Life cycle cost

Chapter 10 of the Natural Grass vs Synthetic Turf Surfaces Study Final Report.

Life cycle cost principles

Life cycle costing is a key asset management tool that takes into account the whole life implications of planning, acquiring, operating, maintaining and disposing of an asset.

The process is an evaluation method that considers all ownership and management costs. These include;

  • Concept and definition;
  • Design and development;
  • Manufacturing and installation;
  • Maintenance and replacement;
  • Support services; and
  • Retirement, remediation and disposal costs.

 There are four primary principles to consider when assessing life cycle costs.[1] They are:

  1. Recognise that a facility development project begins at the concept and preplanning stage and is complete when the asset is sold or the site returned to its original condition;
  2. Examine the full cost of each project component across the life of a project rather than choose the cheapest option. This may mean a higher initial outlay but lead to reduced ongoing operational, maintenance and disposal costs and a net lower total ownership cost;
  3. Lifecycle costings consider all of the economic and financial costs associated with constructing, procuring and operating a facility at a level for which it was originally planned; and
  4. Developing a life cycle cost analysis is an intrinsic part of your overall asset management strategy.

Life cycle costing will help you to get the most out of your facility by making sure construction, redevelopment, or asset replacement is achieved at the lowest “whole of life” cycle cost.  Life cycle cost analysis may mean you trade higher initial construction or plant costs for lower future operating costs.  DSR has a comprehensive resource tool that enables facility developers to develop life cycle cost reports and understand the full cost impact of owning and managing a facility.  This can be accessed on the department's website and should be followed when assessing the life cycle costs of natural grass and synthetic turf options.

Capital cost

To assess the life cycle cost of a proposed surface the initial capital cost, the operational costs and the replacement costs need to be determined.  The initial capital cost would include items such as:

  • Design;
  • Project management services;
  • Quantity surveyor services;
  • Engineering services;
  • Site assessment, base construction, drainage and other civil engineering considerations;
  • Environmental consultants;
  • Turf and infill materials (synthetic) or Turf/grass seeds (natural);
  • Shockpads (synthetic turf only);
  • Installation and labour costs;
  • Irrigation systems;
  • Ancillary facilities such as floodlighting, perimeter and security fencing;
  • Sporting items such as goals, nets and safety fencing;
  • Maintenance machinery: line marker, mower, blower etc; and
  • Disposal and remediation costs

For the purposes of this decision making guideline, a series of capital, operating and replacement costs have been prepared for each of the sports included in the scope of this study namely:

  • AFL/Cricket
  • Bowls
  • Hockey
  • Rugby
  • Soccer
  • Tennis

In terms of construction costs a comparison was made between various standards of natural grass and synthetic turf suitable for community and elite level sporting activity.  Comprehensive cost estimate calculations have been prepared and these are included in a series of spreadsheets (refer Appendix 2).

As an example of the difference between the capital costs to establish a natural grass versus synthetic turf, a summary of the costs to develop a community level natural grass and a community level synthetic turf facility are provided in Table 1.  As can be seen the costs to construct synthetic turf facilities are significantly higher in all sports studied and in some cases are more than five times the cost.

Table 1: Comparison of Natural Grass and Synthetic Turf Sports Surfaces for Select Sports

Sport

Construction Cost*

Natural Grass

Synthetic Turf

AFL/Cricket

$358,000

$1,565,000

Hockey

$186,750

$550,000**

Lawn Bowls

$133,000

$198,500

Rugby

$244,500

$1,050,000

Soccer

$212,000

$705,000

Tennis

$27,500

$69,000

Table 1:  Comparison of Natural Grass and Synthetic Turf Sports Surfaces for Select Sports

* Supporting facilities i.e. clubrooms, lights, fencing, goals & accessories not included in construction costs.  Costs exclude professional fees and contingencies.

** Sand filled pitch

Note:  Escalation has not been factored into any of these calculations all costs are in 2011 dollars and include GST. 

Operating Costs

Operating costs are the recurring expenses which are related to the operation of a business, or to the operation of a device, component, piece of equipment or facility.

Although the common perception is that synthetic turf requires limited maintenance and hence lower operating costs, this is not necessarily the case.  Many synthetic turf surfaces require significant levels of maintenance and in some cases higher levels of maintenance compared to natural grass alternatives. The cost of the maintenance equipment is a substantial contributor to the operating cost.  Table 2 outlines the typical maintenance requirements for both types of surfaces.  These have been described in further detail in section 3.2.3 of the report.

Table 2: Maintenance requirements for Natural Grass and Synthetic Turf

Natural grass

Synthetic turf

  • Mowing and edging
  • Fertiliser, spraying and growth regulator
  • Top soil dressing, de-compaction and aeration
  • Over-seeding and thatch control
  • Watering and irrigation system operation
  • Line marking
  • Sodding replacement/replanting (sections and whole)
  • Cleaning, stain and debris removal
  • Grooming and drag/power brushing
  • Moss and algae prevention and removal
  • Line marking
  • Check and top up infill levels (filled surfaces only)
  • Joints and seam inspections
  • Irrigation – some surfaces still require water to maintain a consistent moisture level in the sub base material and to prevent movement and to improve playability

Table 2:  Maintenance requirements for Natural Grass and Synthetic Turf

Similar to construction costs a comparison was made between various standards of natural grass and synthetic turf suitable for community and elite level sporting activity in relation to operating costs.  Comprehensive cost estimate calculations have been prepared and these are included in a series of spreadsheets (refer Appendix 2).

As an example of the difference between the operating costs to maintain a natural grass versus synthetic turf playing surface a summary of the costs to operate a community level natural grass and a community level synthetic turf facility are provided in the tables below.  The costs to maintain synthetic turf are of a similar magnitude to that of natural grass if the surface is to be used at a community level. 

Table 3: Comparison of Annual Operating Costs to Maintain Natural Grass (community level) versus Synthetic Turf

Sport

Operating Cost (Annual)

Natural Grass (Community)

Synthetic Turf

AFL/Cricket

$43,700

$50,000

Hockey

$22,350

$10,000 (Sand filled)

Lawn Bowls

$17,500

$10,000

Rugby

$32,100

$38,000

Soccer

$27,250

$25,000

Tennis

$9,500

$4,000

Table 3:  Comparison of Annual Operating Costs to Maintain Natural Grass (community level) versus Synthetic Turf 

When a comparison is made between a natural grass surface maintained at a level for elite level sport maintenance costs are lower for synthetic turf than natural grass for all sports with the exception of hockey which are very similar. 

Table 4: Comparison of Annual Operating Costs to Maintain Natural Grass (elite level) versus Synthetic Turf

Sport

Operating Cost*

Natural Grass (Elite)

Synthetic Turf

AFL/Cricket

$55,250

$50,000

Hockey

$22,350

$24,000 (Water Based)

Lawn Bowls

$17,500

$14,000

Rugby

$39,650

$38,000

Soccer

$34,400

$25,000

Tennis

$9,500

NA

Table 4:  Comparison of Annual Operating Costs to Maintain Natural Grass (elite level) versus Synthetic Turf

Replacement Costs

Unlike natural grass, synthetic turf must be replaced at the end of its useful life.  This varies from sport to sport and the timeframe in which it is replaced is dependent on a number of factors.  These include the level of usage, level and type of maintenance undertaken on the surface and the performance requirements expected from the surface.  For example the need to replace a synthetic turf hockey field surface used for elite level training and competition may be every four – five years where a similar surface used for club based hockey could last 8-10 years.

Generally natural grass has an indefinite lifespan if properly maintained but to maintain optimum performance it may be resurfaced anywhere between 10 to 20 years.  For the purpose of the lifecycle cost analysis it has been assumed that resurfacing of natural grass occurs every 15 years.  The shockpad required for some sports typically will last much longer than one cycle of synthetic turf resurfacing, it may however require minor maintenance during the resurfacing process.

Life cycle cost 

To determine full lifecycle costing a comparison has been made between natural grass and synthetic turf over a 25 and 50 year period.  This has been conducted for all sports and includes the capital (construction), operating (maintenance) and replacement costs.  The lifecycle costing spreadsheets contained within Appendix 2 outline these total lifecycle costs for each sport.  An example where this analysis has been performed for lawn bowling greens is included in Table 13 below.  In both the 25 and 50 year scenarios the synthetic turf has a higher lifecycle cost. 

Table 5: Total Cost of Ownership over 25 years for various Lawn Bowls Surfaces

Cost of Ownership

Natural Grass

Sand
filled

Non sand
filled

Construction

$133,000

$228,500

$198,500

Maintenance

$475,000

$250,000

$350,000

Surface Replacement

$48,611

$313,125

$235,625

Total Cost of Ownership

$656,611

$791,625

$784,125

Table 5: Total Cost of Ownership over 50 years for various Lawn Bowls Surfaces

Cost of Ownership

Natural Grass

Sand
filled

Non sand
filled

Construction

$133,000

$228,500

$198,500

Maintenance

$950,000

$500,000

$700,000

Surface Replacement

$97,222

$626,250

$471,250

Total Cost of Ownership

$1,180,222

$1,354,750

$1,369,750

Table 5:  Total Cost of Ownership over 25 years and 50 years for various Lawn Bowls Surfaces

Across all of the sports synthetic turf over a 25 year and 50 year lifecycle synthetic turf had a higher life cycle cost than natural grass as displayed in Table 6. 

Table 6: Total Cost of Natural Grass and Synthetic Turf over a 25 and 50 Year Period

Sport

Natural Grass (community)

Synthetic Turf

25 Years

50 Years

25 Years

50 Years

AFL/Cricket

$1,622,167

$2,886,333

$4,090,000

$7,725,000

Hockey

$787,167

$1,387,583

$1,013,300

$1,753,575

Lawn Bowls

$619,111

$1,105,222

$784,125

$1,369,750

Rugby

$1,185,333

$2,126,167

$2,847,500

$5,397,500

Soccer

$1,004,917

$1,797,833

$2,517,500

$4,330,000

Tennis

$266,000

$552,500

$246,500

$424,000

* The costings prepared are indicative and are based on a series of assumptions which are contained in the lifecycle spreadsheet included as an Appendix to this report.

Table 6:  Total Cost of Natural Grass and Synthetic Turf over a 25 and 50 Year Period

It is important to note that it would be too simplistic to state that due to the fact that natural grass has a lower life cycle cost then this is the best option. As discussed elsewhere in this report there are many other factors that need to be considered when determining which surface is going to best meet the needs of a particular sport or club.  For example, one of the major benefits of synthetic turf is that it can be programmed non-stop with little impact on the playing surface (but influences its longevity), whereas natural grass has only a finite capacity before the condition of the surface effects playability and in some cases player safety.  All factors need to be considered when making a choice as to the preferred surface and this cost modelling also dispels the myth that synthetic turf has a lower cost in the long term.  

Footnotes

  1. Department of Sport and Recreation WA Government, May 2005, Life Cycle Cost Guidelines Sport and Recreation Facilities; A guide for sport and recreation facilities owners and managers.