In addition to a lower environmental impact, artificial turf is cheaper and easier to maintain than real grass.
Faking it: why artificial grass makes sense
During a race, most eyes at the Yas Marina Circuit are fixed firmly on the track, but for Mohamad Kaddoura and the team from Powerlink EC, the real test takes place at the asphalt's edge, where their focus is the adhesion of AstroTurf, not tyres.
Kaddoura has been installing AstroTurf at strategic points on the circuit at Yas since 2009, carefully cutting the polythene carpet like a tailor to match the track's twists and turns. As well as making a circuit look great, the AstroTurf slows cars down when they veer off course and helps drivers regain control. And it does all this without the debris and damage associated with sand or gravel.
In Abu Dhabi, Kaddoura installed olive green AstroTurf Grand Prix, but in Bahrain, F1 asked a British supplier to dye their turf so that it matched the shade of the surrounding desert sand.
Kaddoura also installed the artificial football pitches at the Manchester United Soccer School and the Dome at Rawdhat, but he's just as likely to be laying smaller patches of artificial turf in private villas in Khalifa City A or Al Reef. Most of Kaddoura's customers use artificial lawn on their terraces, over unsightly concrete paving and around their swimming pools, where it provides a hard wearing, non-slip surface in an area where there is a risk of contamination by grass clippings, irrigation water and fertiliser.
For Kaddoura, the environmental reasons for using artificial lawn are self-evident. His motto is "water is for drinking, not sprinkling". Most artificial turf products are recycled and require no harmful fertilisers or pesticides. Maintenance for artificial lawns is significantly cheaper than for real turf because they only require sweeping or jet washing, and they have a life expectancy of at least five years.
Unfortunately, the initial cost of installing a high-quality artificial lawn often acts as a disincentive. "Most people think artificial grass is costly. They see a complete installation price of Dh75-150 per square metre and get scared, but if you compare the costs over the lifetime of the lawn you are actually saving money."
With a real lawn, he insists, "You are talking about maintenance and the cost of the irrigation system, and you will never recoup the investment. The artificial turf is just like a carpet. When you move house, you can take it with you."
For somebody who makes a living from selling artificial grass, Kaddoura is surprisingly candid when it comes to the value of a real lawn. "People always ask what I would use in my own home, natural or artificial grass. I tell them that I would use real grass where I want to sit and artificial turf where I want to look."
What it costs and where to buy it
The lawn is sold like rolls of carpet and can easily be cut to size accordingly. For the best results, it's worth paying for professional installation, where existing grass is removed, the ground is compacted and the lawn is cut to size then secured using adhesive or concrete.
Costs vary enormously, so shop around. The same area could cost you anything up to Dh10,000 more to cover, depending on your supplier and the quality of grass. As a guide, a 20-square-metre lawn should cost around Dh3,000, including installation.
Ace usually has rolls of the basic stuff in stock, but a better place to try is Danube Buildmart (www.buildmart.com) which has a range of four types of lawn, starting from Dh75 per square metre (installation is extra and can be arranged instore). For budget options, try DragonMart in Dubai and the carpet souq in Abu Dhabi.
Other stockists include
Powerlink E C Artificial Grass, 02 449 3550, www.powerlink.ae
Green Vision, 04 803 8111, www.thegrassspecialists.com
Greenpeople, 04 883 5155, www.greenpeopleme.com