Artificial grass has a myriad of uses. Since its introduction when it was used as the playing surface for the Houston Astrodome all the way back in the 60's to today, artificial turf has undergone many revisions to become an attractive and comfortable alternative to grass in all sorts of situations.
Some of the latest areas that are beginning to adopt artificial grass as an effective material are children’s playgrounds. These spaces, the sites of thousands of classic childhood memories, can be quite dangerous. In the United States over 200 000 children are treated every year for playground related injuries. Here in Australia the rate is quite similar.
Great advances in playground safety have been made in recent years. Poured rubber, rubber chips or tiles have all been employed to create a softer, safer surface for playgrounds so that when, not if, someone takes a tumble from the equipment, any injury is minimised as much as possible. These techniques have improved safety to some extent, but artificial turf offers further potential for protection: all the while being more attractive than other products.
Artificial grass that is laid in playgrounds is usually a particularly thick and dense form of premium landscape grass. This artificial turf is some of the softest, most realistic and attractive artificial grass product available, and can make a huge difference to the feel and appearance of any space. Playground spaces, which are often quite bare, can really be improved aesthetically through the installation of turf.
The artificial grass layer differs in playgrounds from other applications as it is laid over a soft foam or rubber base. This base provides the majority of the cushioning attributes of the surface. The two layers, base and grass, compliment each other. The base can be made softer as the grass acts as a protective layer. Soft foam or rubber without a cover would be worn out or damaged quickly by the activity taking place on it, but with the artificial grass acting as a barrier it can be made softer and yet remain sturdy. The thick layer of grass adds another layer of soft protection.
Traditional playgrounds were often built on top of ordinary lawns. Over time the grass in these playgrounds was worn away by the constant foot traffic. This exposed the hard ground and caused dust and rocks to become an issue. Artificial grass does not suffer nearly so badly from this effect. It is almost as durable as poured rubber alternatives while being more attractive and more comfortable.
In the past when artificial grass was used in playgrounds it was generally just ordinary athletic turf with a rubber infill. This technology has been superseded by the more advanced technique outlined above. This has several advantages over the old way of doing things. For a starters using a landscape turf with a rubber base negates the need for the rubber infill. This rubber infill would be shifted by the constant traffic and would invariably be slowly removed from the playground as children inadvertently took it with them, stuck to their clothes, in their shoes or in their hair. Even if only a few pieces were taken by each child, this would quickly add up and the infill would need to be replenished. By putting the rubber component underneath the turf not only is the surface made more effectively soft, it also makes it harder for the rubber to be shifted.
The second major advantage of using landscape turf with a foam or rubber base is that it is much softer than an ordinary, quite thin layer of athletic turf laid directly over concrete. By being so much softer the incidence of injury can be reduced and the surface made more pleasant to play on.
Playgrounds are getting safer but there will always be an element of risk to using them. This is okay, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of risk: in fact it can actually be quite beneficial to a child’s development. However, that doesn't mean we should go back to the old methods of bare concrete playgrounds. Artificial turf offers a less stark, better looking, safer and more comfortable playing surface than traditional methods. What’s not to like?
For more information on artificial grass visit Turf Green, a Brisbane artificial grass expert: