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Synthetic Turf Field Replacement: A Case Study

The Project at a Glance:

  • Project and Client: Sycamore Valley Park, Town of Danville
  • Scope of Project: Replacement of 5.2 acres of synthetic turf
  • Project duration (design through construction):  December 2011 – August 2012
  • Number of Bidders: 6              
  • Bid Range: $1.0M – $1.3M

With synthetic turf fields now firmly ‘in the mainstream’, many cities have them in their inventory of park facilities.  There’s a lot to like about them.  Maintenance is easier than a conventional turf field, they save a LOT of water, and they’re so durable they’re practically bullet proof.  They can be used from dawn till dusk, (neighbors permitting), and where lighting is included, even more!  As a result, they quickly become among the most coveted in a City’s inventory of sportsfields.  But what do you do when the fields finally wear out?  This article presents a case study.

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Danville’s Sycamore Valley Park contains over 5 acres of synthetic turf dedicated primarily to soccer and baseball use but also accommodating softball, lacrosse and other uses.  Since installation in 2003 these fields saw upwards of 2300 hours of use per year!  Eventually all this use (and years of sunshine) took their toll and in places the turf fibers had been worn almost completely away.  The time had come to replace them.  The Town had options with respect to how to proceed, including negotiating directly with a vendor but ultimately chose to employ a competitive bid process.  Callander Associates was selected to assist the Town in the development of construction documents.  Plan preparation began in the end of 2011 and was completed before the end of February, 2012.  The team included Geoforensics Inc., a geotechnical engineering firm and Protech, a materials testing laboratory.   Key project considerations included;

Turf Disposal

The ‘recycleability’ of synthetic turf did not receive the attention in 2003 that it does today.  The expectation was that the used turf would go to a landfill or be re-used in ‘trickle down’ applications, like paddocks, miniature golf courses and the like.  Since these first fields were built a lot of investment has gone into identifying the most carbon neutral methods of manufacturing and disposal.  The recycled content, and recycle-ability of synthetic turf fields is much higher today and methods have been developed by enterprising contractors that allow infill material to be removed, sorted and re-used.  As the design consultant for the Sycamore project our obligation included specifying that all waste materials were disposed of in a legal manner, and establishing a budget for the disposal of this material.  Protech testing laboratories evaluated the turf and infill to determine its chemical composition and determine its waste category.  This information was then shared with a number of waste disposal facilities to determine if they could accept the material and the cost of disposal per ton.  The laboratory analysis, waste category determination and waste disposal requirements were then made a part of the contract requirements.  Disposal cost information shared by the waste disposal facilities was factored into the engineers estimate and helped in establishing the overall budget.

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Drainage

The prevailing wisdom in synthetic turf field design is that the fields live or die according to how well their drainage systems function.  As drainage and soil stability have an inverse relationship, there is a built in conflict in base prep.  The ideal field has been laid in to the precise grades required on the plans, without any overworking of the drainage layer (base rock).  Overworking the rock to achieve grades can result in a poorly draining field, the bane of the industry.  These same considerations come into play in replacing a worn synthetic turf field.  Replacing the synthetic turf at a sportsfield is bit akin to replacing the carpet in a home, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense if the base isn’t going to last as long as the new surface on top of it.  One of the first steps in turf replacement therefore is an evaluation of the existing drainage.  Sources of information including empirical testing (perc. tests conducted by the geotechnical engineer) and anecdotal (reports of drainage problems from first hand observers).  Perc. tests conducted at Sycamore demonstrated that the base still had excellent drainage.  Subsurface drainage lines were camera’ed to ascertain their condition and found to be intact and in good shape.  Only one spot in the field was reported to have suffered from slow drainage.  This exact spot was subjected to a perc. test and found to have adequate drainage and it has since been assumed that any standing water seen at this location may have occurred during an extreme storm event (over 10 year event) and may have been partially caused by drainage onto the field from above.  With documentation that the base was in good condition the plans called for leaving the base in place, with only minor amounts of material placed as needed to achieve planarity.  To close the loop, the plans required that the contractor ‘camera’ up to 500 feet of the drainline after their work was complete, and as selected by the Town Engineer to confirm that no pipe had been crushed as a result of construction activities.

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Timing of Field Closure

As the premier soccer facility in the Town of Danville, taking the fields off-line had to done carefully.  An aggressive but achievable schedule consisting of 60 working days + 12 Saturdays was established.  The unconventional addition of Saturdays was necessitated by the Towns requirement that the field be available for the annual Mustang soccer tournament in mid-August.  Though they never needed to exercise it, the Town set liquidated damages at $3,500 per day.

Site Access

As implied previously, the base of a synthetic turf field is the single most critical component of the field.  Careless operations by the contractor can adversely impact the drainage characteristics and planarity.  A primary concern at Sycamore Valley Park was keeping the rock in the best possible condition throughout the project.  Towards this goal unique requirements were imposed, including limiting field access during turf removal to lightweight vehicles with turf tires, and specifying that vehicles were allowed only on sections of the field still covered by the old synthetic turf.   The concept is akin to ‘painting your way out of a room’.  Where vehicle travel was concentrated at the field access point steel plates were used to prevent rutting.  With an estimated 680 tons of turf and infill material to off-haul, these, and other measures were critical to the preservation of the baserock.

Turf Type Selection

As no specific turf manufacturer had been identified as preferred, meetings were held with Town staff to discuss turf criteria and identify key traits.  This information was used in preparing specifications to allow the general contractors to solicit multiple bids for the turf.  The project benefitted from a very favorable bid climate.  ‘Recession pricing’ was still in effect, the size of the project allowed for some economies of scale to be realized, and the attractiveness of the facility to vendors due to its high visibility are all thought to be contributing factors in a very competitive bid.  Pricing for the turf came in at $3.20/SF and $3.10/SF for the monofilament and slit film infields respectively.  It seems unlikely that pricing comparable to this will be seen any time in the near future and it’s not suggested to use these figures for budgeting purposes.

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Contractor Qualifications

Due to the novelty of the project type, an amendment had to be made to the bid documents.  Namely, the requirement that the contractor have experience in two other turf replacement projects of equivalent size had to be dropped as none of the bidders possessed this experience at the time.  Conventional synthetic turf installation experience requirements were substituted.  It is anticipated that the original wording, requiring experience with turf replacement at two equivalent sized facilities would be a reasonable qualification requirement today.

The Completed Facility

Operations are back in full swing at Sycamore Valley Park and the new turf has been well received.  Through the combined efforts of the Town, contractor and design consultant the facility was back on line in time to host the 2012 Mustang Soccer tournament and the Town can now look forward to years of uninterrupted use on the new turf!

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Written by project team members Mark Slichter and David Rubin.  This case study was one of the featured articles in the CPRS Winter 2014 Magazine!

Celebrating 40 Years!

No one could have imagined what had begun when Peter Callander finally took the leap and opened the doors of his own practice in San Mateo, California back in November of 1973. Over the years, he built upon his experience in both the public and private sectors to craft a successful, people-oriented firm with a focus on enhancing public spaces throughout local communities in Northern California. To this day, 40 years later, Callander Associates’ core philosophy remains rooted in those ideals Peter first established.

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Peter Callander – 1970′s

The founding of Callander Associates came at an opportune time during a boom in housing and waterfront development. Peter quickly established his reputation up and down the Bay Area Peninsula through word of mouth and relationships he painstakingly developed. The key to the firm’s success, Peter learned, was going to be based on maintaining those relationships as it was his complete understanding of complex public processes and capital improvement projects.

As the opportunities for new work ramped up, Callander Associates quickly grew from a humble two person team, to a bustling fifteen employee firm in only 3 years! Peter was always quick to give the credit, on the success of the firm, to his dedicated staff that were now part of the Callander family. In addition to having great people on board, Callander Associates prioritized having an organized, systematic approach to its operations, including listening to and synthesizing client’s needs. It was this pragmatic approach that became the firm’s foundation, currently reflected in our goals of project commitment, comprehensive service, and fostering community.

Landscape Architects are facilitators of communicating change and improvement. Whether it is helping a client re-imagine a park, soliciting input at a community workshop, or sketching ideas in the studio to help navigate the team’s ideas, communication comes in many forms. This communication has allowed clients and communities to visualize and more importantly realize, the transformations of their spaces.

“All of our work is about communication, and showing someone what change can do.” – Peter Callander

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Semi-Retirement Party – 2011

Now “mostly” retired, Peter looks back on some of his fondest memories which all included the combination of incredible staff, diverse clients and great projects. He greatly enjoyed interacting with so many colorful Callander team members, whether ‘gently’ guiding them, or watching them experience a project’s fruition. He was also grateful for the personal relationships he developed with our clients, some which have lasted decades! Having great staff members and engaged clients directly led to countless memorable projects.

When asked to reflect on the importance of Landscape Architecture, Peter explained that anything related to the outside world is important. Knowing that every client and community is different, Callander Associates continues to place community outreach and continuous client communication at the forefront of our practice.

“I wanted to build places for everybody [and] it is so rewarding to drive around Northern California and see so many projects that we’ve worked on.” – Peter Callander

Over the past 40 years there has been growth and change, team members have come and gone and technology has advanced; but our company’s vision remains the same…  “Great people building community through exceptional service and indelible design.” We thank Peter for establishing the foundation of this great company and for giving us the roots to bring us where we are today. Callander Associates looks forward to a bright future with continuous growth for the many years ahead.

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the many faces of Callander Associates over the years

“There is not a single public project that can’t benefit from a Landscape Architect’s perspective.” – Peter Callander

 

Going for Green: Creekside Sports Park Awards

The realization of this park is a testament to the vision of staff at the Town of Los Gatos. In 2009 the site was an abandoned telecommunications corporation yard. Today, a beautiful green park sits in its place. The Town of Los Gatos purchased the parcel in 2009 to address active, unmet recreational needs of the community. That was just the beginning. Selecting a consultant, soliciting input from the community and developing plans that met stringent regulatory requirements followed. Today, a fabulous park lies nestled at the base of the Vasona Reservoir dam in what was a commercial wasteland. This award winning park includes: a synthetic turf soccer field, a restroom/concession building, picnic space, a 41-space parking lot and a small play area.

Creekside Sports Park’s creative and effective design solutions for storm water treatment were recognized when it received two awards! This project received the SCVURPPP (Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program) award, as well as the APWA (American Public Works Association) Silicon Valley Project of the Year award.

Unlike other facilities where acreage is set aside to meet storm water treatment requirements, at Creekside these requirements were integrated into the overall design. The elegance of the design comes from its simplicity and the notion of treating the water where it falls on the site. This technique had the added benefit of making the project easily implementable. Surprisingly, in many instances, the stormwater treatment requirements were satisfied before structural requirements, proving that stormwater treatment did not significantly contribute to overall project costs.

Other ‘green’ measures included provisions for a future Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station and the use of recycled tire rubber for synthetic turf infill. By incorporation of synthetic turf the need for fertilizers and pesticides was eliminated and water and energy consumption were greatly reduced as compared to a conventional park.

With the elimination of the impervious (asphalt) pavement that previously covered the site and the introduction of infiltration and biofiltration treatment techniques, the quality of storm water leaving the site is vastly improved and the quantity reduced. Ten year storm water discharge estimates show a net reduction during a 10 year event from 4.0 to 1.3 cfs. There was no surprise here, given that after project completion the amount of impervious surface decreased by 90%! What was once unavailable and of no value to the community or the environment has now been transformed into one of the Towns most highly coveted facilities, benefiting both residents and the environment.

Dave Rubin, Project Manager & Mark Slichter, Principal

Opening of the Lower Guadalupe River Trail, April 20, 2013

On a beautiful warm spring day with the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport serving as a backdrop, San Jose celebrated the opening of yet another landmark trail system.  Members of the City, Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, County, and Santa Clara Valley Water District lent a hand in cutting the ceremonial ribbon to officially open the Lower Guadalupe River Trail to the public. The event was a culmination of almost a decade-long effort to enable the community to walk or bike from Downtown San Jose to the San Francisco Bay. While a gravel surface provided public access prior to the recent improvements, the access was dusty, uncomfortable to ride on, and unfriendly to families in strollers and tricycles.  Now, new and improved, the trail is able to welcome people of all abilities to explore the river and new neighborhoods.

More than just a ribbon of asphalt for recreational use, the trail provides a convenient north-south off-street route to major technology employers located in San Jose’s Golden Triangle area. With views of the river along most of its 6.7 mile length, the trail provides a peaceful and scenic alternative for commuters who live and work near Guadalupe River.  The new paved trail also connects to the airport and other trail networks, including the Bay Trail in Alviso.

Callander Associates provided design services for the trailhead entry plazas.  Located at major street intersections, the plazas incorporate decorative paving and signage to alert passersby to the trail opportunities that lie beyond. Seatwalls and interpretive signage provide an inviting place for trail users to pause and rest.  Compass roses and in-ground lettering provide directional information while visually unifying this stretch of trail with its Downtown Guadalupe River Park counterpart.

Callander also worked with a signage designer to develop interpretive signage.  Trail users can learn about aviation, river ecology, and archaeology through interpretive signage located along the trail.  The fossilized bones of ‘Lupe,’ a juvenile Columbian mammoth nicknamed after Guadalupe River, was discovered near the current Trimble Road trailhead plaza in 2005.  Users can read about and visualize the fossil discovery at the trailhead, and then continue south along the trail to the Children’s Discovery Museum to see the actual bones.  Along the way, another interpretive plaza located by the airport explains the science of flight in signage mounted in custom-designed airplane ‘wings’.  The aluminum and acrylic wings shine in translucent brilliance, mirroring the sleek airport design beyond and the innovative community through which the Trail winds.

Marie Mai, Associate