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Thread: Thoughts on artificial turf in required landscaping areas?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian notabigcitygirl's avatar
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    Thoughts on artificial turf in required landscaping areas?

    Would anyone care to share their thoughts on the new artificial turf technology, as well as appropriate and inappropriate uses, i.e. residential landscaping requirements. Our zoning code is silent on the merits and uses of artificial turf, and identifies landscaping as plant material and decorative rock. In Southern California we are experiencing a water shortage that has instigated a rush to allow and approve artificial turf in many cities. I am concerned about a myopic view toward environmental interests when it comes water savings at the expense of natural habitat, natural water percolation as filtration, and air quality. There is a lot to dislike about artificial turf, but it certainly will save on water usage.

    Thoughts?
    I'm not cute enough to have a tag line. :r:

  2. #2
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by notabigcitygirl View post
    Would anyone care to share their thoughts on the new artificial turf technology, as well as appropriate and inappropriate uses, i.e. residential landscaping requirements. Our zoning code is silent on the merits and uses of artificial turf, and identifies landscaping as plant material and decorative rock. In Southern California we are experiencing a water shortage that has instigated a rush to allow and approve artificial turf in many cities. I am concerned about a myopic view toward environmental interests when it comes water savings at the expense of natural habitat, natural water percolation as filtration, and air quality. There is a lot to dislike about artificial turf, but it certainly will save on water usage.

    Thoughts?
    The last "sustainable" (water conservation) landscape regs I worked on had some extended discussion amongst the draftees about this.

    Artificial turf is hotter than vegetation and can transfer heat to the soil, causing plant stress; reflected heat is an issue to adjacent plants as well, making them less frost-tolerant for the occasional frost there. The stored heat contributes a little to the urban heat island, but the main thing is the plant stress. It also absorbs zero rainfall, contributing to peak storm flow (this is against latest stormwater regs intent - e.g. NPDES).

    Our wording ended up being "natural turf" e.g. native turf-forming grasses (altho for you not bermudagrass, more like buffalo grass-types. Many Seattleites actually let their turf go brown in the summer, so its a cultural thing about the brown grass look. Our other wording was 'turf alternatives' , e.g. like thyme lawns, or alternative plant material (a deliberately open term meaning you can put in a veggie garden or all perennials if you want). AT the time I left, we didn't allow rock, as it contributes negatively in many ways to soil structure and reflected heat (dark rock contributes negatively to urban heat island).

    Lastly, the home shows are coming. Take a visit and ask the reps the price per sf for their turf. I'm guessing until it gets far cheaper than now its a non-starter for 5-6-7 years anyway.

    But your biggest argument against is the heat issue and the runoff. Artificial turf will make your stormwater folks unhappy here in a few short years.

  3. #3
    Member
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    Pahrump, Nevada
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    I'm glad I found this thread. Our landscaping ordinance was just recently amended to allow the use of artificial plants, trees, shrubs, turf, etc., which I think is completely foolish. We live in southern Nevada, where temperatures in the summer routinely reach 110+. Are there even manufacturers of artificial landscaping that can accommodate outdoor climates like this??

    Thanks for the post about the heat and water flow. I just spoke with our flood plain manager and there are major concerns not only about the water flow, but also about this landscaping turning into debris in a flood event, and the ability of it to withstand our 90 mph wind loads.

    I'd love to see any other thoughts anyone else has on this topic.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    If folks want grass they should move to places like the midwest where it grows thick without much in the way of watering or fertilizer. It is foolish to even consider planting it in areas where water is a precious commodity and artifical plants are downright silly.

    Natural landscaping is the way to go... always.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  5. #5
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    There is more than one type of artificial turf to choose from and some may be better than others, but I have to say that I am generally not in support of artificial turf in any form. They put in some plastic crappola at a few public pools here and a) its really not attractive and b) its hotter than a bbq in hell in July. NOT the kind of thing you want at the pool. It seriously burns your feet! Somehow some yahoo got an "in" with the city to be a designated vendor for this stuff in public spaces. I haven't seen it anywhere else, though, so I think that account got axed.

    I have read that there are other types where the resulting turf is a mixture of artificial turf and real grass. This may reduce some of the heat issues, but really, if you can't live without a lawn, then you need to live somewhere where lawns can reasonably grow.

    Putting a bunch of plastics in the ground, no matter where they came from, just doesn't seem right to me. Plus, as many have mentioned, every locale has appropriate vegetation to make for great landscaping. It may not be lawns (I live in Albuquerque and we have no business growing Kentucky Bluegrass, for example) but it can look very very nice nonetheless. In terms of soil health, heat mitigation, etc, you really aren't going to be able to do any better than plants' natural systems, so we should use them. Appropriately.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    I think it is very interesting and commendable that Cyburbia has a commercial "link" to an artificial grass product at the top of this thread.

    In case the link rotates or changes, it is:

    http://www.foreverlawn.com/?gclid=CM...FQZlswodVQLC-w

    I noted that the K-9 product says it is self draining without need for surface water to run to a collector.

    Another picture shows trees and shade. We normally think of just plain ole hot grass in direct sun, but the pictures make it look more pleasing. Maybe the tree requirements need to be increased if artificial grass is used.

    There may need to be a requirement for checking to see if the artificial grass is maintained, presentable, and functioning as first allowed. How long does the "anti-microbial" feature last. (Do natural grasses have an "anti-microbial" feature?)

    I would think that shaded "play yards" with soft artificial turf that drains properly would be acceptable.

    I think the main point of required "open space" is to prevent encroachment of buildings in order to preserve light and air and also to allow for recharging the aquifer.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Artificial Turf ---> Health Risks to Children

    I'm against artificial turf for all of the reasons posted above.

    The argument against it that will most alarm the public, however, are the serious health risks to their children. They're written about by doctors and other experts; here's one such article:

    http://washingtonsquarepark.wordpres...sioner-benepe/


    My recommendation: The next time people with decision-making authority suggest/condone artificial turf, send them a slew of health articles from reputable sources; end it with, "I'm concerned for the children." Include many cc's, creating the proverbial "paper trail." The turf proponents' first priority may not be "the children" at large, but they do care about their employment and/or political future.

    .

  8. #8
    Member
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    Marco Island, FL
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    This thread came and went in a flash. Any new technology in the last year that would address the health concerns, heat island effect, etc? I'm on Marco island, and we have a lot of older people who want to believe that its a good idea, not just with reference to the save water v. other environmental shakiness issues, but because it will actually save them piles of their own money. Almost everyone pays for weekly landscaping services, and everyone pays dearly now (about time) for water use. In todays economy, money is a trump card. This is going to be tough to stop.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
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    Aug 2005
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    Clearwater, FL
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    Fake Plants

    I'm biased - my education includes a B.S. in landscape architecture. With that out of the way - a couple of thoughts.

    Why would anyone live in an area where plants don't grow? If there are native plants that will grow there - plant them. If they don't grow there or only grow with an amazing amount of maintenance don't plant them.

    I've been helping a friend out once week with his lawn maintenance business since my hours were cut down to four-days a week. I've never fully appreciated (I've understood it and been aware of it) the energy, effort and resources used to maintain grass. The gas, oil, herb/pesticides, the exhaust fumes.... Unbelievable. And that's just one small business in one small part of the world.

    I heard it said once that a healthy lawn is a sign of a sick mind.

    Fake lawns and plants?!? Seriously, if NOTHING will grow where you live why are living there. I agree with everything posted here against fake lawns. Plus, what do you do to maintain it - rake it, vacuum it, maybe a shampoo once a year?
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
    (What Would Jimmy Durante Do?)

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