Artificial grass has come a long way since its origin in the 1960s. This has been made possible due to the massive leaps in technology and material used to manufacture it, as a result of which artificial grass is now almost identical to natural grass in terms of touch and comfort. It has been making its presence felt in all kinds of indoor and outdoor spaces.
Artificial turfs for sports have come a long way too. More and more athletes are now vouching for artificial turf, stating that it provides a much better surface to play on than natural turf.
It has made a big impact in drought-prone regions where maintaining lawns is an expensive and often wasteful affair. All of the above combined has led to a tremendous rise in its popularity and demand worldwide. This upward trend is expected to continue over the coming years as more and more people discover and realize to the full extent the usefulness and convenience of artificial grass over natural grass.
In this report, Grassman artificial turf supplier looks at the rising numbers in the use of artificial grass and discusses in detail the reasons behind this popularity. We wrap up with a glimpse into the future, which should see artificial grass manufacturers around the world making merry due to a high demand for the product globally.
It all started around 1960. Researchers had been looking for some time to provide a more cost-effective, easily manageable, and artificial option for natural turf. It was around then that David Chaney and his team at Research Triangle Park designed the first polyamide fiber to be used as artificial grass.
This was a major accomplishment and led Sports Illustrated to announce Chaney as the man “responsible for indoor major league baseball and millions of welcome mats.” Chaney later went on to serve as the Dean of North Carolina State University College of Textiles. For all means and purposes, he can be hailed as the father of artificial grass.
However, it was not until 1965 that artificial grass burst into prominence. The field of the newly-built Astrodome in Houston, Texas, the world’s first domed stadium, had been covered in natural grass. To make sure it got the requisite amount of sunlight the Astrodome was built with a transparent roof to let the sunshine through.
There was one problem though. The glinting sun on the roof was a big problem for players when catching fly balls. When the roof was painted over to prevent this, the grass no longer received sunlight.
Things came to an embarrassing tipping point in the second half of the season of 1965 when large patches of dead grass on the field had to be painted green.
As a solution, the stadium owners and engineers decided to replace the natural turf with the world’s first-ever artificial turf. A green carpet made of nylon, this turf was installed for the baseball season of 1966 and a new age was born. But due to a limited supply, only the infield was replaced by the time of the Houston Astros’ home opener in April ’66. This was the first instance of an artificial playing surface being used for a Major League sport.
But the turf was still not allowing for a full range of physical mobility. Teams and players often complained about various injuries occurring due to the hardness and odd bounce of the artificial turf. It was around 1970 that artificial turf carpet was introduced to Europe.
Made from a different artificial fabric, polypropylene, it was cheaper than nylon and softer, reducing the risk of injury among players. The first generation of artificial turf with closely packed tufts is what we now refer to as carpets.
Decorative artificial grass found its roots, no pun intended, in the initial years of the 1980s. This was when the artificial sporting surfaces were being challenged left right and center because of their proclivity of causing injuries to players.
It was then that the use of this product, because of its bright façade and ease of maintenance, went into fashion. Commonly used then in pool curbs, nurseries, shop windows, plays, etc. this type of grass was made out of thin threads of polypropylene (PP) of about 7mm height. It was not comparable to natural grass in terms of touch or comfort. Its aim was merely decorative and installation was basic.
It was in late 1990s and early 2000s, that the softer, less abrasive, more resistant fibers made of polyethylene (PE) made an appearance. It was a boom time for artificial sporting turf, and its use in homes and landscaping jumped.
With rapid leaps in materials and technology, we have finally been able to begin mimicking natural grass in touch and comfort. There are now upwards of 8000 artificial turf fields in the US and thousands of homes, institutions, businesses, and municipalities that are using artificial turf in landscaping.
The use of artificial turf around the world has come a long way from being used just for sports. Its use in homes, for decorative purposes or in landscaping, has seen a huge leap over the years, as is apparent from the figures. Rapidly improving the quality of artificial grass has been one of the biggest contributors to sports in recent years.
The collapse of the housing market has not affected the artificial grass industry. More and more people are adopting the use of artificial turf in homes, businesses, and institutions. The fact that it requires little to no water, very little maintenance, and longevity (it can last for 15-20 years), and thus is cost-effective in the long run has worked vastly in its favor.
Fibers for artificial grass were usually one of two forms, monofilaments or slit-film tape. Monofilament fibers are single strands while slit-film fibers are cut from sheets of polymers to a predetermined width and later perforated by design. But the durability and quality of the turf are not merely dependent on the fibers. It also has a lot to do with the turf construction, face weight, and infill choice, and amount.
The science of artificial turf has come a long way since its beginning in 1960 when it was but an abrasive nylon carpet. Polypropylene too was used; its stiffness rendered it best suited to support longer polyethylene fibers and minimizing infill migration.
When the softer polyethylene fibers came about in the late 1990’s it pretty much fulfilled the needs of end-users everywhere. Now crumb rubber from recycled tires has become the biggest component in making the infill for artificial grass, making it an even more ecologically sound idea.
The demand for artificial turf has continuously increased all over the world. Europe and Asia present two of the biggest markets albeit accreditation for artificial grass manufacturers outside of Europe and the US is difficult. But this in no way has dulled the desire of people to have their very own artificial lawn.
Artificial turf is well and truly on its way to taking over. Consider this: artificial turf covers about 50 million acres in the US, with an annual estimated value of $40 billion. This places artificial turf third in total acreage in all of the United States. It finds a place of pride in more than 700,000 playing fields and 17,000 golf courses and is a $40 billion industry!
Aesthetically pleasing use of artificial grass can add up to 15% to the home property values. Having started out for sporting purposes, almost one-third of the artificial grass market around the world now caters to landscape and recreational uses.
These changing trends in the use of artificial turf can primarily be attributed to the new materials and technology being used to develop the new generation of artificial turf. The softer strands of today with their accurate, grass-like coloring are a far cry from the hard green turf used when artificial turf first appeared.
Natural lawns, contrary to popular perception, are not a natural occurrence. Artificial grass is also one of the best ways to go green if you are living in an arid region, or want to cut down on the use of fertilizers and pesticides. EPA estimates that up to 7 billion gallons of water is used for landscaping every day. This is one-third of all residential water consumption. Lawn maintenance equipment guzzles up to 17 million gallons of fuel every year.
EPA found that a push lawn-mower emits as much pollution in an hour as 11 cars and a riding mower emits as much as 34 cars. Add to this another EPA statistic: 33.2 million tons of yard trimmings were generated in 2009. When decomposing they generate methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. According to American Green – The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, a homeowner will spend about 150 hours each year maintaining his lawn. The average homeowner spends more per acre to grow his lawn than it takes per acre to grow corn, rice or sugarcane.
An EPA report titled ‘Sustainable Landscaping’ mentions that American home-owners use about 3 million tons of artificial fertilizers every year, over and above 70 million pounds of herbicides and insecticides, on their lawns. 40%-60% of these chemicals find their way in our local water systems.
It is understandable in a situation like this if people choose to go for artificial turf. Southern Nevada Water Authority estimates 1 sq foot of artificial grass saves 55 gallons of water per year. Many municipalities have also begun to offer cash rebates for those willing to dig up their lawns and install faux lawns.
As of 2012, the total amount of artificial turf installed in North America manages to save more than 3 billion gallons of water. But water conservation is not the only benefit. Crumb rubber, manufactured from recycled tires, is now used as an infill for artificial grass; this has caused over a 100 million used tires to stay out of landfills.
Artificial grass also eliminates the need for any kind of pesticides or fertilizers thus reducing the number of chemicals that make their way into the water table. It eliminates the need for any lawn maintenance equipment thus reducing the dangerous emissions, a key ingredient of smog.
Using artificial turf has also helped environmentally conscientious builders and specifiers with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) project certification from the US Green Building Council. It helps builders in the areas of water-efficient landscaping, recycled content, rapidly renewable material, and innovation in design.
Installing fake grass is a thing of ease provided you follow the instructions.
Everyone, from homeowners to pet resorts, from private elementary schools to day-care centers agrees that there is no discernible visible difference between natural grass and today’s top-quality artificial grasses.
With more and more areas around the country being affected by drought maintaining a lush lawn has become an expensive affair. Also, the rising awareness of environmental degradation has led people to reduce the use of chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides.
Primary reasons for adopting an artificial lawn are mentioned below.
A heightened sense of environmental awareness is compelling many customers to look for options that provide a cradle-to-grave cycle, thus reducing the carbon footprint. Artificial grass has been certified by more than 75 independent and highly credible studies from groups like:
With varied colors, its decorative uses are also increasing rapidly. Placing them between path stones, adding a little bit of green space in the driveways, and even colorful decorative edging around pools and other areas where grass can’t grow. With modern drainage systems being attached to these artificial lawns they are rapidly becoming one of the most sought-after replacements to natural grass.
Some of the biggest institutions in the US have begun adopting the use of artificial grass, especially in areas facing a severe dearth of water. Notably, Disneyland and Steve Wynn’s Las Vegas resorts sport lush green artificial lawns. Rising challenges in procuring water have made artificial grass a front-runner among people to deck up their lawns.
Not surprisingly the artificial lawn market has proven to be recession-proof, over and above being weatherproof. Owing to the many recurring costs of natural lawns, many prefer the one-time investment and little to no maintenance artificial grass offers.
Many sportspeople have also expressed that it might even be better for upcoming players to play on artificial turf to get a better grip on the basics. The fastest-growing segments for artificial grass are landscape and leisure sports, growing at an annual rate of 30%-35%.
New York City Parks and Recreation Department is one of the largest users of artificial grass and artificial turf in the US. It has resulted in many asphalt laced areas being complemented by soft, green surface materials that decrease injuries and enhance the look of the space.
With designers and architects continuously finding different ways to use artificial grass, it has managed to find its way in everyone’s life. Many have found uses for it in the form of wallpaper, or headrests for beds, among other things. Manufacturers have also found ways to weave in fiber optics into artificial turf, essentially converting artificial playing fields into huge jumbotrons.
The rapid growth of technology has helped artificial grass yarn grow with leaps and bounds making it more acceptable in sports and homes alike. Primary stakeholders of this technology like FIFA and UEFA Champions League have taken great interest in it, giving it a much-needed boost. Stronger fibers that are more environmentally friendly, sustainable, and yet high-performance solutions are being developed as well.
It is undeniable that artificial grass is the turf of the future. With more and more sports associations and homeowners opting for artificial grass surfaces for sporting as well as domestic use, the demand for quality faux turf is only going to rise.
There are still a number of unexplored markets for artificial grass around the world. Its uses in terms of home carpeting, as for wallpaper, for carpeting at events and other decorative purposes are yet to be delved into deeper. Rapid upgrades in technology are helping make the artificial turf approach as close to natural turf as possible.
Various standards and tests devised by the industry ensure that they are durable and safe for those that use it. Asia and Europe, two of the largest potential markets for artificial turf, are up for the taking for those ready to do the requisite labor. For those in the industry, it is time to reap the fruits of faux grass and look forward to a bright future.