaxes sewage treatment plants that were designed for lower populations, causing overflows that pollute waterways.
Pine Hall Brick Company’s StormPave permeable pavers help by lowering stormwater volumes, directing rain water into the ground where it can be naturally filtered or used to irrigate rain gardens, instead of to storm drains. With less volume for a sewage treatment plant to treat, what remains can be treated more efficiently.
Since the Stroud Water Research Center has studied threats to fresh water for more than four decades, it was appropriate that its new facility follow environmentally sound best practices for handling stormwater. An award description says that rain gardens overflow to an infiltration trench that overflows to additional rain gardens and is eventually dispersed to a restored meadow and woodland. Overflow from the roof goes into cisterns for re-use, while paths are constructed of StormPave permeable pavers.
The Lea Elementary School was a larger project, because it managed stormwater from both the public street and the schoolyard, according to the award description. It involved planting 3,000 perennials, 35 shrubs and 19 trees – and effectively transformed a predominately paved schoolyard into a landscape with four-season appeal and 5500 square feet of StormPave® pavers.
Sara Pevaroff Schuh, RLA, ASLA, principal of SALT Design Studio, said Lea Elementary School followed the design pattern of many Philadelphia public schools: A large asphalt lot in the front, perhaps a basketball court and some play equipment.
Grant money was available to improve stormwater management in public schools and the West Philadelphia Coalition for Neighborhood Schools focused on Lea. A total of $232,000 was approved. The first priority in developing the design theme was to find out more about the community, in which a large number of immigrants, mostly from Africa, live and in which a total of 17 languages are spoken.
The theme, then, presented itself. How did you get here?
“The concept was to look at the journey of a person and the journey of a raindrop,” said Schuh. “We wanted to create a parallel between the two, to find ways that this schoolyard could be about that journey. This schoolyard is to be a home base, a gathering place for people in the community, a place where they could be comfortable being there and not feel out of place. What does it mean to settle in a place and put down roots?”
In a sense, the outside of the school is an extension of the classroom, with the landscape becoming a teaching tool. And how they got there was through meetings with parents, students, school staff and neighbors. Volunteers planted many of the plants and help to maintain the schoolyard, which has effectively engaged the community and encouraged future investment in the project.
To us, that means that although the project itself won an award, the real winners are the people in the Lea Elementary School community. Now and in the decades to follow, we’re betting that they will continue to build a community in that schoolyard in Philadelphia.
A strong foundation—
WFU students, faculty run over Pine Hall Brick pavers to raise money for cancer research
“Hit the Bricks,” an eight-hour relay race along the brick pathway of Hearn Plaza at Wake Forest University to raise money for cancer research in honor of Brian Piccolo was held Oct. 6 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. A final remembrance lap for cancer victims and survivors culminated with a luminary ceremony in front of Wait Chapel at the end of the event, which brings Wake Foresters together for a cause that long has been important to the community.
Over the course of the eight-hour race, Wake Forest students, faculty and staff as well as friends of the University raced to see who could run the most laps around Hearn Plaza, which is laid in Pine Hall Brick clay pavers, and raise the most money.
The Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund was started by students in 1980 in memory of the Wake Forest All-American football player, Brian Piccolo, who attended Wake Forest in the 1960s, went on to become a running back for the Chicago Bears, and died in 1970 of embryonal cell carcinoma, which is closely linked to testicular cancer, at the age of 26.
The "doughnut lap" is an added challenge!
ESPN.com reports that although Piccolo led the nation in rushing and scoring as a senior at Wake Forest in 1964, beating out two-time All-American Gale Sayers among others, he wasn’t drafted. Scouts believed the 5-foot-11, 190-pound back wasn’t big or fast enough.
The Chicago Bears signed Piccolo as a free agent. Piccolo spent a year on the Bears’ taxi squad before rushing 258 times for 927 yards and catching 58 passes for 537 yards from 1966-69. He scored four touchdowns. Although he spent four seasons with the team, he never escaped Sayers’ overwhelming shadow – and wouldn’t live long enough to achieve his dream to become a great NFL running back.
Piccolo’s relationship with Sayers was the centerpiece of “Brian’s Song,” which was made into two movies, one for television and one for theatrical release. In it, Piccolo’s mild temperament, kindness and sense of humor – along with his courageous outlook on life – were on full display.
School landmark, Wait Chapel presides over relay.
The annual “Hit the Bricks” event is a fitting tribute to Piccolo. In 2003, the first year, 17 teams participated and raised nearly $4,000. In 2015, Hit the Bricks met its goal with 100 teams raising more than $42,000 to find a cure for cancer. This year, approximately 125 teams raised more than $47,000.
L-R: David Ellis and Harold Beaty of Pine Hall Brick with student Brett DerGarabedian.
All of the funds raised support the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
For more information about Hit the Bricks and the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund, please visit http://wfuhitthebricks.com.
The two famous oaks at Auburn University – site of generations of celebrations of football victories – were back this fall. Now, one of them is gone again.
The famous oaks, newly replanted, again sprouted long ribbons of toilet paper after Auburn’s shellacking of Arkansas State, 51-14, on Sept. 10. But after another victory two weeks later, someone set fire to one of the two oak trees, causing severe damage. A suspect was arrested.
One of the oldest traditions in college athletics, Auburn students and alumni have traditionally celebrated wins by rolling the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner, which is the intersection of Magnolia Avenue and College Street, the spot where downtown Auburn ends and the Auburn University campus begins. New oaks were planted and the promise was that this fall would be the first time that the celebration would be allowed.
It appeared to be the end of a story that we began telling two years ago next month. But as it turns out, it wasn’t.
The story is that the original oaks, estimated to be 85 years old, were poisoned by an Alabama fan. The old trees came down and a massive environmental cleanup was undertaken. Pine Hall Brick’s permeable StormPave pavers were chosen as one of the materials in the new plaza near the edge of campus.
Subsequently, we reported on the two new 35-foot trees that were planted to replace the oaks that were killed – and the promise at that time was that this fall, the tradition of rolling the oaks after a win on the gridiron would begin again.
And it did, on Sept. 10. But in the early morning hours of Sept. 25, following a victory over LSU and the ritual rolling of the trees, the toilet paper was intentionally set on fire in one of the two oaks, causing serious damage and an uncertain prognosis.
In a prepared statement, professor of horticulture Gary Keever said: “There is little or no healthy foliage on the burnt tree. Most of the remaining leaves will drop off over the next week or so. We will have to wait until next spring to see what long-term effects the fire had.”
Keever will use a lift this week to more closely examine the canopy of the tree.
“I don’t think the fire killed the tree, but we may never see it return to its appearance before this act,” he said.
For now, the tradition will continue, with some changes. Given that the new trees are still being established in the soil, the university had asked students not to climb in them and to stay behind fences. Instead of being removed with fire hoses, the toilet paper will now be removed by hand. Now, the university is asking the students not to roll the fire-damaged tree.
(For more about the Auburn Oaks go here.)
As it was, this first season was one with stops and starts. Students and fans were primed to head down to Toomer’s Corner and loft toilet paper into the heavens as soon as football season started.
But it wasn’t to be. The season, which opened on Sept. 3, ended in a loss to Clemson, 19-13. The second game came out much better. At the end, with a victory margin of 37 points, the party began and the toilet paper flew. See for yourself:
Photos 1 & 3 provided courtesy Auburn University.
In downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, everything’s coming up red. And brown. And beige. And a host of other colors in between — the clay brick pavers in a full range of colors in walkways and patios; the face brick in the vertical walls of newly built apartment buildings and breweries.
Much of it, as it turns out, is from around here. Much of the clay pavers and face brick was manufactured just down Battleground Avenue and US 220 North, 25 or so miles through the North Carolina countryside, at Pine Hall Brick Company’s plants in Madison, North Carolina.
Arguably, the building boom in downtown Greensboro began in earnest with the 2005 opening of Yadkin Bank Park, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, a Class A affiliate of the Miami Marlins baseball team.
The stadium of red brick and wide concourses is intentionally reminiscent of classic open-air ballparks of the past. If you were to stand at home plate and walk to the outfield, you would see the site where a former car dealership’s building was demolished and in its place, the four-story Greenway at Stadium Park apartments went up.
There and across the street at Greenway at Fisher Park Apartments, the tenants are mostly young professionals and students at nearby universities, many of whom can’t recall the flight from downtown to outlying areas and the shuttered buildings which were left in their place.
“All of downtown is moving in the right direction, which is good to see.”
Unlike more conventional neighborhoods, these new residents can leave their homes, walk a block and attend a ball game; or walk a block in another direction and pull up a stool at Joymongers, an innovative brewery that in good weather throws open garage doors and brings the outside indoors.
Dean Schimmenti, an architect for Bradley and Ball, worked on the design of Greenway at Stadium Park, with the main idea being to echo, in a visual sense, the classic lines and architecture of the ballpark.
The deep, reddish brown brick exterior was purposefully selected for the complex and for the Greenway at Fisher Park across the street. Both projects were designed to complement the brick at the ballpark and to look as though they had been there for years.
“On that project, we have an amenities area on the first floor that opens up to a pool and outdoor cabana and on the fourth floor, we have a cantilevered floor and lounge that overlooks the baseball field,” says Schimmenti.
Architect Eric Bradley, who is a partner in Bradley and Ball, said the design’s main theme was to serve as a transition area between downtown and Fisher Park, a 1920s-era neighborhood with Craftsman-style bungalows and brick apartment buildings, a mix of restored single-family homes and rental properties, many occupied by college students.
“We really took our cues, both from the red brick at the ballpark and the traditional homes in Fisher Park,” says Bradley. “It really is for people who live, work and play downtown. If I were single and 30 years younger, that’s where I would like to live.”
While the apartments near the ballpark are where many live, Joymongers is where many go to have fun. Mandy Clift, an architect with J. Hyatt Hammond says that in addition to fitting in with the neighborhood and looking as though it had been there forever, the site itself helped the design team make its decisions as to how the project would finally appear.
“It really had a lot to do with the siting of the building and the patios, because the one side where the street is closed will be a City of Greensboro park in the future,” says Clift. “We also knew we would have a lot of art and signage on that side of the building and we put in recessed areas that would frame that art and that would mimic the opening of those garage doors.”
“We really took our cues, both from the red brick at the ballpark and the traditional homes in Fisher Park.”
The patio, which was designed to provide access to food trucks, the awning that has a unique angle to it, the garage doors which provide a way for a band to play inside and for the audience outside to be a part of it, all relate not only to the design but to the experience, the architect said.
“This is authentic in that it has an Old World feel to it, the brick was tumbled and has broken edges, meaning that it has more character and looks like an older brick,” says Clift.
Clift notes that the placement of an open air brewery just off a planned Downtown Greenway even provides a public service: If you walk, run or bicycle, especially on a summer evening in North Carolina, you gotta have a place to stop and rehydrate.
“Whenever I was younger, I didn’t come downtown to hang out, to shop or to eat,” says Clift. “I am glad to see it evolving the way it is.”
Bradley agreed. Both these projects – and others in downtown Greensboro – are a sign that downtown is on its way back.
“All of downtown is moving in the right direction, which is good to see,” says Bradley. “I have lived here long enough to remember that downtown is someplace where you didn’t go unless you worked there.”
Two Pine Hall Brick projects were honored in the 2016 Bricks In Architecture competition, sponsored by the Brick Industry Association, an industry trade group.
The Kester International Promenade at High Point University in High Point, NC won a Bronze Award in the Higher Education category. The goal was to replace aging concrete sidewalks with new brick pavers that allowed for better flow of foot traffic, while maintaining the beauty of the surroundings. The project specifically avoided mature trees to leave them undisturbed.
In addition, the pavers were used to provide a better entry to the buildings and in an almost subliminal way, to convey the importance of the college experience to students and faculty who were entering the buildings.
The second winner was the Cobb and Douglass County Behavioral Health Center in Marietta, GA, that won a Bronze Award in the Health Care Facilities category.
The Center is intended to ensure the availability of services to those individuals struggling with developmental disabilities and substance abuse issues, irrespective of their financial circumstances. So the overall design intent was to create a facility that did not project an institutional feel. Through the use of multiple brick colors and patterns, the design created a facility that not only doesn’t look like an institution, but does look like a Class A office building.
Brick was chosen because the goal was to have a building that has a long life span, because of brick’s reputation for durability, limited maintenance and cost effectiveness.
The Center is a two-story, 43,042 square-foot facility that has treatment areas and administrative offices on the first floor and shell space on the second floor, for future expansion. It provides stabilization and walk-in services for adults experiencing behavioral healthcare issues. The facility houses a 24-bed stabilization unit with four additional transition beds, a 23-hour observation level program and a clinically staffed walk-in center that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Bronze Award for the Kester International Promenade at High Point University recognized LKC Engineering, pllc, and Robert Hayter of Aberdeen, NC, builders Shelco LLC of Winston-Salem and Toby Hill, along with Pine Hall Brick as manufacturer. Also recognized were masonry contractor PDC Hardscapes of Greensboro, NC and grading contractor Smith and Jennings of High Point, NC.
The Bronze Award for the Cobb and Douglass County Behavioral Health Center recognized Pieper O’Brien Herr Architects and Anthony Turpin of Alpharetta, GA, jB+a Landscape Architecture and Jon Benson of Atlanta, and Batson Cook Builders of Atlanta. Pine Hall Brick Company was recognized as the main brick manufacturer and Forterra Brick of Charlotte was cited as the secondary brick manufacturer. Also recognized were brick distributor, North Georgia Brick Company of Cumming, GA, and masonry contractor, Bibler Masonry of Roswell, GA.