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IAKS-Seminar "Plastics and synthetic turf surfaces for sport and leisure facilities" at Königsbrunn, Germany, June 20/21, 2012
All about the topic of synthetic turf – including further education – was taken to heart again this year by the IAKS (international association for sport and leisure activities) as they invited communities, clubs, planners and other trade representatives to Königsbrunn near Augsburg in Germany.
The event was opened with a welcome speech from Klaus Meinel (Managing Director, IAKS).
The focus point of the event was the new synthetic turf pitch at Königsbrunn which was finished in spring 2012. In 2011, all those responsible (major, members of the city council, housing associations and representative of multi-generation housing) decided to renovate the synthetic turf pitch in the sport, leisure and recreation park West while adding new features (toboggan hill, Kneipp basins, sensation path, herb garden etc.) and thus, to provide active players with a further attraction. Among other things, the pitch is used regularly by soccer and football clubs.
As Ludwig Fröhlich (mayor of Königsbrunn) emphasised during his welcome speech, the variety of sporting offers in Königsbrunn with its 29,000 inhabitants is important to him and he sees it manifested in the many sport clubs. Along with soccer and football there is also a beach volleyball field and a multi-generation park. Particular focus points for him are good and detailed planning and implementation of projects which are always optimised to suit social requirements. Concepts must always be flexible in order to adapt to the continually changing urban circumstances. Every innovation should provide new benefits.
This was also confirmed by the planner of the project, Franz-Josef Eger (landscape architect, Eger &Partner). He implemented this project in Königsbrunn and has worked in cooperation with Ludwig Fröhlich for many years. The topic of his presentation was "Synthetic turf pitches for sport and recreation - Pro und Contra". To start with he briefly described the advantages and disadvantages of natural and synthetic turf and which sport properties and uses they have. For example, synthetic turf can be played on 365 days a year and is easy to care for, but involves a high initial investment and can cause joint problems for users. Natural turf is officially approved for competitive sport in Germany and a completely natural product, but considered from an annual point of view, has high maintenance costs and cannot be played on for the whole 12 months each year. Along with development of synthetic turf in the last 20 years, Mr. Eger also explained the individual layers and components of its structure. Particularly interesting, along with a checklist for a request for tendering of offers, was his cost-benefit analysis. He presented a comparison calculation for natural and synthetic turf which showed that taking investment costs, period of use and life expectancy into consideration as well as maintenance costs, synthetic turf pitches cost only 28.80 Euro for each hour of use while natural grass costs 60.60 Euro per hour of use. Whether this calculation can replace the pros and contras of both turf systems for once and all, remains left to the decision maker to decide. In this regard, general contractors should consider very carefully the factors important to his requirements and make a detailed check list before asking for tenders. It is important to clarify beforehand what is required for the finished pitch and how much in investment and fix costs a club or school can carry.
The ball was then taken up by Rolf Haas (Fieldturf Tarkett, member of the DIN standard committee "Sports field synthetic turf areas") with a presentation about the new DIN-SPEC 18035-7:2011-10 . This controversial topic has caused no small agitation and insecurity in the trade for some time now. In his presentation Mr. Haas explained that initially, a DIN SPEC serves to protect general contractors as a club can submit a project and build without one. This is not recommended by the DIN standard committee as there is then absolutely no guarantees given and no planner would undertake such a project. A club is obliged to follow the DIN SPEC if, for example, it makes use of public funding. It was also explained why the DIN SPEC exists – due to the European standards no national standards can be published and for this reason the DIN SPEC 18035-7:2011-10 was published as a replacement for the standard DIN V 18035-7:2002-06. This new DIN standard was necessary as many aspects of the material had changed since 2002. In the end it still remains to be seen whether the new DIN SPEC will become valid after its publishing and accepted as a groundwork, or if it remains an expert report and is therefore, not a valid standard. Mr Hass discussed the most important changes since 2002. One topic which until now has not been given much attention is ageing of completely infilled synthetic turf systems using solar simulators in a weathering chamber. The UV problem cannot simply be ignored. Even when synthetic turf does not discolour in a similar way to natural grass, permanent UV radiation damages the stalks and infill material. The question is how long a guarantee should last? How many cycles should a product withstand?
In addition to DIN, there are also many other different certifications for synthetic sport surfaces (RAL, FIFA) which should be seriously considered by a general contractor. They serve for his protection and can provide a certain direction to follow during planning.
The active discussion following his presentation made very clear that the feelings are still running high about this topic. Not all the changes are practical for the trade and this was openly discussed.
Further information on the DIN SPEC can be found, among others, at www.spec.din.de
Thomas Kubitza (Melos GmbH) followed Mr. Haas‘ presentation with his own about "Chemistry and environmental properties plastics and synthetic turf surfaces". Rubber granules are used today as infill material in synthetic turf systems and originate from the tire manufacturer Good Year, inventor of crosslinked plastic granules. Mr. Kubitza explained the manufacture of granules as added value compared to other processes involving sulphur-cured EPDM granules, their advantages and disadvantages as well as different applications and environmental properties. At the start of the era of synthetic turf, systems were filled with pure sand. This kind of infill still exists today but is being increasingly replaced by rubber granules as infill laid on top of the sand layer. Rubber granules have the property of preventing hardening. Shock absorbance, ball rebound and roll behaviour remain constant.
Franz Josef Eger returned to the podium to speak on the topic of "Synthetic turf surfaces in outdoor areas – possible uses and selection criteria". Many opportunities exist for the use of multi-functional floor coverings in the fields of sport, urban planning or recreation. Many applications exist in field and track athletics alone (running tracks, segment surfacing in stadiums and approach tracks), as well as in tennis and school sports (all-weather pitches as per school sport regulations) as well as multi-functional playing fields (for all ball sports and with fall protection) as the synthetic surfaces can be installed in a variety of shapes and colours. Normally for sport applications, standardised surfaces are used which are either permeable (all-weather) or impermeable (running tracks in stadiums). In addition, the elastic layer decides the sporting, protective and technical design and can be installed as a one or multiple layer system. This should be planned according to the requirements in each case (for example as fall protection on a playground) and naturally, must fulfil all testing regulations.
This presentation was supplemented by Achim Höse (Berleburger Schaumstoff Werke GmbH) with insights into the numerous projects of his company. He underlined the variable character of the products which require little maintenance and are easy to clean. In addition, many colour combinations can be mixed which are then installed manually. This allows the same product to be used for example as Usain Bolt's blue running track and for a caterpillar picture fall protection in a nursery school. A further very well known project is, for example, the playground "Jewellery box of the Empress Augusta" at the federal garden exhibition at Koblenz, Germany where inlaid parquetry made by mixing granules in two different colours, are used as fall protection. Mr. Höse also mentioned systems for awarding projects and gave some tips for calls for tenders from the point of view of a manufacturer.
Despite the changeable, wet weather, in the late afternoon all participants transferred to the Leisure Park West, 10 minutes away where the synthetic turf pitch used by different sport clubs is located. Despite it being used by the local soccer club, Dennis Frank from the institute for sport facility testing (ISP-Institut für Sportstättenprüfung), found enough space to illustrate torsion testing to the participants while Stefan Kutter (Hermann Kutter GmbH & Co. KG), demonstrated the use of different maintenance equipment. Martin Braun (Eger & Partner) then explained some points about planning before a second visit to a school playground in Königsbrunn which is equipped with a fall protection surface from the BSW Company.
At the following evening event, all participants had the opportunity of networking and further discussion of the newly learned facts.
The second day began with a presentation by Jürgen Morton-Finger (Morton Extrusionstechnik GmbH) with the title "Fibre – The face of synthetic turf". Mr. Morton explained the first development steps of synthetic turf fibres and which materials can be used for manufacture of the fibres: Polyamide monofilament (Nylon), for example, stands very well, is very stiff and has a very natural appearance. Its disadvantage is however, the risk of burning as nylon is a material which causes friction burns on skin. Polypropylene monofilaments have glass fibres, stand sufficiently well and do not injure skin as much, they do tend to break much more easily however. The different fibres have different manufacturing costs and different fields of application (e.g. sport, landscaping etc.), so that the kind of fibre used is usually decisive for the final cost of a synthetic turf pitch. A further matter of expense is the production location. Many synthetic turf systems are manufactured outside Germany (e.g. Far East, Asia, etc.). It is difficult for a manufacturer located in Germany to keep step with these locations which have low labour and investment costs. Some methods of compensation for example, are automation, machine modifications or energy optimisation of the manufacturing chain which allow Germany to be maintained as production location.
The presentation by Mr Morton-Finger about "Recycling of plastic and synthetic turf surfacing" was just as innovative. He presented a project by the Morton Company in which double-walled plastic bottles are recycled and processed to make new fibres. As the plastics market is very large and sufficient resources are available, this would be a visionary development for the synthetic turf market. The Morton-Finger company also plans long-term, to replace and recycle old surfaces of synthetic turf systems while the elastic supporting layer remains and can be used to support a new synthetic turf surface. In this way, clubs could save enormous amounts of money while still being environmentally compatible. This method has not yet become established as it is still to expensive, but the capacity already exists.
The final presentation was given by Markus Hertner (PERROT-Regnerbau Calw GmbH) and Thorsten Sollich (Siteco Beleuchtungstechnik GmbH). Markus Hertner explained that watering of synthetic turf is very important as it reduces friction values and lowers the surface temperature during the summer months. He recommended planning and installation of sprinkler systems beforehand in order to prevent damage to the ground.
Thorsten Sollich also enlightened participants on the importance of good lighting for athletes, spectators and the media. Not only must the players be able to see the ground in front of them, spectators must also have the possibility of following the action without limitations while it is decisive for sport reporting to have the correct live conditions for good recordings. Important factors are where the floodlights are positioned and how the lights are shaped so that the playing field is optimally illuminated.
With a farewell speech from Klaus Meinel, two very informative and eventful days came to an end, where participants had gathered new information and learned more about known facts. The questions, "Which construction methods are most suitable for which uses?" and "How are fibres, plastics and granules manufactured and what is their influence on use?", were answered in detail. In addition, participants also learned the point of view of trade representatives on questions of current interest such as the DIN SPEC. Participants had many opportunities with questions and in discussion to gain feedback from the decision-makers.