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Trends in Playground Surfacing

Tom Norquist, IPEMA Marketing Committee Chair

Surfacing manufacturer FlexGround, LLC, cites clients opting to include two or more styles of safety surfacing in one project for a contrast in aesthetics and design. FlexGround recently completed an installation at Anasazi elementary school in Scottsdale, Ariz., which incorporated a FlexGrass attenuated synthetic turf system and an attenuated Enduraflex Thermoplastic Vulcanized Rubber (TPV) system.

Recycled rubber is a popular 'green' trend among manufacturers and designers seeking LEED credits. No Fault Safety Surfaces combine EPDM rubber granules and a cushion layer of shredded recycled rubber tires, bonded with a moisture-cured polyurethane adhesive and poured in place on site.

Modern play surfacing and artificial turf includes features to increase durability and longevity, especially in high-use areas. Nylon-fiber grass surfacing from SynLawn is designed to reduce heat emissions with reflective pigments, resist wear with high-impact TrampleZones(TM) and install easily with fastener-free systems.

EUROFLEX(R) Impact Protection Slabs, produced by Gummiwerk Kraiburg Relastec, were installed in a children's recreational area at Kansai Airport in Japan. The design incorporates a flower pattern for kids to use in creative play.

Playgrounds today are built not only to ignite kids' passion to play, but also to protect, incorporating safety practices and meeting regulations to minimize risk.

About three-quarters of the injuries that occur on public playgrounds involve falls, primarily to the surface below the equipment. The most effective way to reduce such accidents is with correctly installed and well-maintained playground surfacing. Manufacturers and designers of playground equipment and play surfacing are working hard to incorporate the latest trends and techniques that will improve outdoor play experiences for children.

Trend #1: ADA Compliance
One of the most important trends in surfacing in the past 30 years are the regulations and compliance required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to improve playground accessibility.

As of March 15, 2012, play areas designed, constructed, and altered for children ages two and above in parks, schools, childcare facilities and shopping centers are expected to comply with Sections 240 and 1008 of the U.S. Department of Justice 2010 Standards for Accessible Design. One of the specified regulations requires that accessible ground surfaces be included.

Trend #2: Longevity
Since the costs of installing surfacing are typically high, many owner/operators are looking to surfacing companies for expertise to help them revitalize existing surfaces. Manufacturers are focusing more on proper installation and maintenance practices as a way to get additional life out of surfacing materials.

Specifying a maintenance program for poured in place playground surfacing can help customers extend the life of their surface by up to 60 percent. Programs like Robbie Maintenance by Tot Turf provide options for ongoing maintenance, including roll coating, repair and wear course replacement, and can help ensure the longevity of a playground investment.

Trend #3: Keep Fill Accessible
Manufacturers are improving the accessibility of play surfacing material to keep play areas fresh and functional, and maintenance procedures play a key role in ensuring continued use. Since many communities and schools use loose fill for their playgrounds, schools and municipalities expecting additional expansions after an initial installation often buy and store extra surfacing materials, including loose fill and replacement safety tiles.

Trend #4: Interactive/Game-Based Surfacing
Many manufacturers are now designing surfacing to be an active part of the play experience. Incorporating design elements like trees, flowers, water and other graphics allow children to create games using the surfacing. For example, GameTime(R) added a tree graphic into their GT Impax(R) surfacing, inspiring hopping and jumping games as kids try to move from leaf to leaf without landing on other pieces of the surfacing.

Trend #5: Sustainable & Natural Appearance
Many designers have incorporated the trend of sustainability and natural appearances into the design of their surfacing materials. Manufacturers like No Fault Safety Surfacing, Burke Turf and others use recycled rubber - most often from used tires - to reduce the environmental footprint of an installation. Using recycled materials can also help projects earn LEED credits.

The International Play Equipment Manufacturing Association (IPEMA) provides third party product certification services for U.S. and Canadian public play equipment, and public play surfacing materials in the U.S. IPEMA's member companies are on the forefront of safety surfacing innovations and continue to pioneer exciting play opportunities. To learn more, visit

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November 13, 2019, 8:40 pm PDT

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