This year, the project we selected to enter and win the Hardscape Over $20,000 is our Wildlife Conservation Project. The client’s expectations were to find a way to bring form, function, and design to their backyard without taking away from the natural environment. By selecting the right material we were able to preserve the look they desired, while still providing structure, longevity, and a useable space.

We decided to go with a flagstone product that was asymmetrical in shape and had irregular edges. Normally we would cut these edges to make an even flowing walkway, but we decided to manipulate the pattern to create that flow with a natural look. To generate even stepping surfaces that accounted for the grade change, we utilized rock face step treads. These treads were about 3,000-pounds, which made installation on a steep slope a challenge. To add to this challenge, a hurricane had just passed through making the ground completely saturated.

Installation began with first removing all old material and debris existing on site. Elevations were determined by understanding where the stairs and landings would be. Normally, we would start by digging down to install the base for the patio, in this case, however, we had to find another solution. There was an 80+ year old Poplar tree in an inconvenient place, which would completely manipulate the natural environment if removed. In hopes of causing as little damage as possible in a conservation area, we chose to raise the elevation of the patio and utilize boulders and soil to help retain this new elevation. In order to compensate the amount of runoff, we installed a large perforated pipe to move the water from the yard and the deck to beyond the walkway to guarantee longevity. Now, we could finally start laying the patio and install the steps.

As mentioned before, a hurricane had passed through shorty before start of installation. The biggest problem with this was that the entire site is shaded, making it next to impossible for the ground to dry up. Once the ground was stable we worked on the install from the bottom up. We had to make several grade changes along the way to accommodate the change in elevation. When we finally made it to the top patio we had to address the runoff from the driveway and re-route the runoff water. The quality of work and craftsmanship can be seen with the cutting and placement of the irregular steps. The gaps are consistent between each step and it feels comfortable to move through the space.

The planting plan for this project focused primarily on native species. The goal here was to create the perfect outdoor space utilizing the beauty of plants that were specific to this area.

By understanding and utilizing native materials and plants we were able to bring the full scope of this design to life. The installation of the steps and patio now give function and form to an area that was once unusable. We feel that this design, of a highly functioning back yard in a Wildlife Land Conservation area, demonstrates the quality and integrity for the 2016 winner for hardscape jobs over $20,000.