by: Jacob Harder, Engineer and Technical Product Manager, KOMPAN

Greener playgrounds: Where durability meets safety

girl looking out of a window in a green playground panel
Recycled materials are finding their way into modern playground materials. As our expert explains in this article, the new and greener solutions face the same (if not more) rigorous safety and durability testing as traditional materials.

Where durability meets safety

You would probably look twice if you passed a playground and saw 15 children sitting on the same bird’s nest swing. But should this rare occurrence happen, you will be pleased to know that the swing stand can carry the load. At least, it can if the swing stand is built using KOMPAN’s TexMade™ playground posts made entirely from textile waste.

- Swing stands are exposed to severe dynamic loads. Therefore, we perform a variety of tests on new solutions. For example, in one of our more extreme tests, we add 500kg to each bird’s nest swing on a stand with two swings. We then make them swing violently and out of sync. It looks crazy, and we run this test half a million times, day in - and day out, explains Jacob Harder, engineer and Technical Product Manager at KOMPAN.

The need to find alternatives, like TexMade™, to traditional playground materials has never been greater. The qualities and benefits of using steel, aluminium, and virgin plastic as main components for playgrounds are obvious. They provide durability and weatherproof sturdiness with little or no maintenance. However, as we highlight in the article "The footprint of a playground", the downside is that approximately 80 percent of a playground’s carbon footprint comes from the raw materials used.

*With an average weight of 32kg for a 10-year-old child

The need to find alternatives, like TexMade™, to traditional playground materials has never been greater.

Finding replacements for steel and plastic

Jacob Harder knows from experience that finding adequate replacements for materials with the same qualities as steel, aluminium and plastic is no easy task:

- We receive numerous offers for recycled materials, and we evaluate them very carefully. Most are discarded because they don’t meet our standards, explains Jacob Harder.

Naturally, playground solutions and the materials used have to comply with government regulations, but Jacob Harder stresses that KOMPAN adds its own margin of safety on top of that:

- We know from experience that our playgrounds have to withstand uses beyond what is intended, like four or five children sitting on a two-person swing. Therefore, many of our products are tested at a level that by far exceeds what is required. Of course, this also applies to our solutions made from recycled materials, he says.

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“We know from experience that our playgrounds have to withstand uses beyond what is intended. Therefore, many of our products are tested at a level that by far exceeds what is actually required”.

Jacob Harder, engineer and Technical Product Manager at KOMPAN.

Testing in extreme temperatures

To ensure that new greener material alternatives do not jeopardise the safety or durability of playgrounds, a series of six tests needs to be performed.

One example is the test for tensile strength. This test measures the maximum stress that a material can withstand while being stressed or pulled. The test is important to ensure that the material can tolerate the forces applied by children climbing and swinging without breaking or becoming deformed.

Another important test for extreme temperatures.

- We have heat chambers where we test our products at temperatures of up to 60°C (140°F) to see how they behave under load. Specifically for the swing stand, we wrapped the pillars in insulating material and heated them with electricity. And then we tested them up to 90°C, while the two bird’s nest swings on the stand were swinging at the same time. This was done specifically to simulate what happens in extreme weather situations, like heat waves in Australia, explains Jacob Harder.

At the opposite extreme, new materials are also tested in freezing temperatures. Specifically, the TexMade™ playground posts were subjected to water freezing inside the posts.

swing set on a playground made from recycled materials

The long but necessary road to increased sustainability

Jacob Harder stresses that the testing regime for novel playground materials needs to be this rigorous.

- Playground solutions have significant safety considerations, especially when the materials are used in situations with severe dynamic loads, like swing stands. The process for TexMade™ has been very long, but we’ve achieved our goal, and the results are really impressive, he says.

You can read more about TexMade™ and the other material solutions made from recycled waste here.

Here are the tests for new playground materials

Before using new materials in playground solutions, they must first pass some tests. The tests include:

Tensile Strength
Ensures that materials can endure the stretching forces from children’s activities without breaking.
Yield Stress and Elastic Modulus (E-Module)
Indicates a material’s ability to maintain shape under stress, crucial for supporting children’s weight and activity on playgrounds.
Stiffness and Stability
Measures the ability of playground equipment to resist bending and maintain integrity under load, keeping play areas reliably safe.
Connector System Robustness
Tests connectors for durability against constant use and vibrations; a must for the sustained safety of playground structures.
Drop Test
Ensures playground equipment can tolerate the shock of heavy loads without damage, mirroring the resilience needed in case of a child’s fall.
Resistance to Freezing Water
Assesses whether playground material can withstand the expansion of freezing water, preventing damage in cold climates.

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Designing Greener Playgrounds

Welcome to the discussion on the ever-evolving landscape of playgrounds – an essential aspect of childhood development that now takes a turn towards responsible materials and practices.

In this magazine, we'll delve deeper into the specifics of these materials, exploring the benefits they bring to playground design and their positive influence on the overall environmental footprint of these spaces.

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Explore, learn, design: Greener playgrounds

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