True Performance: Example Specifications

Each sport and play surfacing industry handles ‘true performance’ type specifications differently. We decided to include examples of what we consider to be ‘true performance’ specifications for a variety of surfaces. Keep in mind, these are examples and your specification can be tailored to balance proper installation and added costs associated with ‘true performance testing’.


Specifications requiring performance in the field are infrequent (at least in the Midwest US), but they are becoming more common. Emphasis on preventing head injury trauma as well as providing injury liability protection to owners is causing the playground industry to use and promote specifications similar to these within the U.S.A. This first example was taken from Chicago Public Schools’ Specifications for Playground Safety Surfacing: 2014

Actual Playground Specification from Chicago Publi Schools: 2014
Actual Playground Specification from Chicago Public Schools: 2014

Note: This specification chose to use the maximum Gmax/HIC allowed under ASTM F1292 at the time of installation. This requires the surface’s properties to remain virtually unchanged during the life of the product if it is to continue to provide the protection required by F1292 throughout it’s useable lifetime. This spec insures that the surface performs as needed at the time of installation, but does not mention performance during, or at the end of the warranty period.

This second example was taken from the Chicago Parks Department’s Specifications for Playground safety surfacing: 2009

Playground Specification
Actual Playground Specification from Chicago Parks: 2009

Note:This specification chose to require Gmax/HIC to be well below the maximum allowed levels of 200/1000 in the current version of ASTM F1292 at the time of installation. This allows some natural hardening of the surface over time while still maintaining the performance at safe levels. This spec also requires performance to meet or exceed ASTM F1292 during an extended time (5  years) after the installation.

Because the CPS specified field testing, their installations were no doubt slightly more expensive than they would have been without the field testing requirement. Installers had to be sure that the right amount of material was installed (often a decrease of 1/4″ causes surfaces  to fail).  Because the first example only considered the performance at the time of installation, and because it allowed levels to be at or near the maximum allowable, these installations were no doubt less expensive than those required by the parks department. The parks department specification required more material (thicker) in order to provide the lower Gmax/HIC values. It also placed requirements for the long term performance of the product by requiring it to perform until the end of the 5 year period. These examples show how ‘True Performance’ specifications can be tailored to each project by balancing safety and performance.

Synthetic Turf:

‘True Performance’ specifications are common in the synthetic turf industry. Manufacturers and installers realize that the specifications hold all bidders to a uniform standard. Owners realize that proper Gmax and HIC levels are critical to protecting their athletes, and kids as well as necessary in the event of a legal challenge due to an injury on the surface. Because these specifications are common in this industry there are several styles to choose from. Many of the ‘True Performance’ specifications establish performance requirements during the life of the system warranty. Some require annual followup testing during the warranty. We found a three different options for a ‘true performance’ synthetic turf specification.

Sample 'True Performance' Specifications for Synthetic Turf Projects
Sample ‘True Performance’ Specifications for Synthetic Turf Projects

Note: Many synthetic turf specifications include performance levels when the field is newly installed, but all for the field to change over time by establishing maximum allowable levels at the end of the warranty period. The most common type of synthetic turf today are ‘in-fill’ systems that involve filling loose material (crumb rubber is common and so is a rubber/sand blend). This loose material compacts over time, and is free to migrate to different areas. Field testing allows proper maintenance (decompaction, and adding more fill material) and it also helps to determine the area(s) that need maintenance.

Indoor Courts:

‘True Performance’ specifications requiring certain performance levels are virtually non-existent in North America for indoor courts. The lack of these creates a market without an important feedback mechanism. Manufacturer’s are unable to catch and eliminate errors that lead to poorer performing floors. In fact this was the only ‘True Performance’ specification related to North America that we could find. This example was taken from a specification used by the US Army for a fitness center one of their bases, 2014

Example True Performance Specification for Wood Floor, DIN 18032-2 performance.
Actual Area Elastic Sports Surface Specification from US Army Project: 2014

Note: This specification chose to require DIN 18032-2 performance levels to be delivered. While it does not provide a version, this is consistent with the requirements from the 1991 version of the standard. No tolerance from target values were included. These levels can be achieved, but without an allowance, the manufacturer may need install a system that significantly out performs the baseline specification to insure that the final product will meet the requirements. A specification like this provides optimal performance, but may come at an elevated cost due to the advanced system that is needed to insure compliance. This specification also insures performance at the time of installation, but it does not address any long term performance, such as 2, 5, or even 10 years after the installation. These floors often last for 30, 40, 50 years or more.

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