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synthetic turf
Project planning essentials

This is an extract of a paper presented by Dr Martin Schlegel to a 2013 Synthetic Turf Technology Clinic initiated by TTNA CEO Kerryn Caulfield.

Dr Schlegal is a strategy consultant and director of Chemneera Pty Ltd.  He believes planning process and site preparation should be a priority area for the industry and cited examples where neglect in this area had caused significant delays, additional costs and bad publicity for the industry. In most cases these issues would have been realised and resolved during the planning stage, he said.  “When there are any doubts or there is any inconvenience caused to the surrounding community, … even when there are no scientific examples to support their claims, emotive methods are used to fight a project," he said. Neglecting any areas of planning on a project could have significant negative impacts on the whole industry, he warned.

Dr Schlegel has developed a model Project/Process Cycle which plots the milestones and key areas. “We must basically find out how is the place being prepared before installation, how is it managed afterwards, and what do we expect in terms of required maintenance? … And stakeholders must all work together,” he said.

“Initially, discuss the existing facility with the client - its change-rooms and other facilities such as parking - and then look further, at the surrounding neighbourhood." Consider all of the following:

  • Planning
  • Procurement of appropriate turf system from source (may involve testing)
  • Place management (whether it is a club or sporting facility, for example)
  • Participation (or who will be included among the users, and what is the breakdown)
  • Feasibility study (consider the infrastructure available, future local and state plans)
  • Develop specifications (involves engineers and additional testing)
  • Decide on the project management method - who should be involved and how the site will be managed during installation works, so as not to impact negatively on those using the area.
  • Be forward-thinking with regards to how the area will be maintained in future, for early inclusion of necessary access areas.

"Some difficulties stem from a lack of industry-created standards/specifications, which could potentially cover many of the more basic aspects of installation. Even actual sand grains are checked for their appropriate size. Engineers focus predominantly on the local soil type, but have  limited knowledge of the total turf system being installed.

"Many diverse solutions are also explored with clients to align with their proposed budget, which adds to the complexity.

"Particular challenges also arise during the design of sporting facilities (i.e. for rugby). A  hard, fast-running ground will create a faster game - a three to eight millimetre deformation creates a much harder surface.  A friction detection machine could be used to measure co-efficient friction. The possible alternatives should be communicated to the client. A friction detection machine also assists in estimating the impact upon the health of players.

"Whereas the synthetic turf is a highly controlled environment, natural grass poses far greater risk to players’ safety, as a result of gradient changes/undulations and much wetter areas, caused by sprinklers or rain, while other parts of the same field may be quite hard.

"While the AFL is continually working on standards for all ovals, another issue is the need for intermittent testing for the presence of toxins and fertilisers used on natural turf ovals and how this could impact user health," Dr Schlegel said.