It would appear at a cursory glance that synthetic grass is a very expensive replacement for natural grass, but the high cost is only up front. When measured over the life of the grass you will find that synthetic grass is actually a cheaper alternative to the real stuff and the savings may not simply be the cost of maintaining the grass.
So, that higher upfront cost of a synthetic grass surface is pretty quickly recouped by the lower maintenance requirements. Time, energy and the possibility of greater usage gives you a surface that will pay for itself over its lifetime.
Studies on Synthetic Grass Safety
Nowadays, commercial artificial grass is far from an uncommon sight in back gardens and sports pitches the world over. The synthetic material seems to well and truly have gained space over its natural counterpart, with traits such as its durability and ease of maintenance endearing it to the general public.
Time was, however, when the situation was markedly difference. Outside of a sporting context, commercial artificial grass was regarded as tacky and an inferior substitute for the real thing, and even when used to cover playing surfaces for sports it was far from consensual.
In the midst of all the disapproval, however, turf always had a few admirers, and it is them who are largely responsible for its eventual expansion and success. This article harks back to a time before commercial artificial grass existed, to give an overview of its origin, evolution and eventual rise to popularity worldwide.
The origins of commercial artificial grass date back to 1960s America. The material was first researched and devised by a team of scientists from the North Carolina State University College of Textiles, under the supervision of the dean himself, David Chaney. Together, these men came up with a material which looked and felt somewhat similar to grass, but without any of the shortcomings this material possesses; in short, what is nowadays known as turf.
Having created and perfected this material for optimal performance, Chaney and his team began searching for parties potentially interested in a test run. It did not take them long at all to find a considerably prominent ‘guinea-pig’, in the form of baseball team the Houston Astros, based out of the city of the same name in Texas. In 1966, the Astros’ home field, the Astrodome, became the first sports pitch in the world to be covered in commercial artificial grass. It was the beginning of a story which would only go uphill from there.
Once commercial artificial grass had proven its mettle as the playing surface for the Astros, and become known as ‘Astroturf’ as a result, other sports team owners across North American began taking an interest in the material. The late 1960s and early 1970s would see synthetic turf carpets spread across both major and minor league baseball fields, and eventually make their way into American football stadiums as well. Franklin Field, home to the Philadelphia Eagles and the University of Pennsylvania varsity football team, was the first venue to feature commercial artificial grass, but other pitches would soon follow suit, further cementing awareness for the material in public consciousness.
As popular as it was becoming with sports fans, however, commercial artificial grass still had one hurdle left to jump: the residential and landscaping market. Among home-owners, turf continued to be considered a cheap-looking, shoddy material, not at all an alternative to a real grass lawn. This generalised opinion stemmed from the first few artificial turf carpets looking somewhat less than realistic, as well as from the material’s connotation with lower-income homes. As such, commercial artificial grass faced a challenge when trying to prove its worth in the home market.
This challenge would eventually be overcome, but not for another two decades. It was not until the 1990s, more than twenty-five years after it had first been invented, that commercial artificial grass finally gained traction as a valid alternative within the home and garden market. This was largely due to the vastly improved appearance and realism level of modern turf carpets in relation to their predecessors, which helped do away with many of the concerns and prejudices keeping commercial artificial grass from establishing itself a landscaping alternative.
For the following two decades, commercial artificial grass saw its popularity continue to rise, until it could stand side by side with natural grass. Nowadays, many people even consider the material superior to its natural counterpart, at least for certain purposes, and it is expectable that this trend will continue in years to come. It is interesting, however, to think of a time when commercial artificial grass was not as popular as it is today, and to learn exactly how it came to achieve its present standing in society.
The Evolution Of Artificial Turf
There has been much controversy about artificial turf surfaces and its relation to heat, the sun, and hotter temperatures. There have been claims that artificial turf and its lack of watering makes it that much more susceptible to heat and heat absorbency. Studies have shown that there are evident possibilities of artificial grass surfaces rising in temperature during hot seasons. However, evidence of these studies do not completely rule this heat as an imminent danger to people or animals that come in contact with it, as there are ways of cooling turf and making it safe and hazard-free for all.
Synthetic grass fields and surfaces only rose to high numbers when under direct sunlight during studies. Thus, common sunny areas that have occasional clouds, overcast, or showers rarely reach extreme highs. The areas that do reach triple-digit temperatures usually fluctuate greatly throughout the day, depending on sun exposure. A study on heat and synthetic grass revealed that solar radiation, not air temperature, was the cause of high fluctuation in temperature. Another significant factor includes the type of infill used beneath the synthetic grass. It was noted that there is a possible lack of heat transfer from artificial grass fibers to the infill of the product. Thus, different materials used to engineer the turf could be significant factors in retaining heat. Though this study poses a risk to those who are concerned about surface heat, it should also be noted that this study was only done on one turf product, and therefore cannot be generalized for all artificial grass products on the market today.
Many modern turf products are coated with UV protection that withstands heat, sun, and other damaging effects. These products are designed to deflect heat and sun reflection that may cause discomfort to people and animals on the turf. There are different types of infill that help combat heat. The black crumbled rubber infill usually tends to absorb heat more than other types of infill. Other light-colored granulated infill, like Durafill, deflect heat better than infill that is composed primarily of dark crumbled rubber.
There are also ways to maintain cooler temperatures for synthetic grass.
In order to greatly reduce the high temperature of synthetic grass, it is as simple as dousing the surface with water for a few minutes. Other studies have shown that entire football fields with synthetic grass surfaces can reduced as much as fifty percent in temperature when sprinklers or hoses were used. This can total up to 60 degrees cooler in temperature. When the temperature is decreased and the surface is cooled, it can maintain a cooler temperature for a few hours after coming in contact with cool water. If possible, keeping synthetic grass in the shade can also help to keep it cool because as mentioned before, direct sun is a strong factor in increasing surface temperature. Though there have been past concerns about heat hazards and synthetic grass, many of the modern products on the market today have been designed to deflect heat and are much better than their older counterparts that absorb heat and increase temperatures dramatically. These newer synthetic grass options are easily cooled down and are both pet and family friendly, even on warmer days.