Is Artificial Turf the Lawn of the Future?
We seem to be getting better at making things that aren’t real seem real. From Beyond Meat to porcelain tiles that effectively mimic marble, these reproductions sometimes offer benefits that improve real business. Meatless meat production is more environmentally friendly, while porcelain tiles are more durable than marble.
Artificial grass has also improved over time. Today’s artificial turf is somewhat similar to the plastic material of the 1970s, like a Beyond Burger to the soybean patty schoolchildren who came out of the cafeteria during the same period. In fact, artificial turf is so much more natural nowadays that it is even becoming a viable option for residential lawns.
What exactly is artificial grass?
“Turf is a polypropylene fiber that is tufted into a carpet,” explains Iannick Di Sanza, Marketing Manager at Tarkett Sports. Di Sanza’s company makes FieldTurf, the artificial turf found among the studs of the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, and Ohio State Buckeyes, to name a few. Polypropylene is a type of plastic fiber that is also often found in everyday packaging such as pill bottles and yoghurt pots.
“Synthetic carpet” describes the beginnings of artificial turf pretty precisely. AstroTurf, the original artificial turf, was published by Monsanto in the late 1960s and installed on the baseball field at Houston’s Astrodome, writes Sports Illustrated. Within two years of installing the Astrodome, 3M’s Tartan Turf was dropped at Michigan Stadium.
The trend towards artificial turf fields grew particularly within the NFL. Although known among gamers as unforgiving, artificial turf offered a level of durability that natural grass did not. In the mid-1970s, second-generation artificial turf consisted of longer fibers, a pad underneath and sand filling. The third generation turf developed by FieldTurf quickly hit the market. According to a study by orthopedic surgeon James R. Jastifer and his colleagues, more than 6,000 artificial turf had been installed in North America by 2011, with around 1,000 to 1,500 new installations being added annually.
Third generation artificial turf, or “filled” artificial turf, typically starts with a selection of polyethylene fibers which are monofilaments, films of silt, or a mixture of both. The fibers are tufted into a carpet that is coated with a urethane or latex recipe. The carpet is rolled and delivered to the construction site, explains Di Sanza. Once it arrives, the lawn is unrolled and glued or sewn together to create the field surface.
The next step is adding the filling. If you look at the carpet like blades of grass in nature, the filling acts as dirt. “One doesn’t work without the other,” says Di Sanza. Today’s filling consists of two or three layers and is made up of sand – usually silica – and rubber, which can come from recycled car tires. It is installed layer by layer by a spreader that acts like a salt truck on the highway. A brush tractor follows to smooth everything out.
Who uses artificial turf?
Artificial turf can be found on a wide variety of sports fields today, including soccer, football, baseball, softball, lacrosse, and field hockey. You can find it on indoor and outdoor fields. Due to its longevity, it can be used on multisport fields, e.g. B. at high schools where many teams train and are almost continuously active in the field. The 2015 Women’s World Cup was played on artificial turf, but not the 2019 and 2023 either. You may even find a golf course with artificial turf, and not just the mini variety.
In times of concern for natural resources, artificial turf has also become a sustainable option for lawns as it doesn’t require irrigation and maintenance is minimal, i.e. no pesticides or fertilizers. Architectural Digest promoted its eco-friendliness in drought-stricken areas back in 2010, and a look at Pinterest will provide plenty of ideas for residential applications, from rooftop patios to backyards to indoor feng shui. While sports turf manufacturers focus on safety, performance and durability, residential turf is more like a “plush carpet,” says Di Sanza, whose comfort and aesthetics are driving development.
Advantages and disadvantages of artificial turf
Artificial grass offers several advantages – durability and sustainability come first. Manufacturers are constantly innovating products to answer criticism. Despite the constant innovation, artificial turf sometimes still gets a bad rap from athletes who say it increases the risk of injury. Many studies have been done to see if this is true.
In a 2018 study, Hiroyuki Nunome, a professor of biomechanics at Fukuoka University in Japan, stated that a number of studies had shown that there were “no clear differences in risk of injury” between natural and third-generation artificial turf, he said however, also stated that “there is still a considerable gap for the stress-strain property between natural and artificial third generation lawns”. In favor of artificial turf, Nunome found that third generation lawns can get more difficult over time and that some of these studies were conducted on lawns up to eight years old, which happens to be the standard FieldTurf warranty.
Whether it’s soft enough or not, as anyone in the south who has played on artificial turf knows, it can get hot enough to be felt through your cleats. FieldTurf has also developed an answer to this problem. This is a product with a layer of cork that absorbs heat and shocks.
“Almost every field in Texas now has cool play,” says Di Sanza. “It really helps reduce the heat.”
In addition to concerns from athletes, other turf criticism comes from stakeholders concerned about the possible risks posed by the chemicals in the infill. However, according to a report by FieldTurf, since 1990 there have been more than 90 technical studies and reports “by leading universities, toxicologists and government agencies” that have addressed a wide variety of health and safety issues related to the use of recycled rubber.
“These studies and reports found no link between recycled rubber fill and cancer or any other risk to human health,” the TurfField report said. Some of the most recent studies include one from the Washington Department of Health and one from the Dutch government.
If opinions on artificial turf differ, it may be due to the large differences in the types of turf, the level of maintenance, the amount used and even the installation process. It is likely that the condition of the artificial turf at the local high school is not comparable to what players find in large stadiums.
While artificial turf doesn’t need watering, it does require maintenance, including brushing and aerating, and the infill needs to be kept at the correct level, notes Di Sanza. Beyond maintenance, stages that can afford it can update their interface every few years. Take, for example, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, which is home to the NFL Falcons and the MLS Atlanta United. The stadium, which has only been open for two years, has already swapped its Revolution 360 lawn – which was played on Super Bowl LII – for CORE, FieldTurf’s latest product, which features a multi-layer, dual-polymer monofilament for a “more realistic, textured grass”. like shape, “says the company’s website.
“There are good turfs and bad ones,” says Di Sanza. “You need the right amount of filler to protect it. A good installation team is such a big influence on the long-term durability of the field.”