Green parking lots and porous pavements

Have you ever wondered what happens to the ground underneath parking lots and streets?  Traditional pavement is impervious to rain water, instead the rain water runs off into the sewer systems where it is efficiently channeled into the nearest stream or river.  If the pavement wasn’t there the rain water would instead soak into the ground, replenishing ground water supplies and generally be part of the normal ecological life cycle.

Some specific problems are:

  • Pavement, especially the large parking lots surrounding many buildings, contribute to the urban heat island effect.  Pavement is black and absorbs heat increasing heat intensity in cities where there is lots of paved surfaces.  Increases urban heat leads to more air conditioning use, more electricity to run air conditioners, etc.
  • Many think paved areas like parking lots are ugly eyesores.
  • In most cases parking lots and roads interfere with walkability for example by impeding street pedestrian traffic from reaching a building surrounded by its moat-like parking lot.
  • Impervious parking lots are recognized as one of the largest sources of nonpoint source pollution.  During a rainstorm water flows across parking lots picking up residues such as petrochemical pollutants dripped from cars, and carries those chemicals into the water runnoff flowing into storm drains.

Paved surfaces like roads, highways and parking lots are the accepted normal infrastructure for cars.  The more cars in use the more of this paved infrastructure is required.  Hence the road and parking lot infrastructure is a requirement so long as we drive cars around.  The question is whether the roads and parking lots have to be impervious pavement, or is there another choice, and is that choice better than todays accepted normal practice.

Permeable pavers allow rainwater to soak through and into the ground, where the water is absorbed into the groundwater, natural filtering and cleansing, recharging aquifers and other groundwater systems.  Grass paving blocks additionally mitigate the urban heat island effect.  Porous pavements give urban trees the rooting space they need to grow to full size where otherwise urban trees would not have the groundwater they require to live.

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About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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