Story at a glance:

  • Plant trays on green roofs improve stormwater management.
  • Stainless steel pools can be up to 100% recyclable at the end of a pool’s life.
  • Outdoor fire features can bring people together in a socially distanced environment.

Spring cleaning so often brings with it many new projects—like improving your decking or starting a green roof, just one of many spring building essentials.

This time of year may also call for a new lawn mower or an improved motorized shade system for a home’s interior or, for developers and architects, it could mean exciting new projects.

Here are what some top design and architecture professionals are recommending for spring building essentials for your upcoming projects

1. Plant trays for green roofs

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Plant trays decrease the amount of materials needed to start a green roof. Photo courtesy of Archatrak

Implementing a green roof can improve stormwater management, help cool a building, reduce the urban heat island effect, and even increase the longevity of a roof.

While the benefits are many, installing a green roof can be difficult. But modular plant trays can simplify the process by eliminating the need for excess components like drainage mats, water retention mats, root barriers, and filter fabric, according to Archatrak’s Malcom Kay, who shared their benefits with us in a previous story for gb&d.

Trays can be “pre-grown”—where trays are already filled with growing plants—or “planted-in-place”—where empty trays are laid on the rooftop and then gradually filled with growing plants over time, Kay writes. Planted-in-place trays offer a bit more design flexibility by allowing owners to install the green roof in phases.

Planter trays are either laid directly on the rooftop or atop an elevated surface, typically fiberglass because it ensures a level surface.

2. Cable railing

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Cable railing brings modern design to the outdoors. Photo courtesy of Key-Link Fencing & Railing

Cable railing is a spring building essential for anyone looking to fuse modern design with nature in their yard. It can be an ideal addition to home styles like the modern farmhouse.

Cable railing replaces traditional balusters with stainless steel cable, giving railings a sleek and modern aesthetic. The railing can run horizontally through posts or vertically between the top and bottom rails.

Another benefit to cable railing is its sustainability. Aluminum and steel are both 100% recyclable, meaning that most manufacturers, like Key-Link Fencing & Railing, are building from recycled material. Plus, both the aluminum railings and stainless steel can be recycled when removed.

3. Moisture barrier

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Moisture control is critical for the longevity of flooring assemblies, like this gym floor. Photo courtesy of ISI Building Products

A vapor (moisture) barrier can help fend off spring showers. Plus, installing one may also save money and headaches caused by damaging water vapor found under concrete.

What are below-slab vapor barriers, and why are they needed? Many people assume that concrete is water-tight, but water vapor can move through concrete—even if there are no cracks. The soil beneath concrete slabs is consistently damp, providing a continuous cycle of rising water vapor. To mitigate the migration of water vapor from soil to slab, install a below-slab vapor barrier.

Vapor barriers can be made of various materials, with some being glass, sheet metal, or polyethylene sheet. Though thickness does not always correlate to performance, vapor barriers are commonly available in 8-mil, 10-mil, 15-mil, and 20-mil thicknesses, according to Dario Lamberti, the general manager of ISI Building Product’s Engineered Films Division.

In the long run, a below-slab vapor barrier will protect a building from humidity, mold, and mildew.

4. Outdoor lawn mower

Spring building essentials don’t stop with the structure, though. A top-rated brand in cordless power equipment, EGO POWER+ recently released a riding mower to help you take care of that lawn.

The 42-inch Z6 Zero Turn Riding Mower has four brushless motors, equivalent to a 22 horsepower gas engine. The mower reaches a top speed of 8 mph. The mower can cut up to two acres on a single charge with four 10.Ah 56 Volt ARC Lithium batteries.

Z6 also comes equipped with an LCD interface, offering complete customization. You can select from 3 driving modes (control/standard/sport).

5. Motorized roller shades 

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Interior shades help building occupants work in comfort by decreasing glare and excess heat. Photo courtesy of Draper, Inc.

Glare, solar heat gain, and direct sunlight are often no friend of interior spaces. Draper’s motorized shades can increase both energy efficiency and occupant comfort.

Although motorized shades often come with a price tag greater than other alternatives, they can improve efficiency by decreasing the need for interior cooling and offering the option for varying levels of automatic control.

6. Composite decking 

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Royal Building Products’ Zuri Premium Decking mimics the look of real wood. Photo courtesy of Royal Building Products

If you want to spruce up your deck, but don’t want to use wood, composite decking mimics the look of wood, is long-lasting, and doesn’t require harsh cleaners and chemicals for upkeep, according to Steve Booz, the vice president of marketing at Royal Building Products.

Booz says wood typically needs chemical additives every couple of years to preserve its look, but composite decking is good to go upon installment.

Composite decking is made of PVC mixed with wood fiber, rice hulls or other fillers, and chemical additives. A lot of composite decking, including Royal Building Products’ solutions, come from pre-consumer waste.

7. Stainless steel pool

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This stainless steel rooftop pool at 363 Bond in Brooklyn, New York, has a view of the NYC skyline. Photo courtesy of Bradford Pools

It’s important to consider pool building materials that are easily installable, durable, clean, and sustainable—and stainless steel hits all of those marks.

Stainless steel pools are dramatically lighter than concrete pools. In fact, a stainless steel vessel can weigh 1/3 to ¼ the weight of a concrete vessel.
These weight savings can potentially lead to cost savings as well, according to Michael Sage, the vice president of sales and marketing for Bradford Products.

The naturally dense, nonporous surface of stainless steel is ideal for limiting harmful bacteria. Stainless steel can also withstand frequent, rigorous cleaning.

Lastly, companies like Bradford Pools incorporate more than 60% post-consumer recycled content, and the stainless steel is fully recyclable at the end of the pool vessel’s life.

8. Fire features 

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Warming Trends can alter the size and shape of a fire depending on whether it’s a focal point, accent, or used to help define spaces. Photo courtesy of Dragonfly Ponds and Patios

An outdoor fire can be a perfect opportunity to socialize with friends and family. Warming Trends works with clients to design flames and features that are sustainable and cost-efficient.

Warming Trends’ burners create more pressure than other burners on the market, and they can design various sizes and shapes of flames. “We don’t view our custom designs as a challenge,” Voni Flaherty, owner of Warming Trends, previously told gb&d. “Our manufacturing and production processes allow us to replicate almost any configuration as long as it’s within the client’s budget and local codes. You dream it; we’ll build it.”

Various fire features can be used as a design accent or focal point. For instance, firepits and fire tables often center around lounging and dining, while torches, fire bowls, and in-ground features can appear throughout landscape designs. Designers are even accenting waterfalls, pools, and ponds with fire.

“Adding fire makes for an easy wow factor, and it’s a great way to accentuate design in many landscapes,” Flaherty previously said to gb&d.

9. Outdoor furnace

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Burning wood chips costs about one cent per kilowatt of energy, compared to anywhere from 10 to 20 cents per kilowatt with natural gas or other fossil fuels, according to Jake Friesen, founder and CEO of HeatMaster. Photo courtesy of HeatMaster

HeatMaster’s B Series Multi-Fuel Biomass furnaces is a compact, touchscreen-controlled furnace. Designers of the B Series wanted to develop a furnace that could achieve carbon neutrality and incorporate upgrades like digitization.

B Series can burn wood chips, pellets, agricultural scarps, and more. “There’s a long list of fuels the R&D department is working on, including egg shells, manure products, cherry pits—you name it,” Jake Friesen, founder and CEO of HeatMasterss, said in a previous interview with gb&d. “We want our customers to be able to utilize any potential fuel that’s available to them.”

“Buildings at construction sites are often heated with diesel, which ends up using hundreds of gallons of fuel on a given site. With a wood chip application, you’re heating at a fraction of the cost and bringing down your carbon footprint as well,” Friesen previously said.

The HeatMaster team also worked to optimize the fuel burn rate and level of combustion within the furnace to make it much more sustainable than a traditional furnace that simply burns wood to heat water.

10.  Outdoor entertainment area


POLYWOOD offers various outdoor furniture pieces that come in both neutral and bright colors. Photo courtesy of POLYWOOD

Outdoor furniture is a must-have while hosting friends outdoors. POLYWOOD manufactures outdoor products like chaise lounge chairs, umbrellas, and tables.

Interior designer Shayla Copas also suggests covering up and storing outdoor furniture to preserve its integrity and keep critters away. Although POLYWOOD pieces require less maintenance, according to Copas, since they’re made from recycled lumber, they still need to be taken care of.

But why stop there? An outdoor kitchen can take any gathering to the next level. Challenger Designs is a family-owned firm specializing in outdoor kitchen designs. With hundreds of cabinet, countertop, and accessory options to choose from, Challenger Designs can make a fully customizable outdoor dining experience.

Challenger Designs also offers pre-designed kitchen islands for customers’ convenience. For example, their Coastal Series includes 10 models of pre-designed kitchen islands that are shipped assembled and require no installation upon arrival.