One question that is often asked is ‘Considering that users have different opinions as to what is an acceptable playing surface, how is the carrying capacity determined for a turfgrass surface?’
As an example, some football players might be quite happy playing on a relatively muddy pitch, whilst others want full grass coverage; this will affect the potential and actual carrying capacity as there are different user requirements.
Measuring requirements and acceptability can be undertaken using Performance Quality Standards, which has been a common approach for turfgrass surfaces since the early 1990s. Acceptability, just like sustainability, is a value-laden term that appears in many disciplines.
For example, within quality management literature, acceptability can be considered along the lines of being fit for use or purpose; the customer will determine what they consider is 'fit for purpose': This is the essence of a definition of quality. Juran asserts that quality has two major meanings: having “features of products which meet customer needs and thereby provide customer satisfaction”, and “freedom from deficiencies – freedom from errors …..[and] customer dissatisfaction”. (Source: Juran, J.M. & Godfrey, A.B. (2000) ‘Juran’s Quality Handbook’ Fifth Edition, McGraw-Hill International Edition, Sections 2.1 & 2.2)
Acceptability is therefore a judgement on the quality of a service or product and is not an absolute fixed outcome.
The term Performance Quality Standard (PQS) is defined as “a complete representation of a product that has a range of clearly defined and measurable criteria that are associated with a specified level of quality.” (Source: IOG (2004) ‘An Introduction to Performance Quality Standards’, The Institute of Groundsmanship, p.14)
PQSs were designed for turfgrass surfaces to be managed to an objective and measurable standard. Informed judgements could then be made into the type of maintenance work required in relation to the usage that was taking place and for deciding on what level of quality could be achieved: The level of quality being assessed in accordance with performance parameters which are acceptable to users. A lower level of acceptability will increase the carrying capacity, whilst a higher level of acceptance will decrease the carrying capacity.
The level of quality that can be achieved is significantly influenced by the original soil type and construction type, so there will be a limit to which a turfgrass surface can sustain use or activities without becoming unacceptable to a user.
PQSs provide an informed indication of the way a pitch, or other turfgrass surface, should perform when in use. The use of the word ‘quality’ is implicit in the specified choices available – High, Standard, Basic, as well as below basic. Whilst the terminology for the categories may not always be seen as being the best way to convey what is meant by each category, they do provide a baseline for understanding the different criteria within the categories.
A similar 4-category scenario in the education sector is to do with Ofsted reporting, this is:
• Grade 1: Outstanding;
• Grade 2: Good;
• Grade 3: Satisfactory, and
• Grade 4: Inadequate.
(Source: Ofsted (2010), ‘The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills 2009/10’, Ofsted web site )
There is room for debate about what is the most appropriate way in which to convey available choices, with the following table acting as an example of potential PQS development. The below basic level has been sub-divided into two-categories.
Note: A further category could also be added: 'Unacceptable', which could be used to indicate a surface that is in need of renovation and should really be taken out of action.
PQS focuses on the end product and is complementary to the principle of ‘Best Value’, which emphasises that “Each organisation is free to determine the route by which it intends to achieve Best Value and arrive at the identified goals. It is the outcome of these efforts that matters, and not the detail of the processes. Best Value should be appropriate to, and proportionate to, an organisation's priorities, operating environments and scale / nature of business and should be implemented accordingly.” (Source: The Scottish Government > Best Value web site)
PQS provides a range of technical options, which organisations and their stakeholders can utilise to suit their own needs. The value that users place on a turfgrass surface can be defined and more easily communicated to managers through the use of these performance quality standards. Managers can then in turn indicate the financial and environmental costs expected from the desired level of quality.
There has been some debate about the usefulness of PQS, however, the contention is that much of this debate is more to do with a misunderstanding and inadequate communication of the meaning of PQS rather than the fundamental premise of the concept; which is that it adequately describes an end product.
It is user perception that significantly influences their needs and desires; the more users are made aware of the defined objectives for turfgrass surfaces then this will be able to influence user requirements and choices in a more positive way.
Whilst carrying capacity and the use of PQS in managing turfgrass surfaces are useful indicators towards environmental and economic sustainability, a much broader picture and understanding is needed if the turfgrass industry is to fully engage with the universal concept and fundamental principles of sustainability.