Seminar Discusses Safer Synthetic Turf

Boulder, Colo.–Nearly 100 influential U.S. landscape architects, engineers, testing laboratories, thought leaders and manufacturers met at the Brock International Educational Seminar on October 16 – 18 to learn about the latest trends in building safer, more environmentally-friendly synthetic turf playing fields. The unique conference featured presentations from award-winning experts on eco-effectiveness, injury prevention and field design.

“Our goal was to create an event that focused on issues of deep importance to the sports field industry,” explained Dan Sawyer, CEO of Brock International. “From making a positive impact on the environment instead of just minimizing damage, to getting value even in a low bid environment, to the severity of the head injury epidemic in youth sports, presenters gave us a broader world view of what a sports field means, and how it ‘impacts’ people around it.”

The Keynote Speaker was Professor Dr. Michael Braungart, one of the foremost international authorities on eco-effective products and closed-loop production processes, which go beyond being not only harmless to man or nature, but actually beneficial. Co-author of the groundbreaking bestsellers “Cradle to Cradle” and “The Upcycle,” Braungart discussed the importance of going beyond sustainability to focus on designing for abundance. Patrick Maguire, MLA, RLA, LEED AP, continued the discussion on eco-effectiveness with his presentation on “LEED, Cradle to Cradle Practices and Synthetic Turf.”

Safety was a major focus of the meeting, particularly in light of the U.S. sports concussion crisis. While much attention is focused on player helmets and gear, it is estimated that about 10% of brain injuries are caused by playing surface impacts. Sports Legacy Institute Founder Chris Nowinski discussed injury prevention trends in his “Safety in Sports” presentation, noting that playing surfaces were recently added to the non-profit’s concussion prevention check-list in recognition of its potential impact in preventing injuries. John Sorochan, PhD of the University of Tennessee Center for Athletic Field Safety discussed “Athlete Safety and Performance on Natural and Synthetic Athletic Fields,” in his presentation while Jennifer Himmelsbach, MS, of Biomechanica addressed “Tuning the Surface for the Player.”

Thought leaders in landscape architecture and engineering also made presentations on improving industry practices. Ron Kagawa, ASLA LEED AP, Division Chief, Park Planning, Design+Captial Development; City of Alexandria, Virginia discussed “Cheapness vs. Economy: Strategies in a Low Bid Environment. “Alternatives to Stone Base Construction” was presented by George Saunders, PE, of Geodesigns, Inc. and John Amato, PE of JJA Sports, while Jeffery L. Bruce, FASLA, LEED, ASIC, GRP and Ryan Teeter, PE, IDD Sports discussed “How fields age – what we’ve learned over the past 10 years.”

“In 30 years of practice it was by far the best educational seminar I have attended, definitely about more than just improving our knowledge of synthetic turf systems,” noted seminar attendee Carl Armanini, RLA, ASLA, Woolpert Design. “We were confronted with examining our everyday processes and how making simple decisions correctly allows us to create better places and products that result in better health, environment and life overall.”

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