Pro Tips with Jamie Snyder

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What type of retaining wall do I need?

Posted by James Snyder on Tue, Feb 05, 2013 @ 44:12 PM

Retaining walls come in several varieties. Some of the most common types are:

  1. Wood or Tie walls
  2. Concrete Block
  3. Poured Concrete
  4. SRW – Segmented Retaining Wall
  5. Gabion
  6. StoneMakers Concrete
  7. Mafia Block

Wood Tie Walls

                Wood tie wall are common with DIY’ers, they are not as common with the pro’s. These walls tend to have a shorter lifespan than the other methods listed here for a few reasons. Since they are wood and wood will rot most professionals do not see much upside in installing these. The material itself is only slightly less expensive than concrete so there is not much savings there. The amount of digging is the same so no savings there as well. They just install a little faster. For a 1-3’ tall wall that will be installed by yourself you might be happy with this type of wall. For taller walls consider a more permanent solution, doing these things twice can be very expensive.Concerte block wall ny

Concrete Block walls

                Concrete blocks look like the ones you remember being called cinder blocks as a kid. They are rarely made of cinders anymore but instead are made of concrete. Concrete Block walls can be used as a retaining wall however they are used more often as a load bearing wall. This is mainly because SRW’s and poured in place walls have taken over this market. Since a concrete block wall often times requires a substantial footing and loads of rebar and a lot of labor most pros would rather just pour that type of wall.

Poured concrete

Poured Concrete wall Fishkill NYPoured concrete walls are great when done correctly and disasters when corners are cut. One common mistake is to incorrectly lay the rebar inside the form, or use the wrong type or amount. As a homeowner it is important you have a contractor that doesn’t cheat here. If they do you will be paying to do it over. See the picture to the right. When it goes wrong there is no repairing it, just replacing it. That job was done by a contractor in Fishkill, NY and only lasted 3 months before it broke.

SRW

                SRW’s installed correctly can be a great choice. The upside is that they are easy to install fairly easily. They are lightweight (usually around 100 lbs each) and they look good. The downside is that it is easy to skip steps such as burying courses, geo grid, properly compacting the base, etc. When these steps get skipped the project is in jeopardy. I have seen walls incorrectly installed fail completely.

Gabion

                A gabion wall is made from a cage filled with rocks. These are pretty simple to do, and usually very strong. These are mostly done in industrial areas or by roads and bridges. They allow water to run right through them. The look of them can be debated but most homeowners do not like them for their back yard.

StoneMakers Concrete

                StoneMakers concrete walls are only installed by a network of StoneMakers dealers so the downside is that you may not be able to find a dealer near you. This is constantly changing and chances are if you live in a moderately populated area there will be one. These walls take a lot of skill and know how that no homeowner would know without being taught. The wall because of the proprietary ingredients is much stronger than a normal concrete wall. This type of wall is also much more attractive, as the name implies you make the wall look like stone. This wall is a great choice for almost any retaining wall scenario and is what we use.

Mafia Blocks

                Mafia Blocks get their name from the size resembling coffins. Aside from their unflattering name they are extremely heavy and require a medium to large excavator to lift or some other piece of equipment. They are great for making bins at the landscape supply yard to put mulch and gravel in. Most homeowners would not want these things in their backyard.

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New Research to Prove Health Benefits of Swimming Pools

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Fri, Jan 11, 2013 @ 00:09 AM

swimming_pools_LagrangevilleWe from Albertgroup Landscaping wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year. Is fitness also in the Top Ten List of your New Years Resolutions? Than we have good news for you: In 2013 the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) will award research grants totaling $117,974 to study the health benefits of swimming and aquatic exercise and to encourage more people to get into the water.

Research to Prove Benefits of Aqua Exercise
While we all know about the health benefits of swimming and water exercise, it is always nice to have proof. “Physicians, therapists, and insurance companies rely on published science when considering options to treat patients. As people age, medical costs increase and mobility and quality of life decreases. We believe we have the magic potion. Our funded research will prove it,” explaines Bill Kent, Chairman of the Foundation’s Grant Review Committee, in a press release of the NSPF.

“The percentage of Americans older than 65 will increase from 12.4% to 19.6% by 2030 according to the U.S. Census data; similar trends are occurring around the world”, the release continues. Many of the research studies funded by NSPF focus therefore on seniors and age-related health-problems, such as osteoarthritis, cognitive, neuromuscular and cardiovascular functional decline and stiffness.

Swimming as Therapy for Age-Related Diseases
The Foundation is certain to be able to proof that aquatic exercise is the ideal therapy for many of those diseases. One example is the study of the Cardiovascular Aging Research Laboratoy at the University of Texas at Austin. 40 osteoarthritis patients will be assigned to twelve weeks of swim training. The study is based on the recommendation of the American College of Rheumatology to include aerobic exercise as part of the treatment for osteoarthritis. But arthritic joint paint disables many middle-aged and older adults from land-based exercise and activities. In the water, the joints do not have to carry any weight, which may prove aqua-exercise as the ideal solution.

Another study, proposed by the Department of Kinesiology, at Indiana University, and the Director of Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming will compare seniors, who have been involved in regular aquatic exercise (swimming or workout) with an age-and-education-matched control-group. The study wants to show, that regular exercise is associated with enhanced cognitive ability and improved nerve and heart health in senior people.

Your Fountain to Youth
“We will all get older”, summarizes Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D. and CEO with the National Swimming Pool Foundation the importance of those studies. “Why not explore to what extent water activity will help us maintain our mobility and minds while we are alive. It is no coincidence that people believed in the ‘fountain of youth’ and not a ‘football field of youth'.”

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Why You Should Order Your Swimming Pool Now

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Tue, Dec 18, 2012 @ 00:09 AM

swimming_pool_builder_lagrangevilleWhere will you be during your next summer vacation? That might sound like an odd question, with freezing winter-weather outside and the holidays not quite there yet. Still, we would like you to think of some beautiful, sunny days. You take your coffee outside on the terrace to enjoy your Sunday morning. A little later your kids storm out and jump in the pool even before they have breakfast. All of you look forward to a wonderful vacation-day right in your yard.

Family-Fun all Summer long
Why not give your family the gift of summer-long family-fun? Even if the weather outside is less than inviting you can make plans of what your backyard should look like in the summer. There are many little things you can do, to improve your outdoor space. Add a retaining wall to gain more space, design a sitting area, include a fire pit, water features or plan an in ground swimming pool.

Make Your New Years Resolutions Come True
Do you want to get more exercise next year? Do you want to spend more time with your family and children? Do you want to spend more time outside? It sounds like we have the perfect solution to all your resolutions: The installation of an in ground Fiberglass Pool. Imagine how easy it will be, to just step out in the morning and swim a few laps or start the day with some aqua exercises.

A Present that lasts all Summer Long
Let’s be honest, most of us have all and even more than we actually need. Why not scale back on having more things and toys and trinkets and give a present, which still can be enjoyed when the holidays are long past. Imagine the happy faces of your children, when they learn, that they will be have their own swimming pool right outside the back-door next summer. Why not adding a new swimsuit or some water toys to the swimming pool plans?

Free 3D Rendering
Albert Group Landscaping and Swimming Pools offers free 3D rendering of your project. The renderings are very detailed and include even the finishing touches, like plants and different lighting scenarios. You will be able to see exactly how your yard will look like, when we are done with your project. Please contact Albert Group Landscaping if you should have any questions. We help you to share your summer-trees under the Christmas-trees!

Plan your pool project now, than you will have it installed before summer starts!

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How to Use Walkways and Retaining Walls to Create Winter-Magic

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Fri, Dec 14, 2012 @ 00:09 PM

landscaping_albertgroup_new_yorkSnow can add some true magic to your garden. When you look out of your window on a white, glittery surface, branches heavy with fresh fallen snow, it is easy to get lost in the silence of this wonderful Christmas scenery. True, soon enough there will be footprints, shoveling and more mushy weather, but just follow our simple tricks to preserve the white winter magic a little while longer.

Walls of Delight
Retaining walls can be very attractive in a winter landscape. They provide space for the snow to collect and can be easily decorated with a few pine-branches, a lantern or some lights, depending on how natural you want the wall to look. Next spring or summer, think of planting some patches of decorative grass around your wall. This will add color to your winter landscape. Another beautiful addition is the installation of decorative tiles set into the wall. Texture and color should fit the surroundings and add an attractive splash of color. Choose flower motives to remind your garden-visitors what it will look like again in a few months.

Snow-Catchers
If you do not have a retaining wall, you still can add all kinds of structures to ad eye-appeal to your winter garden. Birdhouses are a wonderful addition to every yard. You can put them on wooden stilts or hang them in a tree. Other possible snow-catching elements are fences, arbors, benches, and boulders. If you just want to add something right away, choose simple tepee-like structures, made out of bamboo poles. You can decorate with natural materials, pines and red berries, lanterns, lights or Christmas ornaments. Have fun with it!

Outdoor Christmas-Trees
To add to the beauty of your wintery landscape, you should make sure to feature some trees and shrubs in your yard, that hold their bare limbs horizontally. This way snow can collect and creates the striking design of dark and light. Crabapple or Dogwood trees are good choices to create wintery silhouettes. Add some berry-full bird food to decorate your outside Christmas tree. 

Encourage a Walk in the Snow
To make sure, your winter landscape will get the attention it deserves, include some paths that garden-visitors can use in any weather. If you do not have walkways in your garden, which always add to a more park-like feeling, just try to create a path or two through your winter wonder land. You can use lanterns to mark the way.

Easy Winter-Decorations
For a wonderful one-time effect you can simply fill paper-bags with some sand and add a candle. Another easy to make outdoor winter decoration are ice-cakes. Take a Bundt cake pan or even a bucket and fill with water. Include decorative objects, like pinecones, pine tree branches, rowanberries or Christmas ornaments to be frozen in the ice cake. Use some warm water to get the ice cake out of the pan, set on some pinetree branches and enjoy!

For more ideas about landscaping projects for your garden contact Jamie Snyder of Albert Group Landscaping.

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Hardscape: How to Maintain a Safe Walkway through the Winter

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Thu, Nov 22, 2012 @ 00:09 PM

Landscaping_LagrangevilleWalkways do not only enhance the aesthetics of your yard, they also create functional pathways to your garage, your shed and to your front door. Especially in the wintertime you will appreciate established and well-maintained walkways. They will make it easier and safer to get around on your property.

To prepare for the snowy season it is a good idea to clear all the sideways and walkways around your home. Clear any tools, hoses, rocks and debris form the walkways, so that shoveling or snow blowing will be easier and smoother once winter hits.

Check for Problem Spots Now
Another good idea is to check for cracks and other problem spots now. The extreme temperature-change will worsen the cracks over the winter – and the repairs will be more extensive and expensive in the spring. You also want to make sure to get rid of any low spots where puddles can develop and water might collect.

Inspect the Drainage System
Another important thing to check, is your water drainage system: Make sure, that rain and melting snow will not spill directly on your walkway, but can flow freely through your drainage system. If water gets under your walkway during the cold winter month, and the water freezes, it can actually rise up the walkway in certain spots. The consequence is, that the walkway will crack or get otherwise damaged in these areas.

Hire a Professional
“I can't tell you how many times I get calls for walkways from people who have an walkway that is in disrepair or simply never had one to begin with“, says Jamie Snyder of Albert Group Landscaping. „And every one of them in the end wished they had acted sooner.“ Albert Group is ICPI certified and a member of the NCMA (Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute and National Concrete Masonry Association respectively). “We don not only want to transform the curb appeal of your home, we have the skills necessary to install a walkway that will last the life of your home.”

Keep it Safe
By keeping your walkway clean and well maintained you also keep it safe. According to the National Floor Safety institute, there are more than 8 million emergency room visits and 21.000 deaths each year because of slip, trip and fall accidents. Most of these incidents happen on even floor, in 55 percent of all cases, the walkway is implicated as the cause.

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How to Avoid Retaining Wall Failures

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Mon, Nov 05, 2012 @ 10:09 AM

landscaping_Washingtonville_New York
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy our thoughts go to those who were affected.  With the destructive power of nature still in our minds, we also want to take a closer look on the durability of hardscape features. Many of you have probably passed an otherwise beautiful residential development, but noticed the crumbling or tilting of a retaining wall. How can that happen? And even more important: How can you avoid the failure of important hardscape structures?

Generally retaining walls provide lateral support for vertical slopes of soil, which would otherwise collapse. Retaining walls are used for landscaping purposes, such as changing the topography of a yard. Since there is no yard without a slope, retaining walls are used often to level of terrain for a swimming pool, a patio, terrace or other landscaping feature.

To build a durable wall, it takes some planning and designing. Factors that should be considered are purpose of the wall, site placement, drainage, foundation, construction materials and building code issues. If the general engineering principals have not been applied, failure will occur, the wall will crumble, crack, puddles will develop around the top or the base of the wall, and the wall will set excessively or even sink.

Building Codes
Building Codes are made for a reason! Retaining walls should always be considered as load bearing construction not as an aesthetic feature, although new materials like StoneMakers concrete will allow us to design aesthetic and durable constructions. When calculating the effect of the earth pressure one also has to consider the contribution of water – plus worst-case scenarios, such as long lasting rainstorms or melting snow. All Albert Group Landscaping construction comply with the applicable building codes.

Foundation
The foundation is one of the most important parts of you wall. The footing and foundation system ensures that the retaining wall can resist the imposed lateral forces. It will also prevent the wall from sinking or settling excessively. Well designed and built walls utilize steel reinforcement bars or other methods to tie the wall to the foundation.

Drainage
Most retaining walls fails because rising groundwater or soil-moisture builds up too much pressure for the wall. When the imposed forces of soil and groundwater exceed the resisting forces of the retaining wall, failure occurs. Therefore all retaining walls should be constructed in a way that provides drainage for all water that collects behind the wall. Possibilities are a gravel drainage blanket and/or pipe behind the wall.

As you can see, proper design and engineering are essential to build a functional and long lasting retaining wall. Feel free to contact Jamie Snyder if you have any questions. Albert Group Landscaping also can provide you with a free estimate for your next landscaping project.

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How to Increase Your Livingspace with Retaining Walls

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Fri, Oct 26, 2012 @ 00:09 AM

retaining_wall_Lagrangeville_New_YorkAre you longing for the warm summer evenings, when you could enjoy sitting in the backyard way past midnight without even having to wear a sweater? Does your living room feel just a little bit too cozy and crammed after all those beautiful nights you were able to spend on your patio under the stars? You are not alone. According to the American Institute of Architects' first Home Design Trend Survey 48% off all homeowners in the US prefer an outdoor living space to the traditional green lawn.

Companies Take Indoors Outside
Many companies respond to that demand. There are amazing new outdoor furniture-options. The new fabrics are made from acrylic fibers and are fade-resistant and waterproof. SunBrite TV and Mirage Outdoor Concepts both sell flat-panel LCD television-set, which are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and temperature changes – and are equipped with a wireless connection.

How to Create an Outdoor Living Space
But it takes more than just cozy cushions and entertainment devices to create a real outdoor living space. To be successful you should adopt some of the same principles that make the interior of your home comfortable. That means you need some walls, a floor and a ceiling. Start by establishing the outline or boundary of your outdoor room. The idea is to create an area where you don’t feel watched by your neighbors. Like in your home you want enjoy some intimacy.

Complement your Home with a Retaining Wall
Especially if your yard has different levels or is slightly sloped, a retaining wall can be a great starting point for your new room outdoors. With StoneMakers concrete we are able to create almost any shape – and even the color can be mixed to complement your actual home. This way your outdoor space will really feel like an extension of your indoor living area. Thanks to the flexibility of the material, it even is possible to add different features to your wall, like a bench or sitting area, different water-features, a fire pit or fire place.

Why choose StoneMakers
Because the material is so easy to work with, StoneMakers allows us to even carry out the most creative design-ideas. At the same time you do not have to worry about the durability. StoneMakers is twice as strong as typical concrete. After being in this business now for almost 20 years, I can tell you, that “StoneMakers retaining walls are not only good, they are the best!”, says Jamie Snyder of The Albert Group Landscaping.

The New York based landscaper has a lot of experience to implement different outdoor living ideas. „We have built outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, BBQ-pits, waterfalls, pools, whole entertainment areas“, Snyder explains. Albert Group Landscaping is also certified by both the National Concrete Masonry Association and the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute. „You can be assured that your project is installed correctly“, says Snyder.

The Albert Group Landscaping does offer complete solutions for your backyard make over. „Before we start, we offer our clients a 3D rendering oft he project“, explains Snyder. „This will allow you to see your project conceptually before you buy.“ Are you ready to increase your space? Contact Jamie Snyder and ask for a free estimate.

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How to Care for your Retaining Wall

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 @ 00:09 AM

Retaining_Wall_Landscaper_MonroeFall is here. The leaves are turning color – and you might find yourself enjoying some long and beautiful days in your yard. Now is also the time to check your hardscape. Take a walk around your property and inspect your walkways and retaining walls for damage and cracks. Here are the most important factors you should look out for.

Weeds
Weeds are amazing. They can grow almost everywhere. And occasionally it might happen that something green is growing on your retaining wall or walkway. The easiest way to take care of unwanted weed growth is to pull the first sprout, before the plantlet can grow into a forest. If plucking weeds is not your thing, you can spray annually like you would with the lawn.

Leaves
A few leaves are not a problem, but if they accumulate, especially over the winter, they might discolor the surface over time. To protect your hardscape you also should make sure to wash salts and chemicals of the surface. And if the finish begins to wear, you should seal it again.

Surface Treatment
This is an area, which can be easily overlooked: The areas surrounding your wall. These areas should actually be treated as part of whole the wall design. It does not matter, if they are paved or beautified with landscape planting, mulch or turf. These areas provide an important function for the wall, they capture and route the water. Therefore you should replant bare areas and encourage the growth of ground covers and flowers. Most importantly look for areas of erosion and re-landscape if necessary. A little bit of work can prevent major erosion and therefore real problems.

Site Grading
While all retaining walls should be designed and built so that rain and water can drain easily, you might notice a puddle behind or in front of the wall. These low spots might occur due to excessive settling. If this happens you should not ignore it, but pull the landscape away and add enough fill to allow proper drainage.

If you take care of your hardscape it can last a long time, but it is important to check walls and walkways from time to time. Don’t let a little problem sit until spring comes, it just will get worse over the winter. Contact Albert Group Landscaping if you have any further questions.

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Outdoor Living Trends for 2012

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Sat, Aug 25, 2012 @ 00:09 AM

Landscaping_WestbrookvilleIf you love to spend a lot of time in your backyard, you are not online. A recently conducted survey by the Americans Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) shows that the trend goes towards an undemanding outdoors space for lots of entertainment.

According to the 2012 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey gardens and landscaped spaces are popular with 94.9 percent of all respondents, for 92.5 percent an outdoor living space, such as an outdoor kitchen or entertainment space, is as important.

Dining and Sitting Outside
Not surprisingly a grill was with 97.4 percent the most in-demand feature for 2012, followed closely by low-maintenance landscapes (96.6 percent). 95.8 percent would not want to miss their fireplace or fire pit and 95.7 percent of all respondents want to take their dinner on a nice dining area outside. 86.9 percent prefer installed seating, such as benches, seat walls, ledges, steps and boulders, to weatherized outdoor furniture (81.2 percent).

Extending the Entertainment Space
Lighting features are also a popular choice, with 91.1 percent of Americans planning to extend the use of their outdoor space in the evenings and at night. 39.9 percent also install outdoor heaters, while 33.1 percent use outdoor cooling systems. Televisions or projections screens and stereo systems are popular with more than half of all Americans.

“The economic recovery remains tepid, but the skilled services of landscape architects and demand for outdoor spaces outfitted with defined amenities remains high,” says ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA.

More Art than Playgrounds in Americas Backyards
Outdoor structures are also in demand. 95.7 percent of Americans enjoy a terrace, patio or deck, 70.3 percent rate outdoor kitchens or ovens as popular. Pergolas are popular with 85.2 percent of all Americans, and about half of all Americans enhance their outdoor living space with a Pavilion. According to the study there is more art in Americas backyards than there are play structures. 60.2 percent rated sculptures and murals as popular whereas just 54.7 percent enjoy tree houses, swing sets and other child friendly back yard features.

Swimming Pools and Water Features in Demand
Americans also love their pools (79.2 percent), but not quite as much as their spas (80.4 percent), including hot tubs, Jacuzzis, whirlpools and saunas. Decorative water elements such as waterfalls, grottos, splash pools or bubblers are popular with 89.9 percent of the respondents.

Contact Jamie Snyder of Albert Group Landscaping to discuss your outdoor living dreams. We specialize in landscaping projects, such as retaining walls, walkways, patios and swimming pools as well as all related features, such as waterfalls, fire pits and outdoor kitchens.

To read more about the outdoor living trends of 2012 go to the website of the American Society of Landscape Architects

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What Types of Material are Best for Retaining Walls?

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Sat, Aug 18, 2012 @ 01:09 AM

swimming_pool_landscaper_lagrangevilleWhen it comes to residential retaining walls, there are various materials available. To help you decide, which material will work best for you, we want to give you some basic pros and cons and describe the two main materials, we recommend, in detail: Segmented Retaining Wall Blocks and StoneMakers Hardscape.

Wood is not Durable
Although some contractors might offer it to you, we recommend staying away from wood. While the up front costs are affordable and the installation is quick and fairly easy, wooden retaining walls are a short-term investment. Wood is simply is not as durable as other wall materials, mainly due to rot and infestation with insects. And don’t be fooled, just because it seems easy, to pile some railroad ties, they still need to be reinforced with braces and deep anchors. No matter, where you build your wall, it needs to be able to support the weight of soil and water. How long is your wall supposed to hold up?

Natural Stone is Expensive
Traditional stone retaining walls can be beautiful and have a very natural look. The number one reason, why many people decide against a natural stonewall, is the huge expense. Natural stonewalls are very labor intensive, and even if the project has been built professionally, stones might shift and the mortar used while stacking might crack.

Brick is Less Versatile
A brick wall is often used to match brick accents on the house or a garden path. Many brick walls are actually built from cinderblock that is reinforced with rebar and than faced with brick. Those walls are pretty strong and durable, but also very labor extensive and require a special accommodation for drainage.

Segmented Retaining Wall Block
Segmented Retaining Walls can be built of various concrete blocks. Some systems are designed so that the blocks interlock with each other - which provides a mortar-less solution. Segmental Retaining Walls rely on gravity and the blocks are designed to gradually step back into the earth they retain, to provide more strength. There is a huge variety of concrete blocks available, so you can choose are cleaner or a rather weathered look. Most systems allow the integration of curves, corners and stairs, and the blocks can be split to fit the shape of the project.

StoneMakers Hardscape Changed the Industry
After being in this business now for almost 20 years, I can tell you, that “StoneMakers retaining walls are not only good, they are the best!”, says Jamie Snyder of The Albert Group Landscaping. StoneMakers’ propriety concrete product can be completely customized. There are 33 colors available, which can be mixed to an infinite number of colors. While the product is strong – actually twice as strong a typical concrete – it can be shaped into almost any design. “It’s only every so often a product like this comes along. If you have a contractor that is certified to do these you are sitting pretty.”

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