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Pervious Pavers: The Pavement of Choice for Green Building?

They're popular for driveways in Europe and Japan. Is main street America ready for the new eco-friendly pervious paver?

Storm water runoff is key when talking about this type of paving stone. A growing government concern about water runoff is prompting more interest in the United States in what are known as “permeable”, "pervious" or "porous" pavers. These paving blocks have holes and notches in the middle and stand-off edges to allow water to percolate back into the earth, rather than run into overloaded sewer systems. Picture lattice embedded in the ground.

David Smith of ICPI (the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute) says in some areas, using these pavers can allow you to build a larger home.

He cites the East Coast's Chesapeake Bay region as an example. Land within a thousand feet of the Bay shoreline has been designated a "critical environmental area." Smith says that means when someone wants to build a home, the total amount of impervious material they may use is restricted.

Impervious materials are those that don't allow water to penetrate, such as roofs, sidewalks, and conventional driveways and patios. Since surfaces covered with pervious paving material allow water to soak in, you can spend more of that impervious allowance on your house, and less on the driveway.

Legal considerations aside, Smith says some people just like the look of the rain-friendly paving material and don't want the look of plain concrete or asphalt. You can put grass or gravel in the openings. When grass is used, that's a lot prettier and cooler" and "blends in with the environment."

According to Smith, pervious pavers allow a house to be "more visually dominant than the driveway."

Pervious pavers are most commonly used in the U.S. for things like fire access roads and overflow parking lots. However, Smith says holey paving stones are growing in popularity for residential use because they're "very practical in coastal areas, near bays, near lakes. Wherever there's sandy soil they work extremely well." These pavers have been lending themsolves well to Northeast Florida and the Jacksonville area.

There are several manufacturers right here in Jacksonville making the new pervious pavers. Though these pavers are not considered mainstream now, they are expected to take off in the near future as this green movement becomes more forefront.

The life-cycle of the permeable pavers is expected to be 30 years or more- outlasting every other type of pavement by many years. Even though they will be at a higher initial cost, the longevity will make them much more cost effective in the long run.

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