Permeable Pavers Benefit Your Property and Our Environment

Written by Greenwise Team
Published on March 4, 2020
Permeable driveway
PERMEABLE DRIVEWAY Thinking about installing a new patio, sidewalk, or driveway? You’d be doing yourself and your community a big favor by considering permeable pavers. As you might expect from its name, permeable pavers make it easy for water to drain through or permeate its joints, eliminating standing water (awesome in itself) and help reduce the amount of pollutants that reach our water table (hooray!). Do you experience a lot of flooding on your property?  Permeable pavers might solve your problem and reduce pollution. How? They handle rainwater and snow runoff more efficiently than concrete and so effectively reduce pressure on our already overused sewage systems. Instead of allowing water to merely run off the surface into local drains, often carrying pollutants with it, permeable pavers have larger gaps between the stones, enabling water to seep between the pavers down to various layers of specifically constructed gravel and soil, which can accommodate a tremendous amount of water. For example, if you have a 1,000-square-foot driveway, permeable pavers enable you to store close to 3,000 gallons of water under your driveway! This benefits the environment by infiltrating water back into the ground and recharging aquifers for future generations to use. You’ve got a lot of choices for how you use the water you store. You can:
  • Pump any rainwater passing through a permeable system back out for drip irrigation systems
  • Harvest the water and use it for watering indoor house plants
  • Use the rainwater for your decorative water features, such as a bubbling rock or fountain

How Does Your Property Benefit from Using Permeable Pavers?

Permeable pavers have been used commercially in Europe for probably 50 years, and only made their way here in the 1990s, where they were primarily used for commercial purposes. They’ve become increasingly popular for homeowners and developers who want to build in areas with an above-average amount of rainfall or snow or whose local municipalities have regulations that call for the use of permeable pavers as a way to reduce runoff and increase groundwater. Take a look at how your property can benefit from using permeable pavers:
  • Help Return Rainfall and Snow Melt Back into the Groundwater Table. This creates sustainable urban drainage systems. These pavers also help reduce the number of pollutants that find their way back into the water system.
  • Protect Waterways from Pollutants. Oil, rubber, or other chemicals gather on top of paver stones during dry seasons. In areas with traditional pavers, these pollutants make their way into the regular water system during rainfall. With permeable pavers, these pollutants are gradually filtered out as the water makes its way through the various levels of aggregate stone. So, using permeable pavers helps ensure the water that eventually makes its way back into the water table or into the sewer system is much cleaner.
  • Durable and Long-Lasting. Installing a permeable paver system costs about the same as installing a concrete patio or driveway. One of the best benefits of permeable pavers is their durability. You can install them in warm or cold climates and they do not peel or crack like nonpermeable pavers. So, while you may have to replace that low-cost asphalt in your driveway three or four times, your permeable pavers will still be in good shape (scroll down and hear from two clients who have benefited from permeable pavers for the past 10 years).
  • Reduce Heaving and De-Icing in the Winter. In Chicago where we see our fair share of snow, permeable pavers are ideal. Since the permeable paver system relies on open aggregates, there are a lot of airspaces in the material. That means water flows into these spaces and freezes, which reduces the possibility of heaving. On the other hand, heat from the earth rises easily through the aggregate. Water does not pool or freeze on the surface, so there is less need for de-icing.
  • Less Ice Accumulation. When you use permeable pavers, they reduce the accumulation of ice, so there is less chance that you will slip and slide when walking or driving into and out of your driveway.
  • Easy to Repair. When using permeable pavers, there is less need to reseal or resurface the stones, and repairs are relatively easy. If an individual stone develops a crack or problem, you can easily remove it and replace it.
  • Reduce Erosion. If you experience a particularly dry summer, permeable pavers help reduce the possibility of erosion when rain does come.
  • Fewer Mosquitoes. When you install permeable pavers, you will likely notice fewer mosquitoes in your patio area because there are fewer standing pools of water in which they can breed.

Permeable Pavers Help Your Community, Too!

Permeable pavers aren’t just about improving your home, they help your community, too! Here are a handful of ways that permeable pavers benefit your community:
  • Allow water to refill the local groundwater table
  • Improve the quality of local water
  • Reduce the “heat island” effect when you use reflective, light-colored permeable pavers (that’s why many cities or towns now require that areas, such as parking lots or large patio areas be constructed using permeable paver systems)
  • Decrease your neighborhood’s or town’s need for water in landscaping when you collect water from permeable paver systems
  • Extend the life of a municipality’s sewer system because permeable pavers return water to the ground and not into storm drainage systems
Did you know that one of the reasons there was so much flooding and water damage in Houston after 2017’s Hurricane Harvey was because most of the concrete used in Houston was impermeable? It was impossible for the large amounts of water to do anything but collect on the surface of roads, driveways, and parking lots.

Where Can You Use Permeable Pavers?

You can use permeable pavers just about anywhere, including driveways, patios, bike paths, access lanes for emergency vehicles, shoulder areas for roads, and on airport runways, sidewalks, and parking lots. You can even create a paver out of grass or mulch. You might use this type of permeable paver in a rain garden to keep weeds down but still allow water through. Permeable pavers can be constructed from a variety of materials, depending on where you want them and how you plan to use them. As more communities realize that using permeable pavers is an ideal way to improve environmental quality in their areas, manage stormwater runoff and keep their water tables at a healthy level, they are offering rebates and programs for residential and commercial uses. Ask your city government to offer rebates to its citizens who are installing permeable pavers. Depending on the kind of system you use, this water then goes back into the groundwater table or is captured and then slowly released back into the drainage system — thus reducing overflow during heavy rainfalls or snow melts.

Greenwise Success Stories Working with Permeable Pavers

Hardscapes isn’t in our name, so you might not realize Greenwise designs and installs hardscapes all the time. We design patios, driveways, walkways, and more, and use permeable pavers whenever possible for their environmental benefits, and because it’s so beautiful and hardworking. Our client in Glenview had a LOT of concrete! He was concerned about the environment and wanted to make a difference in how he managed water on his property. So, we replaced the left side of his driveway with a permeable driveway. And we got rid of the second driveway by installing a rain garden and a native garden.
Driveway before permeable pavers
driveway after permeable pavers
driveway with rain and native gardens
A CONCRETE DRIVEWAY REPLACED BY A RAIN AND NATIVE GARDEN About 10 years ago, the Halverson’s came to Greenwise wanting to replace their driveway and were smart enough to understand the importance of replacing it with a permeable system. Now, de-icing is a thing of the past because the ice just doesn’t develop, making it safer because the water flows into the cracks, so you won’t experience black ice. “I went with permeable pavers because we have way too much pavement all over the world and permeable pavers have been around for eons. I felt that I didn’t want to spend money maintaining it for the rest of my life and I hope it will still be viable 100 years from now. I also felt like it was the right way to go to save the city from sewer runoff, and flooding and it puts more water into the water table. After 10 years, it’s still holding up well. Last winter, I didn’t have any problem with ice. After I shoveled the sidewalk, the water would just go down,” explains Dorrance Halverson. Back in 2010, the Karp residence had a concrete patio and was experiencing seepage through the foundation, as well as puddling around the foundation. Judith and her husband met with Greenwise to discuss different green options for solving their drainage issues, and then Greenwise worked for hand in hand with the Karp’s plumber to ensure all the bases were covered. Ultimately, Greenwise installed French drains, re-did about 100 feet of the driveway with permeable pavers, as well as linked the patio and walkways with permeable pavers. “After Greenwise installed the permeable pavers, we had a huge rainstorm and I woke up at 2 in the morning worried about flooding, but quickly realized I had nothing to worry about. There was no flooding or even puddling. And the Greenwise team did a beautiful job of working out a pattern and designing the patio and sidewalks. After 10 years, people are still complimenting me on our beautiful driveway and patio,” exclaims Judith Karp. Want to learn more about how permeable pavers might be the right solution for your home? Call us today at 847.866.1930. We’ll be happy to come out and discuss how we can help you most effectively conserve water on your property.