Story Of A Landscape: Intricate Design For Concrete Paver Plaza In Raleigh


Sometimes the simplest-looking things can be complicated — and visa versa. Take the concrete paver plaza Morrisville, North Carolina-based Fred Adams Paving Co., did for the Local Government Federal Credit Union in Raleigh.

Project manager Mark Tiernan says even the installers like the clean-lined project which saw the company installing some 18,000 square feet of pavers at the front of the building. However, getting it to line up with the designer’s plan was no easy task.

Judges for this year’s Hardscape North America competition also liked its looks, and recognized it as the winner in the Concrete Paver — Commercial — more than 15,000 sf category.

Photo: Barnhill Contracting Company, Fred Adams Paving Co.

Tiernan explains that Fred Adams Paving got the job based on more than just its bid. The company had previously and successfully worked with both the general contractor, the local Barnhill Contracting Co., and the landscape installation company, Southern Garden of Apex, North Carolina.

“We teamed up with Southern Garden,” says Tiernan. “We work with them a lot, so we teamed up on this project, and Barnhill chose them to do the landscaping and us to do the hardscapes.”

And, he adds, the Fred Adams crew did some minor work with the landscaping, mainly installing some precast planter curbs.

However, the biggest part of the company’s work at the LGFCU involved the new front plaza that also carried pavers into the asphalt parking lot. The building itself had previously belonged to the city of Raleigh.

“They totally changed the building,” he says. “They basically tore everything out down to the steel, then rebuilt it and re-landscaped it and redid the parking lot.”

Photo: Barnhill Contracting Company, Fred Adams Paving Co.

The total makeover was also sufficient to earn the project a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold designation from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The plaza’s main job is to be decorative. The traditional 4 by 8 pavers with a square edge are from Hanover Architectural Products.

The big issue with the paver design: its intricacy. Tiernan describes it as being modern, as well.

“They were charcoal, light gray and a little bit of tan, so it’s three different colors [of pavers],” he explains. “The main thing is everything was linear. Not only did we have to run string lines, but we had to match things up with the planter beds, which lined up with the building’s curves and angles.”

Photo: Barnhill Contracting Company, Fred Adams Paving Co.

One big plus with the job was that the company didn’t have to do a lot of the prep work jobs sometimes require. Fred Adams Paving didn’t have to do any grading or drainage beyond a little handwork.

However, spring rains had slowed the entire project, and by the time the crew, which varied in size from four to eight people — depending on the day — got on-site, things were a bit behind.

“Like most jobs, there was a deadline (in this case a move-in date), and it’s a pretty large courtyard,” Tiernan says. “It was also the entrance and exit to everything else that was going on, so there was some difficulty with that.”

Photo: Barnhill Contracting Company, Fred Adams Paving Co.

Along with the plaza, during its 30 days onsite, the company also installed some 50 linear feet of truncated dome pavers in a crosswalk that meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines.

“That was in a bituminous setting bed,” he says. “It’s a little bit different than the sand-setting bed.”

In the end, however, it was the plaza itself that proved to be the biggest challenge with the job.

“It was just getting everything lined up and installed as the architect had in mind,” says Tiernan. “It was so linear and squared off, and sometimes it was difficult to get the right angles. There were a lot of points to connect.”

To achieve that goal, he says the crew ended up cutting a lot of pavers. While some architects are willing to let the paver crew fudge a bit on those alignments, this wasn’t one of those jobs.

“Sometimes we can do something manually that maybe isn’t perfectly straight but looks straight to the eye,” he admits. “If you’re off by two inches on a building, it’s no big thing, but when the pavers are only four inches wide, it’s a big deal, and it doesn’t match up.”

Local Government Federal Credit Union
Photo: Barnhill Contracting Company, Fred Adams Paving Co.

Besides earning the HNA award, Tiernan says he’s most proud of just getting the job done.

“We had a deadline, we had people walking all over our products while we were putting them in, and an architect who had a design in mind and wanted it installed like that,” he explains. “Getting it done in the timeline and getting it done with the appropriate look is something to be proud of.”

While Tiernan says there’s nothing specific he learned from this job, he does acknowledge that things worked out well because of Barnhill’s ability to organize all the subs and keep them on the same page until the job was completed.

And, like the rest of the crew, Tiernan says this job was well worth the effort.

“I love the design; it’s probably my favorite job that we’ve installed in the last couple years,” he concludes. “The hardscape gives it a nice, modern look. Of course, we were rushing every day, but in the end, you can look back and say that this was a pretty cool project.”