paving allows rainwater to infiltrate into the ground. Although some porous pavement types are not new, pavements that are engineered to allow infiltration while also withstanding regular vehicle use are a more recent innovation.
is similar to conventional concrete, but uniform aggregate is used, and fines (smaller particles) are left out. Porous concrete is cast in place over a deep sub-base, with care taken not to float the concrete too much during setting, as that can reduce permeability.
like porous concrete, is produced by eliminating the fines typically used in asphalt. Experience is required to maintain a porous surface during rolling.
such as concrete, brick, or stone can be installed with joints filled with uniform aggregate to allow drainage. Pavers are also available as open-celled blocks that are filled with permeable, uniform aggregate or planting media and turf.
Plastic geocell unit pavers
, like open-celled masonry pavers, are filled with permeable, uniform aggregate or permeable soil planted with grass.
such as uniformly sized crushed stone can provide porous paving, although it is only suitable in light-traffic applications where it won’t quickly be displaced, ground down, or mixed with organic matter. Soft materials such as chipped bark or crushed seashells may be used as porous paving in pathways. Conventional dirt roads use mixed aggregate, including fines, and are largely impermeable.
Porous pavement depends on a subsurface that can absorb water. This system of multiple layers, which is usually deeper and more carefully engineered than the average roadbed, supports loading and provides reservoir capacity for stormwater.
By stopping stormwater from pooling and flowing away, porous paving can help recharge underlying aquifers and reduces peak flows and flooding. That means that streams flow more consistently and at cooler temperatures, contributing to healthy ecosystems. Stormwater pollutants are broken down in the soil instead of being carried to surface waters.
Porous paving also contributes to healthy trees along streets and in parking lots. Those trees, along with turf planted in unit pavers, reduce the urban heat island effect. Porous paving is quieter than conventional paving and safer for drivers and pedestrians because less water pools on its surface. It can cost more than conventional paving on a unit basis, but projects can realize big cost savings and permitting benefits by reducing stormwater infrastructure such as retention ponds.
Working with experienced designers and contractors is key. Proper maintenance is also essential to keeping porous pavement functioning. Sand and salt applications should be avoided, for example, unfortunately limiting the suitability of this otherwise versatile strategy in many cold-climate applications.
April 1, 2009