Suitability Reports: Why you should look at the test date, and why ASET puts ‘Suggested Retest Dates’ on all of our reports.

Note – This blog post applies to reports issued prior to Jan 1, 2023. Architects and owners often require suitability reports of sports surfaces to be submitted. However, most do not give any consideration to how old those reports are, and the fact that older reports are less able to predict the actual performance of a sports surface than current ones. ASET Services is the only company in the world that includes ‘Suggested Retest Dates’ on our reports. This post will explain why we made that decision.

Before going any further, I wanted to provide some guidelines that you should consider for future projects. The first two are especially important if there were no be any on-site testing performed to validate that the actual performance meets your specification:

  • Include language requiring the entire suitability report to be submitted. This is often the only way to know if right components arrive on site and the only way to know that the system is being installed the same way it was installed in the lab.
  • Consider requesting test reports no older than 7 years (10 years maximum). Components and compounds used in sports surfaces can change over night. ‘Legacy’ reports (15-30 years old) have far greater uncertainty in their ability to deliver the performance recorded at the time of testing.
  • Lastly, if performance is important, make sure your specification clearly outlines requirements for on-site performance levels, includes product testing, and establishes corrective actions. Note: There are a number of options that can be used in specifying actual performance levels. Choosing one that is very strict may result in very significant increases in cost.

If you have a few more minutes the rest of this article explains why reports become poorer predictors of actual performance as they get older. “What is a Suitability Report?” Many in the sport surface industry refer to the reports issued from a 3rd party that outlines the surface’s performance in the lab as a suitability report. I have covered this in a previous post, and on ASET Services website.

For those who have not read the previous post, here is a quick overview of the limitations of the information in a suitability report. Suitability reports tell owners and architects how a sport surface performed in the lab and provide a summary overview of the components and details used to construct the system. Suitability reports are not a guarantee of actual performance they merely report the performance that was measured in a laboratory setting. On site performance requires using same materials used during lab testing, as well as the same installation steps and details used in lab testing. (Click here for some of those reasons). A suitability report does not mean that every installer knows or follows the construction details needed to allow the surface to perform the same way that it did in the lab.

So now that you have a basic understand of what a suitability report is; why does ASET Services place a suggested retest date on ours? To my knowledge we are the only company in the world that puts a suggested retest date on performance reports. I think that is because we are familiar with the North American market and the unique factors at play within that market. The short reason is that we feel an obligation to serve the entire industry, and that includes manufacturers, owners, architects and users. If onsite performance is not going to be tested, then owners need some assurance that the performance levels are still relevant and that they reflect the current performance provided by the system.

There are still some systems (mostly indoor court surfaces) sold and promoted under what I call historic documents, which can date back to the 1980’s. There are also several more with testing that was performed in the 1990’s (26 to 16 years ago). Reports this old often provide a poor indication of the performance owners can expect from current installations. Note: Indoor courts (wood and synthetic) and elastic track surfaces are the most at risk of performance changes because they are the least frequently commission tested surfaces in North America. Playground surfacing is at a lower risk. Canada has a relatively robust playground surface commission testing program, as do certain states and cities within the USA, but there are large areas of the USA where testing of playground surfaces is still rarely performed. Synthetic turf fields are almost all commission tested and re-tested during their useful life.

In countries and regions where commission testing of sport/play surface are more common such ‘historic documents’ may still be valid. That is because on-site testing serves as a motivator to install and manufacture the product properly and consistently. The feedback from verifying the performance of new installations allows the manufacturer to notice the performance changing over time, or to notice that some installers produce results that are different than others. When such feedback to manufacturers is present, they can act to address problems quickly. Areas, such as North America, and system types (courts, tracks) that are rarely or never tested lack this significant feedback to manufacturers or installers.

The relatively infrequent testing of most sport and play surfaces allows performance ‘drift’ to go undetected for years. Some examples that cause ‘performance drift’ include changes in raw materials over time (natural and synthetic components). Grading rules are changed to allow what was once inferior components to be considered acceptable. Both plywood and strip flooring routinely undergo grading rules changes to reflect changes in the raw materials. Elastic components often have their chemistry slightly adjusted (perhaps even just a color change), and those minor changes can cause significant changes in the performance of the sport/play surface. I have tested several systems that passed at one time and have experienced significant enough performance ‘drift’ that they fell well short of the initial performance levels.

I felt that the industry needed some sort of quality feedback. As ASET Services’ President, I decided that all of our test reports would include a ‘Suggested Retest’ date on them. ASET finally decided on 7 years based on the notion that we believe that 5 years is when they should be retested. However, we decided that a 2 year extension would allow manufacturers time to have followup testing completed before the suggested retest date. Does this place an added expense on a system? Yes, but over a 7 year period it amounts to a few dollars per installation for a system that is frequently installed.

I hope this has given you an understanding of what a suitability report is. I also hope this article helped explain why ASET includes a suggested retest date on our reports and why they are important.

Contact me if you have further questions or want to learn more about sports surface testing, performance, specifications and field testing,

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