In this episode, I talk with William Spencer, P.E., president and professional engineer at MHS Planning & Design, about the profound impact of civil engineering on promoting child wellness in parks and playgrounds. We tackle topics like funding challenges, the significance of outdoor play in child wellness, pioneering solutions, and the crucial role of collaboration.
***The video version of this episode can be viewed here.***
Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask William:
- Could you describe your civil engineering work on parks and playgrounds and its impact on promoting child wellness?
- How can we find funding and plans to create and care for public spaces like parks?
- How does outdoor play contribute to children’s overall well-being, and what role does civil engineering play in supporting this?
- How does the necessity for maintenance impact the initial design and planning of a play space?
- How can we find creative and effective solutions to address the issue of insufficient green space for children?
- How do civil engineers team up with local communities, governments, and other organizations to make things happen?
- What do you think are the most promising developments and opportunities in civil engineering for parks and playgrounds?
Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About the Role of Civil Engineering in Promoting Child Wellness:
- While engineering is often linked to big projects, there’s a crucial need for engineers in designing parks and playgrounds. These spaces are vital for children’s development, teaching them about risk, hazards, and social interaction. Beyond physical well-being, parks contribute to emotional and social growth. Engineers in this field leave a lasting impact, shaping the experiences of generations.
- When it comes to parks and playgrounds, proper planning is crucial. Rushed decisions lead to spaces that don’t meet community needs. A thoughtful plan, driven by community input, and presented to decision-makers like City Council members, ensures parks align with what citizens want. This proactive approach not only secures community buy-in but also opens funding opportunities such as grants and partnerships with vendors. Prioritizing alignment with the plan makes parks valuable assets to the community.
- In the era of screens and post-COVID, kids often seek refuge indoors, missing out on the unique benefits of outdoor play. The acronym “SPEC” encompasses the social, physical, emotional, and cognitive aspects influenced by parks and playgrounds. In social interactions, kids learn patience and cooperation. Physically, the playground encourages activity and helps them assess risks. Emotionally, it serves as a space for both energy release and sensory experiences. Lastly, cognitively, kids develop an understanding of risks and mental resilience. Parks aren’t just recreation — they play a crucial role in shaping well-rounded, socially adept, and physically active children.
- When upgrading playgrounds, it’s crucial to understand the significance of maintenance. Opting for durable materials in the surfacing helps cut down on yearly maintenance, ensuring a long-lasting and enjoyable experience for kids. Smart design, with a focus on maintenance, is essential for keeping play areas lively and preventing a return to inactive screen time.
- Parks and playgrounds must be inclusive, not just accessible. It’s about creating spaces where everyone, regardless of age or lifestyle, feels welcome. By expanding the focus beyond specific age groups and considering the needs of all demographics, we must make these spaces inviting for everyone and increase community engagement.
- Civil engineers play a crucial role as educators, helping communities understand the importance of parks and open spaces. It’s not just about funding — these spaces are vital for community well-being. Collaborative efforts involve highlighting their role in people’s health and quality of life, making parks essential for thriving communities. The goal isn’t just to work together but to create spaces that leave a positive impression. Places where people from all walks of life can meet and interact in a healthy and inclusive environment.
- The future of civil engineering for parks and playgrounds holds a focus on sustainability. This means not just using eco-friendly materials but also changing the mindset about the necessity of parks for community well-being. The goal is to reset expectations, seeing parks not as optional but vital for mental health, physical development, and social growth, making sustainability a central theme in construction practices.
More Details in This Episode…
About William H. Spencer, PE
William Spencer is a seasoned professional with a wealth of experience in the field of civil engineering. Serving as president at MHS since 2012, he is known for his meticulous approach to project management and construction administration. William’s dedication to excellence and customer satisfaction surpasses industry standards, evident through his involvement in planning, designing, and constructing sports complexes, neighborhood parks, and commercial/residential developments. With a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University, coupled with minors in Business Administration and Mathematics, William combines technical expertise with a solid business foundation. Beyond his professional accomplishments, he enjoys spending quality time outdoors with his wife and children.
This Episode Is Brought to You by PPI
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, P.E., LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success