Hybrid fields discussed

As the list of hybrid fields solutions is growing rapidly, it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. This article provides some background information on hybrid field solutions and lists the details of some of the most popular solutions that are sold today.

Hybrid systems have been around since the 1980s when the Dutch football association KNVB challenged the sports flooring industry to develop a surface that could be used more frequently. The approximately 250 hours per annum that grass fields could handle at the time was insufficient for KNVB to accommodate its swelling membership. Adding more fields was not always an option, especially in densely populated areas.

The Desso Grassmaster was the first to meet the challenge. The usage capacity of a field was double what clubs were used to. More importantly, the field remained level and performed well even when there was hardly any natural grass present. Soon, managers and caretakers of professional stadiums discovered the Grassmaster as a solution to maintain the integrity of their pitch while using the venue more frequently. Sports stadiums suddenly became multipurpose venues that could host different events, including non-sports events like tradeshows and concerts, while the synthetic turf support ensured that the (visual) damage to the field remained limited. Once the Desso Grassmaster made it to the 2004 Summer Olympics, as well as the European Football championship in the same year, its future was set.

Different approaches

These days, hybrid field solutions come in all shapes and sizes. Depending on the quality of the system, as well as the quality and frequency of the maintenance, a hybrid field can be used for 800 – 1000 hours per annum.

FIFA differentiates hybrid solutions along the lines of the organic/inorganic nature of the materials used, the impact of the materials on the final product, and the typical maintenance required for each category. They distinguish the following two categories:

Reinforced surfaces: These include additional support in the construction for the root zone, aiming at strengthening the hold of the grass. To a user, the surface does not look any different, as it is de facto only natural grass.

Hybrid natural surfaces: These are the most commonly referred to when using the term “hybrid.” These surfaces are natural surfaces grown within a base of synthetic fibres. The synthetic fibres are visible but normally constitute less than 5% of the total grass coverage. For that reason, these surfaces are classified as “natural.” The synthetic turf component can be added onsite (in situ) by injecting synthetic turf fibres into the ground or fixed to an open backing, whereby the grass can grow in between the synthetic turf blades. The grass can be sown on site or the concept can be delivered as a “lay and play” solution.

Different solutions

At present, the following different solutions are being offered:

System Type ‘Lay-and-play’ option Pile height Nr. of filaments / m2 Tuft lock
Grassmaster Stitched, in-situ No 18 cm deep, 2cm free pile 30,000 In the ground
SIS Grass Stitched, in-situ Available 18 cm deep, 2cm free pile 30,000 In the ground
Flexgrass (Partners with Sis Grass) Available 2,5 cm
Fusion grass Available 5-6 cm 38,000 Thermal
Grassmax Stitched, in-situ Available 18 cm deep, 2cm free pile 30,000
Hero Hybrid grass 30,000
Hybridgrass Available 5 cm 46,200 – 88,200 Latex
Hybrid Grass Available Unknown 37,000 – 51,000
Mixto Available 4-5 cm Latex
Palau Hybrid Unknown Unknown
Playmaster Available 5-6 cm Thermal
Powergrass Unknown 5-6 cm 48,000 – 88,200 Latex
Sporthybrid Stitched, in-situ 20 cm 2,500 In the ground
Xtra Grass Available 5-6 cm 48,000 Woven & coated
Xtreme Grass Available 5-6 cm Woven

This list is not exhaustive. Is your system not listed yet? Please drop us an email with all details and we will add it to this list.

Different playing characteristics

Reinforced and hybrid surfaces have different characteristics to natural and synthetic turf, particularly in relation to “hardness.” French testing institute Labosport used the test methods from the FIFA Quality Programme for Football Turf to collect data on the performance of natural grass, hybrid and synthetic turf fields. They visualised the results as follows:

Disclaimer: To avoid any oversimplified generalisations, no attempt at categorically associating a surface with a particular set of playing characteristics should be attempted, as the inherent variability of natural materials and the difference in quality of synthetic products can mean a significant difference between two similar surfaces or even the same surface over time. 

 

How much does a field cost?

Calculating the cost of a field is very complex. Buyers often immediately start looking for a particular solution without having really identified the true need first. Before it can be concluded that hybrid field is the best option, one first has to be sure that neither natural grass nor synthetic turf manage to balance the required usage capacity vs capital layout vs ability to maintain the field.

As a rule of thumb, the following usage capacity can be used (in northern Europe) to establish what solution is best:

Surface Hours per year
Natural grass up to 400
Hybrid up to 800
Synthetic turf up to 1.250

Depending on use, maintenance frequency and intensity.

 

These hours of usage can only be achieved when the field is used and maintained according to what the installing company has stipulated.

The BSNC, the Dutch industry association for the sports flooring industry, uses the following purchase prices for various systems:

Surface Installation cost
Grass EUR 75,000 – 100,000
Hybrid (fixed to a backing) EUR 290,000 – 350,000
Hybrid (stitched) EUR 300,000 – 400,000
Synthetic turf (SBR infill) EUR 400,000
Synthetic turf (performance infill) EUR 500,000

 

To select the right hybrid system, one first has to do a thorough soil analysis, as well as an assessment of the area where the field is to be placed. It is very important to establish the local water management conditions. Once all conditions have been mapped, it will be easier to select the right solution that will be fit for both its purpose and the local environment.

Buyers of hybrid fields are advised to split the installation between a contractor with knowledge and understanding of the local circumstances to prepare the soil and subbase, while leaving the finishing touch to a specialist with experience in hybrid surfaces. As the quality and frequency of the maintenance play an important role in the performance and safety of the surface, it is advised to make the supplier of the hybrid top-layer responsible for the upkeep of the surface until such time as the buyer has the knowledge and equipment to take on that responsibility.

Extras

It is advised to always install an irrigation system with a hybrid field. However, the need for floodlights is something that should be considered carefully. These days, most clubs use the installation of a new field to update their floodlight system to modern, energy saving, LED technology. While this achieves significant energy savings, the capex for this technology might require a field usage that is impossible to achieve.

Hybrid fields are a perfect solution for clubs that don’t like or are not allowed a full synthetic turf field but that need more usage capacity than their natural grass surface can handle.

 

Sources:

  • Introducing hybrid and reinforced surfaces, Fifa
  • Hybride sportvelden inventarisatie, BSNC
  • What is the big fuss about hybrid turf systems?, Sports Labs
  • Labosport presentations
  • Own research

 

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