February 11 2009

Porous Pavings by Invisible Structures

Pervious Convrete_Image 01 The development of successful porous paving systems makes it inexcusable to lay impervious surfaces in our built environment. ?Pave the planet.? Does that make any sense? Just a quick search will turn up a myriad of porous paving solutions with various consistencies, levels of durability, materials, and finish textures. Some porous pavings look identical to asphalt or concrete to the untrained eye. Others appear to be simple pea gravel or grass and give no obvious hint of the simple yet sophisticated network of elements below. Typical concerns are cost, durability, freeze-thaw cycle issues, and infiltration of contaminants that either prevent drainage or pollute the soil below. That said, from my perspective, the biggest barrier to wider adoption is probably a general lack of understanding about the available products and the complacency that comes with a tradition of using asphalt or concrete just about everywhere. Given the increasing number, success, and many benefits to using porous paving, it appears there is a bright future ahead for the category of products to work their way into mainstream design and construction practices.

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(above) grasspave2 sample/ (below) grasspave2 detail

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One manufacturer of note is Invisible Structures based in Golden, Colorado. The company started in 1982 producing a basic grass paving system and has now expanded their offerings to include a variety of porous paving and landscaping products. A central emphasis stated by the company is the development of products to ?help manage stormwater and protect and enhance the environment.? The product lineup highlights that focus even in name only with products such as Grasspave2, Gravelpave2, Rainstore3, Slopetame2, Draincore2, and Beachrings2. Not all of these are porous pavings as the names suggest, but all share an underlying technology and ability to render surfaces accessible (ADA Compliant in some cases), varied in material, and generally better for the environment than the common impervious asphalt alternative. Another important aspect of many of the systems is modularity and ease of installation.

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(above) gravelpave2 installation

The strictly environmental benefits of these products include natural processing of stormwater, erosion and soil migration prevention, contamination remediation, groundwater recharge and reduction in heat island effect depending on the type of product being used. Greater vegetation also allows for more absorption of carbon dioxide and local oxygen production. The final product surface can be sand, gravel, vegetated and anywhere in between. The important point is that the surface is a more natural, human scale, if you permit poetic license.

From an economic perspective the porous paving materials have low first and life cycle costs when compared to poured in place solutions. Programmatically the surfaces are available for multiple uses which enables space to be planned more efficiently, possibly reducing the needless duplication of programmed area simply due to surface requirements. Parking and landscaped areas can co-exist in the same area eliminating the need to duplicate paved dedicated parking and vegetated landscaped areas. My favorite example is the use of Grasspave2 as a fire lane and landscape element. (Designers out there know what it means to design a project and then be forced to build a road along the exterior of the building just to satisfy fire land requirements)

For more information on Invisible Structures please visit the company website.

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June 1st, 2009 at 4:11 AM

Greenline Porous Pavings by Invisible Structures | My Site

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