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School Playgrounds: How to Build a Budget

Budgeting & Cost

27 Jan 2021

Getting the playground budgeting process right

Many educators across Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney appreciate that high-quality playground equipment is as important to learning as the classroom itself. However, for this reason, budgeting and planning for a brand-new playground can be a difficult process, one that schools, teachers and parents understandably want to get right!

Many factors influence playground design, but the most important are playground styles and features, site preparation, under-surfacing, the size of your school, the age group and user needs of the students, shade requirements, landscaping features, and finally, your budget.

Playground Size

Playground size is determined against the the size of your school and the number of students in order to avoid overcrowding. If you have limited space, you and your playground supplier will have to think carefully about how to maximise play opportunities.

We recommend making use of vertical space when school grounds are compact, as well as paying careful attention to the selection of playground equipment itself, to ensure that you cover a wide variety of play experiences.

Finally, it’s important that your playground doesn’t compromise on the surrounding space. Australian standards require that playgrounds have an appropriate amount of space around the equipment, called a fall zone or impact area, covered by an impact attenuating surface like mulch or rubber. New and existing safety standards must always be factored into your playground budget and design.

Playground Features and Styles

Special features and themed equipment can impact the cost of a playground. Custom elements, such as ramps, bridges, special panels or materials can increase the budget. However, with these features you also get a much more attractive playground, creating a much more complete look.

Age and Ability Appropriate

When designing a school playground, it pays to think like a child. What kind of equipment would your students enjoy most? Should your playground suit a limited age range or cater to all students from Prep to K6?

Building a profile of the playground users, their ages, preferences, and special needs will help you formulate a playground design that is age and ability appropriate.

At adventure+ we believe that inclusive playgrounds add value to both communities and schools. Inclusivity can be addressed by incorporating carefully selected design features and universal play equipment – often without any additional investment.

Site Preparation

If the suggested site for your playground isn’t level or needs clearing, excavation can bring it to a state that is suitable for a playground installation. You may also need to demolish any existing structures. Site preparation must be a factor when you run the numbers for your playground project.


When choosing the undersurfacing material, it’s valuable to compare the initial cost against the cost of ongoing maintenance. Rubber surfaces, for example, require more upfront investment but far less maintenance than the alternatives. Read about the pros and cons of different playground undersurfacing.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping may be limited to a simple border , if the surrounding area already provides amenities and beauty features. However, at adventure+ we recommend having at least some kind of border to help contain the playground – as this keeps the playground neat and well-maintained. That said, you may also need to budget for things like benches, plants, waste bins, drinking fountains and bike racks to make your playground compliant with health and safety standards.

Adding Shade

Sun protection is an important part of playground safety across the country and as a result, all new playgrounds should be adequately sheltered from the harsh afternoon sun. If your playground is not set under established trees, sails and other shade structures should be included in your cost estimate.

Typical Playground Budget

Below, we have included a table of indicative budgets for a playground, with the percentage of what is commonly spent on different elements within a play space. Of course, this will differ from project to project, but may help in your planning process.

Need Help Planning Your Playground?

We excel at creating playgrounds that achieve maximum value for children, schools, local councils and developers.

Call us today on 1300 237 587 to speak to organise a consultation. 

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