Gone are the days when synthetic grass sported coarse and crayon-colored green textures. No longer confined to athletic fields, artificial grass can be used anywhere from general landscaping and outdoor patios to rooftops and courtyards. Synthetic grass can reduce your environmental footprint and create unique design opportunities.
Most businesses that choose synthetic grass typically face landscaping obstacles, such as concerns about chemical use, climate conditions, long-term maintenance, or installation feasibility.
Faux grass, unlike the scrubbing pad-like version your grandparents had on their patio, is engineered to mimic the real deal. It is suitable for locations where real grass is costly to upkeep or difficult to grow. This plastic carpeting is permeable and can be installed directly on cement, tiling, slopes, crowns, medians, and in shaded areas.
Synthetic grass also sidesteps many of the environmental drawbacks of natural vegetation:
It does not require the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
Mowing, petroleum products, and carbon emissions are eliminated.
Water consumption is drastically reduced.
It’s composted of polyethylene, polypropylene, and nylon – materials with high recycled and recyclable percentages.
Creating a Touchdown Spot
Westfield Downtown Plaza in Sacramento, CA, used artificial grass to liven up an underutilized courtyard and make it a welcoming spot for shoppers. Though exposed to the elements, the courtyard is a concrete space above two levels of parking. Cultivating natural landscaping would have been cost prohibitive.
The space also suffered from uninspired design elements. "We had a boring, white marble tile that didn’t make much sense for an exterior area," explains Russell Dougherty, general manager. "We wanted to find something with a unique feel that could add color and life to that section."
The synthetic grass creates a lush space for shoppers in need of a rest. Seven individual panels echo architectural columns and break up the monotony of the tile. "It completely transformed the courtyard, which is also positive for the community’s perception of the shopping center," says Dougherty.
Though only a year old, the mall is satisfied with the performance of the artificial grass. "Westfield values unique ideas for facilities solutions and this project has been very successful from an operations and aesthetic standpoint," says Dougherty.
The grass has been well received by mall goers, particularly overly curious ones. "Customers actually stop and try to figure out if it’s real or not. In fact, the only problem we’ve had with the installation is the corners, which is caused by people pulling them up to see if the grass is real," says Dougherty.
A Decade of Success
Located on an environmentally sensitive property, Tahoe City Marina and Mall in California also faced a landscaping dilemma for an outdoor dining area. "Being right on the lakefront, we have to be conscientious about fertilizers and pesticides," explains Jim Phelan, general manager. "We needed to find a surface that would, as close as possible, emulate natural vegetation and offer the same drainage properties."
Synthetic grass addressed these concerns and was installed in 2001. The grass still fools customers and is holding up well despite its age. The 2,000-square-foot lookalike lawn requires little maintenance. A special broom is used to sweep up debris and plump the blades and deep cleanings are scheduled yearly.
Drawbacks have been few but expected: cigarettes can produce melted spots, leaf blowers will blow out infill, and traffic patterns have emerged. Approaching the end of its lifecycle in a few years, the grass has nonetheless withstood extreme weather, a high altitude, direct exposure to sunshine, and daily restaurant traffic.
Easy Being Green
Synthetic grass is a great alternative given the right conditions. Its environmental benefits are immediate and continuous and its low maintenance saves time and labor. Mother Nature may not like being fooled, but she’ll look the other way for synthetic grass.
Jennie Morton is assistant editor of BUILDINGS.