Foresite Group has a strong background in accessible, ADA-compliant design. From development of retail establishments and active and passive parks to city-wide ADA transition plans, we are committed to ensuring our projects can be enjoyed by all. So, when we were asked to design an educational treehouse that is both sensory friendly and ADA compliant, we were excited to take this commitment to a new level – into a hardwood forest to be exact.
The Project We have done several projects with the Environmental Heritage Center in Gwinnett County, Georgia through our on-call contract. For this project, the Center envisioned a treehouse and an elevated walkway in a forested area of the site that features programmed interior and exterior space. A large elevated boardwalk will sit on a sloped hillside and will feature four educational programmed decks.
The first three decks will house interactive exhibits and programmed stations with educational tools geared toward children with physical and sensory disabilities. These will provide learning opportunities and play experiences related to science and nature. The terminal deck, or “treehouse,” features a center building as the “tree” which is an enclosed, conditioned structure clad in corrugated corten steel. It will incorporate a backlit domed ceiling and house A/V equipment programmed to provide various immersive experiences.
The elevated boardwalk connects to each deck space and will weave between existing trees. The entire structure will be ADA accessible. This allows those in a wheelchair to reach an area in the forest that wouldn’t be possible with conventional footpaths. The project also includes the design of a nearby restroom facility to be built in a future phase.
Construction of the treehouse design is estimated to be complete toward the end of this year.
The Team Foresite Group was the prime consultant of this project, which involved members of our Landscape Architecture and Structural teams. It’s worth noting our Landscape Architecture team includes civil engineers, making the design coordination much more collaborative and seamless. In addition to our internal collaboration, we brought in numerous subconsultants including architecture, lighting, mechanical and plumbing, audio/visual components, and exhibit design. Effective communication and coordination were key in managing a large team on this very complex project.
The Impact Imagine having accessibility or sensory challenges that make it more difficult to experience the wonder, adventure, and peace of nature. To create a design that allows for all community members to access and enjoy the middle of a beautiful forest – not just the perimeter peering in – makes this a very rewarding project for our team. On a personal level, some of our team members have young children and can’t wait to enjoy this space and experience it through their eyes.
About Jason Weckerly
Jason Weckerly leads Foresite Group’s Landscape Architecture Practice Area nationwide. As a Landscape Architect, Jason has always been interested in how an existing site can cohesively blend with the proposed program. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design from Arizona State University and has been with Foresite Group since 2011. With more than 25 years of experience, Jason has a special interest in in the sustainability of projects well after the contractor has left the site, as well an aesthetic approach of less is more.