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What is Permeable Pavement?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2014
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Permeable pavement is pavement which is designed to allow water to flow through it, rather than repulsing water like traditional pavement. There are a number of reasons to choose to install permeable pavement, with some people believing that this type of pavement is better for the environment. A wide range of styles of pavement can be produced in a way which makes them porous, and many contractors are capable of installing permeable paving products. It is also possible to buy permeable paving materials at home supply stores and construction warehouses, for people who like to do their own work around the home and garden.

When water hits permeable pavement, it trickles through the pores in the pavement. When the pavement is installed over gravel and sand to promote drainage, the surface of the pavement often stays relatively dry, with no standing water. From a public safety and comfort perspective, permeable pavement is very convenient because it does not allow puddles to accumulate, making it easier to walk and drive on. The reduction in runoff also cuts down on flooding and erosion, two major problems in areas with high rainfall.

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In environmental terms, permeable pavement has a number of advantages. Rather than allowing water to run off, it sequesters it, keeping water in the local water table. The reduction of runoff also prevents the spread of pollution, and pollutants are often trapped in the pavement and underlying drainage materials, ensuring that they cannot spread. With the careful introduction of micro-organisms which eat pollutants like oil and live in the pores of the pavement, permeable pavement can even help with environmental cleanup.

Permeable pavers can be installed in gardens, driveways, and patios to promote drainage, and porous concrete can be poured for sidewalks, garden walls, and other concrete features in areas where allowing water to drain through the concrete would be appropriate. Permeable paving can also be installed in streets to prevent standing water in the road.

As a general rule, installing permeable pavement is more expensive than installing traditional pavement, with prices which can vary depending on the type of permeable pavement being used, and the situation. However, the reduction in erosion and environmental problems can represent a substantial savings in the long term, which is something to consider. The use of permeable paving in the garden, for example, can reduce the need to water, cutting down on water bills.

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Melonlity
Post 3

@Terrificli -- I am not sure that I agree with you. How much safer is permeable pavement than conventional pavement material? Is it safer at all? Are there any studies that answer that question one way or the other? I don't know if any such studies actually exist.

But here is what I do know. Let's say you take a rain storm. The most dangerous time to travel on a conventional road during a storm is right after it starts. When a street gets wet, that is when oil and crud comes to the surface and the street is the slickest. After that period has passed and oil is washed away, traction is actually pretty good. That is doubly tree in this day and age when sure footed, front wheel drive vehicles are common.

What I don't know is if the permeable pavement is so much safer that the added expense is worth it. If we were truly talking about saving lives and such, wouldn't there be more of a demand for this paving material to be put to good use?

Terrificli
Post 2

@Logicfest -- You are correct, but that is a shame. It seems callous to put a price on human life, but that is exactly what happens when we are looking at big road projects. Cost efficiency is a big deal, so we wind up with less expensive payment.

Breaking things down in dollars and cents like that may seem cruel, but that's just how things are.

Logicfest
Post 1

There are a lot of people who will agree that permeable pavement is better for the environment and safer to drive on, but the obstacle toward converting to it has to do with cost. It costs more than more common paving material (blacktop, for example), and that can turn into millions of dollars in excess if you are looking at a large project.

There is a lot of pressure on governments to save money where they can these days, so one can only imaging public officials pushing for this expensive pavement would be skewered.

In other words, the quality of the material doesn't have much to do with anything. The cost of the stuff does.

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