Feature Article - July/August 2004
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Special Supplement:
Recreation Management’s Complete Guide to Sports Surfaces and Flooring

By Margaret Ahrweiler


Learn from those who earn

And while a little skepticism of marketing materials may be healthy, don't shy from manufacturers' educational and research programs, pros advise.

TMP's Bean and architect Dave Larson both say they have benefited from manufacturers' seminars. Much of the latest research being conducted on sports surface is coming from the manufacturers, Mayo adds, and those in the market should take advantage of that body of knowledge.

Major sports facility conferences occasionally touch on the subject as well, with seminars on sports surfaces taught by national sport facility gurus.

In the meantime, though, both surfacing industry and design professionals need to focus on improving communication and marketing to help clients better understand the science and construction of sport surfaces.


WOOD FLOORS CAN LAST BEYOND THE LIFE SPAN OF THEIR BUILDINGS.

Contractors have been known to salvage wood floors and reinstall them elsewhere. One savvy Chicago firm recycled the wood from a demolished racquetball court into the floor for its own corporate fitness area.


Which came first, the budget or the floor?

Learning a little about the science of floors will help make choices clearer when it comes time to work out your flooring budget. No one will deny that money matters when choosing a flooring system—Moose Sports' Cottingham puts it in her top three factors in her ranking plan—but a tight budget shouldn't put the floor on the bottom of the quality list even in cost-conscious facilities such as schools.

"You can always make room in a budget somewhere so you don't have to put down vinyl composite tile," Bean says. "You can cut back in mechanical rooms, in secondary areas or on utilitarian access stairs for emergency use. Sealed concrete is fine. But you want to have as good a gym floor as you can possible afford."

For gymnasiums, which can eat up the largest proportion of flooring costs, the choice boils down to wood or synthetic.


INITIALLY, FLOORING STANDARDS

In addition to the chemistry of synthetics and physics of wood, floor buyers must learn the alphabet soup of certifications. Currently, no single standards system exists to cover all aspects of performance, installation and design for sports surfaces, but a number of organizations cover portions of these issues. They include:

DIN—Deutsches Institut fur Normug eV.

These German industrial standards are the most widely used for sports surfaces. They specify performance standards for such categories as force reduction and deformation but do not specify design codes.

ASTM—American Society for Testing Materials

These standards show a product has passed guidelines for various physical properties, such as abrasion resistance, indentation and fire resistance.

IAAF—International Association of Athletic Federations

This track and field organization launched a certification system for track surfaces in 1999. To obtain the highest level of certification, samples of the actual, installed surface must be sent for testing.

FIFA—International Soccer Federation

The International Soccer Federation's Quality Concept sets quality goals for soccer equipment and licenses manufacturers that adhere to artificial turf criteria.

ISO—International Organization for Standardization

Like the ASTM, the ISO outlines manufacturing and quality requirements for a variety of surfaces. Many products note they meet ISO 9000 or 9001 standards, the most current update.

Without an alternative, DIN remains the gold standard for flooring, but many in the field would like to see a North American system that includes design parameters and human performance test results. Many in the industry predict that the push to standardize surface testing standards will come from the sports surfacing manufacturers, not architects or owners, in order to provide a sales edge and separate themselves from their competitors. What's more, non-believers, who don't use DIN standards, may make surfaces that adhere to them even though they don't test them through DIN.