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Commentary on the standard DIN SPEC (pre-standard) 18035-7 "Artificial turf areas"

Commentary on the standard DIN SPEC (pre-standard) 18035-7 "Artificial turf areas"
Hans-Jörg Kolitzus

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This is de facto a deception of the public as an innocent user of this document is led to believe it is a valid standard. This is also contributed to by the name of the document. In reality, the DIN SPEC is a document which is not part of the valid collection of German standards. The valid German standard governing artificial turf pitches is:

DIN EN 15330-1:2007 "Artificial turf areas – outdoors"

DIN specifications were introduced some years ago as a way of creating documents in preparation for regular standards in a less complicated and quicker way. In order to achieve this, very loose rules apply to the constitution of the working commission and the mode of negotiation. Not all relevant users must be sufficiently represented and the principle of the unanimous vote no longer applies to decisions, i.e. minority groups can be cancelled out by majorities in a crucial vote. Above all, it is important that DIN specifications (DIN SPECS) do not need to be published first as draft versions. This would make it clear that the DIN SPEC in question was not a standard, but only a discussion paper and that statements or objections can be lodged by the general public and must be taken into account.

The German institute DIN or the German construction standards commission (Normenausschuss Bauwesen, NA Bau) has only organisational and formal functions in the creation of standards documents. It leaves the contents of the documents to be determined by the standard commission (1) and mainly checks the work results in the print version of the standard. Not all documents bearing the DIN mark are standards. Despite this functional limitation, the public at large expects from the DIN institute, competent, reliable and neutral information. In the present case, this expectation is not fulfilled.

This means that a document has been created, which contains many technically dubious or wrong statements, which causes a monopolisation of testing activities (only by the testing laboratory Imat-uve, a previously completely inexperienced laboratory, specifically created for the DIN SPEC by a market participant) (2) and which generates significant market advantages for this company or group of companies. Unfortunately, the representative of the leading testing facility at that time played a decisive part in this development.

It is significantly disturbing that effective control tests have been made practically impossible. According to the DIN SPEC, the repeatedly criticised strength / toughness of elastic layers should be determined with new testing equipment (170 kg) in such a way that tests cannot be carried out until after a two-week curing period of the binding agent – well after the artificial turf has been installed. Apart from this, the parameter "torsion strength" is a technical obscurity.

1) The constitution of the working commission is governed by the co-options process, i.e. a decision by the previous members

2) In the meantime it has been determined that specialised laboratories, offering these services do exist. Inasmuch – contrary to the expectations of promoters of the DIN SPEC – the testing monopoly has been broken.

As the testing equipment is very heavy, complicated and expensive, is effectively prevented from being used. When a control test of this kind is carried out, the elastic layer is required to exhibit only 60% of the required value. This was allowed to happen by previous representatives of government authorities! The existing process for determination of tensile strength can no longer be found in the DIN SPEC. No control tests at all – believe it or not – are now required for finished synthetic turf pitches.

It must be considered expert manipulation that elastomer granules used as infill, must exhibit strength values which can only be achieved by EPDM granules. The required values are so high that it has nothing to do with the function of the granules and is in no other way a quality feature. In this way, a whole material group, TPE, has been cut out.

Ageing of synthetic surfaces with metal halide radiation lamps is also a complete innovation in testing of plastic materials. The equipment costs around € 80,000.00 and has a delivery waiting period of at least six months. Apart from this innovative kind of radiation, the test process also deviates from the conventional international procedure. With this process, neither the compatibility of the tuft layer with the infill (so-called contact diffusion sensitivity) can be determined, nor a comparison with international experimental results carried out.

This point in particular generated international protests as it is a massive infringement of the European rules for removal of trade barriers (see also the protest by the European Synthetic Turf Organisation, ESTO). This will result in the European commission, responsible for prosecution of this kind of infringement, forcing the DIN to retract the DIN SPEC or to change it very quickly in a way corresponding to European regulations. For this reason alone, it is impossible to work with such a doubtful and controversial document.

Acceptance of the DIN SPEC would require re-testing of all synthetic turf systems and products available in Germany. This would involve costs of more than € 100,000.00 for each turf system (see offer from Imat-uve/sport). This is not only a trade barrier, but also a complete waste of money for nonsensical testing. And all to the advantage of one single company / company group.

The DIN authorities do not deny that the DIN SPEC is not a valid German standard. The document is simply a suggestion. Anyone can make use of it, it is not compulsory. It is certainly not state of the art as it contains a number of tests and stipulations which are completely new and unproven. Based on the one-sided constitution of the working commission and its ways of working, only a very questionable work result would be achieved.

Every constructor or planner who takes the DIN SPEC as basis for a call for tenders, must expect a complaint from the German authorities governing tendering and contract regulations (Vergabe- und Vertragsordnung für Bauleitungen, VOB) as some suppliers are unjustifiably prevented from taking part. Rather, the planners themselves should consider the technically correct design of synthetic turf pitches and not just settle this task or responsibility by referring to a DIN document.

As the standard DIN EN 15330-1 does not cover all aspects of the previous DIN V 18035-7:2002, the ISSS Germany has created the ISSS Specification Synthetic Turf which practically combines the points of view of the EN 15330-1 and the previous DIN standard while updating the document from a technical point of view. It was discussed and agreed on with manufacturers and planners so that it provides a good and secure work basis until the time when an acceptable DIN document is published.

Hans-Jörg Kolitzus
Officially appointed and sworn expert for sport surfaces, ret.
  Bild:fotolia.com, Fotograf': VDR

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