So you’re planning for your new field. You’ve established a committee, surveyed the stakeholders and started raising money for a new field that will become the pride of the school. So how much should you raise? How much should you budget? That depends on how far ahead you’re willing to look because lifecycle cost can be very different than initial cost.
You’re making a long term commitment that your site will be an artificial turf field for a long time as its very rare that any artificial turf field is converted back to natural. How you approach this project will establish the amount of money future generations (or you if you’re in your role long enough) will need to raise each time the turf needs replaced.
Artificial Turf Warranties
Each component of the system has a different warranty and life expectancy which can be a bit confusing. While most turf warranties last 8 years, the turf on your field usually last ten years if well maintained. Other components may last much longer if selected and installed correctly. For instance, the gravel base and drainage network should last upwards of 50 years and usually only require minimal work when the field is replaced. Don’t skimp here! The base and drainage are typically covered by the contractor’s warranty which can be anywhere from 1 to 10 years. We highly recommend using a well-qualified sports field builder such as one from American Sports Builders Association’s Certified Field Builder list. Builders on this must meet standards set forth by ASBA and pass a comprehensive examination. Search for a Certified Field Builder List here.
USGreentech believes that shock pads provide the safest, highest performing fields and the leading products on the market have warranties upwards of 25 years and could last well beyond that because it is protected from UV sunlight. So that leaves one more product in your system: infill. The most common infill on the market, crumb rubber made from discarded car tires, has no warranty. Infills that are made specifically for turf like TPE’s have warranties around 8 years to match the turf warranty. USGreentech’s Envirofill has the longest warranty of any infill on the market at 16 years and has been extensively tested. Read on to learn how this can benefit years from now.
Make sure you know exactly what is covered in each product warranty as all warranties are not created equal.
What happens when the field wears out?
Let’s fast forward 10 years to a point where the turf on your field has worn out and it’s time for replacement. Now what? We would highly recommend you select a field designer to help assess your existing field and plan for the replacement. Their expertise can help you avoid pitfalls during the planning, bidding and building phases. Technologies have also changed since you last installed a field and a designer can provide an unbiased overview of these new products and which one is best for your situation.
Assuming your base and drainage system was built correctly and has no drainage issues, you can plan for it to remain in place. If there are any drainage issues, now is the time to address them.
The shock pad should also remain in place. In order to do so, your contractor needs to take special care in removing the turf and infill so as not to damage the pad beneath. There is specialty equipment, like that from Turf Reclamation Solutions, that is designed to remove the turf without damaging the pad below. Supervision during this phase of the project is recommended to ensure the contractor is approaching the demolition phase methodically and with care. Otherwise, this could end up costing you!
What happens when your sports turf field needs replaced?
Assuming the base and pad are in good shape and will remain, the focus of your replacement project should be on the turf and infill portion of the synthetic turf system. By weight, the infill represents about 90% of the surface and will greatly impact the disposal fees unless you have an infill that can be reclaimed and reused in the new turf or one that can be composted. Think about that, selecting the right infill upfront can reduce your disposal costs by 90%! And in some parts of the country, disposal costs can run as high as $50,000 – $75,000 which could be 15%-20% of your replacement project! There is no donor who wants to contribute money toward this portion of your replacement project.
Because the infill is such a significant portion of the project, the goal should be to select an infill that avoids the landfill when the field is replaced.
Now envision a scenario where the infill can be completely reclaimed, set aside and installed into the new turf saving significant dollars AND avoiding 500,000 pounds of material going into the landfill. Doesn’t that sound like an ideal scenario? That option exists when you select Envirofill as your infill of choice. Envirofill is unique in that it is installed 100%. All other infills combine a mixture of raw sand and the performance infill – in those cases if the product could last two lifecycles, the mixture would not allow for reclaim, reuse and predictable performance of the system.
Below is a chart that can help you understand the lifecycle costs between selecting a system with Envirofill versus a system with SBR. Yes, there is an upfront premium to select Envirofill but if we look further out, we can see the costs are not that different over time. Costs are not adjusted for inflation which would make the scenario even better in favor of choosing Envirofill. We also assumed that both system would install a pad and that the labor costs for installing either system are identical.
- This comparison is for a project in Los Angeles, CA
- There are a lot of items that can affect cost estimates such as base work, gravel costs, labor, prevailing wage, taxes, contractor markup, site constraints, union, turf quality, freight of materials, etc.
- Don’t use this for budgeting purposes. Its intention is to illustrate that if you reuse Envirofill for two lifecycles, the costs over two fields is less.
- In our comparison, all systems have a pad, because its best practice to do so!
- In today’s dollars, not accounting for inflation.