Creating Elegance from In-between Spaces

The 2017 Hardscape North America Project Awards witnessed a record 146 submissions. The breadth and depth of attention to detail rose to new levels. A large number of entries often equates to tougher choices for the contest judges. Selecting one excellent project winner over another excellent one can mean some worthy projects don’t win. For this reason, there is this Editor’s Choice column.

Hardscape and landscape merge to create a linear backyard space with a mix of singular and group places.

A case in point is a backyard project submitted by Shawn Kelly with Mirror Lake Designs in Spring, Texas. The project is about elegant landscaping that redeems a tiny backyard as much as the hardscaping, and vice versa. Mr. Kelly aptly described the backyard’s narrow geometry as a bowling alley quieted with a landscape/hardscape transformation into a meditation space. Even with a shallow depth yard, the designer created secluded, intimate areas while supporting foot traffic that certainly arrives with backyard gatherings.

The Awards contest is in part one requiring excellent photography that communicates the designer’s intent. Successful photographic representations enhance the reader’s perception, and especially the contest judges’ perceptions. When combined with superb, uncluttered design, such photography makes it easy for the reader to vicariously enter and enjoy the place. This project merges both to land you there.


Excellence Exemplified

The HNA Hardscape Project Awards recognize outstanding hardscape projects by contractors building residential walkways, patios, driveways, commercial plazas, parking lots and streets. In its tenth year, the awards program received a record 149 entries. Projects were judged on intent, design, quality of construction and craftsmanship, compatibility with related construction materials and systems, construction innovation, detailing and overall design excellence.

1. Concrete Paver – Residential – More than 3,000 SF

Pasqualoni Pool Project

  • Location: South Windsor, CT
  • Contractor: Bahler Brothers
  • Manufacturer: Techo-Bloc
  • Designer: Ryan King, Bahler Brothers

The main design intent for this backyard resort was to ensure there would be enough space for entertaining large crowds. There needed to be multiple gathering spaces serving different purposes for the guests and homeowners.

The main focal point of the project is the pool, with a large patio space to connect all the different spaces and functions of the backyard. Some of the design features include a large outdoor kitchen, a seating area to watch the sunsets each night, an over-sized sunken fire pit area and a bocce ball court.

Honorable Mention: Family Entryway Location: Tomball, TX Contractor: Mirror Lake Designs Manufacturer: Belgard Designer: Michael Shawn Kelly, Mirror Lake Designs

2. Concrete Paver – Residential – Less than 3,000 SF

Foutch Residence

  • Location: Logan, IA
  • Contractor: Paver Designs, LLC
  • Manufacturer: Belgard and Techniseal
  • Designer: Justin Hampton, Paver Designs LLC

The homeowners wanted to create a one-of-a-kind outdoor living space for large groups of guests and family to congregate and relax. A grilling area/bar and a fire feature were must-haves. Paver Designs’ signature custom inlays were another must-have. A multi-level design was created, cutting into a hillside that sloped toward the house, providing for more usable space. Circular planters finish off the seat walls for more green space. A large fire boulder and pebble mosaic reflective wall accent the fire feature. The outdoor kitchen includes a grill and refrigerator for cooking needs. LED lighting was installed throughout to create a warm, inviting space at night.

Honorable Mention: Oak Brook Outdoor Transformation Location: Oak Brook, IL Contractor: Premier Outdoor Environments, Inc. Manufacturer: Unilock Designers: Kevin Barnes & Nathan Flipp

3. Concrete Paver—Commercial, More than 15,000 SF

Local Government Federal Credit Union

  • Location: Raleigh, NC
  • Contractor: Fred Adams Paving Co.
  • Manufacturer: Hanover Architectural Products
  • Designer: Stewart Landscape

The reinvigorated space at 3600 Wake Forest Road is designed to LEED Silver specifications and represents the workplace of the future—a facility that is both energy efficient and a healthy, inspiring place to work. With a fully integrated transit shelter, employees will be able to access the workplace through public transportation, eliminating the need for expansive surface parking. Rather, the facility features an integrated parking garage, which reduces the need for surface parking and provides space for an outdoor courtyard. The outdoor courtyard, which seamlessly brings together the building space, landscape and hardscape, serves multiple purposes, including space for employee lunches, a zone for private calls and an outdoor venue for informal meetings and large catered events.

Honorable Mention: Denver International Airport–Westin Hotel Location: Denver, CO Contractor: Rocky Mountain Hardscape Manufacturer: Hanover Architectural Products Designer: Stewart Landscape

4. Concrete Paver—Commercial, Less than 15,000 SF

Blue Bell Country Club Fire Pit Lounge

  • Location: Blue Bell, PA
  • Contractor: FS Landscaping Contractors, Inc.
  • Manufacturer: Belgard
  • Designer: Brian Stover, FS Landscaping Contractors, Inc.

The construction of the fire pit was excavated into a hillside along the edge of the 18th hole and clubhouse pond. To maximize the area, a custom curved Trex deck was cantilevered over the edge of the pond, and a flush patio and fire pit lounge to complement the curved deck was built. The fire pit is a wirelessly controlled gas unit custom built using antique wall stone. A retaining/sitting wall, pillars and boulders complete the retention of the hillside. Plant material softens the hardscape project and provides spring and summer color. TruScapes Landscape & Hardscape Lighting was installed to complete this outdoor living space for guests to enjoy into the evening hours.

Honorable Mention: Market Plaza & Exchange Plaza Location: Raleigh, NC Contractor: Fred Adams Paving Co. Manufacturer: Belgard Designer: Surface 678

Honorable Mention: Steak & Shake: University of Kentucky Campus Location: Lexington, KY Contractor: Decorative Paving Manufacturer: Pavestone Designers: Sherman Carter Barnhart Architects

5. Concrete Paver—Permeable, Residential

Emile Court Residence

  • Location: Gillett, WI
  • Contractor: Shawano Lawn and Stone
  • Manufacturer: County Materials Corporation
  • Designer: Shawano Lawn and Stone

Local and county zoning requirements mandated there could not be any impermeable surfaces within 100 feet of the shoreline. After exploring several options, the homeowners learned about the possibilities of a permeable paver system. They wanted the new patio to have a clean, modern look to match the feel of the home’s recently remodeled interior. They selected a solid white Holland paver with a solid gray paver for a border. Properly integrating the system with the site was a major, yet important challenge to effectively prevent runoff and protect the lake’s water quality. Special design consideration was given to the selection and installation of base materials to ensure the system would properly capture and filter storm water.

Honorable Mention: Belgard Aqualine 3pc Dominion Pavers Cypress Creek Job Location: Smithfield, VA Contractor: Dominion Pavers Manufacturer: Belgard Designer: Sasser Construction

6. Concrete Paver—Permeable, Commercial

University of Tennessee—University Center Bridge

  • Location: Knoxville, TN
  • Contractor: Hickory Hardscapes
  • Manufacturer: Belgard

The University of Tennessee wanted to create a masterpiece with a well-designed permeable walkway that would connect the classrooms on “The Hill” to the library. Hickory Hardscapes constructed the design using four different colors of Belgard Aqua-Roc II in a basket weave. The University of Tennessee loved this permeable walkway so much they have used it for numerous events. Local news teams often set up on the walkway to cover stories on campus. Every time ESPN’s GameDay is at UT for a football game, they set up their broadcast booth on the area—great exposure for permeable pavers!

Honorable Mention: Firstenburg Community Center Location: Vancouver, WA Contractor: Eastern States Paving Manufacturer: Williamette Graystone Designer: Robertson Engineering, PC

Honorable Mention: Southeast Atlanta Green Infrastructure Initiative Location: Atlanta, GA Contractor: Four Seasons Landscape

Management, Inc. Manufacturer: Belgard Designer: AMEC

7. Combination of Hardscape Products—Residential, More than 4,000 SF


  • Location: Mullica Hill, NJ
  • Contractor: Darlington Designs
  • Manufacturer: EP Henry
  • Designer: Simon Darlington

This project, a multi-phase installation with components still to come to complete the master plan, fulfilled the client’s dream of a beautiful outdoor living space. Components of this multi-level design plan include an outdoor kitchen complete with grill and side burner, refrigerator, storage drawers and trash bin. Adjacent to the kitchen is a dining area and an open, luxurious living space for comfortable relaxation. The custom pool, with waterfall and spa, make for resort-style living at home and feature lights and laminars for day-to-night pool use. A pool heater extends the season for swimming.

Honorable Mention: Backyard Oasis Location: Canton, GA Contractor: Miller Landscape, Inc. Manufacturer: Pavestone and FireMagic Designers: John Whittingslow & Bruce Miller

Honorable Mention: DiPonio Residence Location: Rochester Hill, MI Contractor: Decra-Scape, Inc. Manufacturer: Techo-Bloc

Honorable Mention: Focht Location: Robesonia, PA Contractor: Anewalt’s Landscape Contracting Manufacturer: EP Henry Designer: John Shandra, ELA

8. Combination of Hardscape Products—Residential, Less than 4,000 SF

Strosin Outdoor Retreat

  • Location: Waukesha, WI
  • Contractor: Extreme Exteriors (Big Bend, WI)
  • Manufacturer: Unilock
  • Designer: Jamon Peterson, Extreme Exteriors

Along with an in-ground pool, the client had an expansive list of items they wanted to incorporate into the design, including water, fire, cooking, entertaining, etc. With the existing yard at a severe slope, there were limited places to put the pool; it was clear the design would require multiple levels to incorporate all of the client’s wish list items. The construction process took over four months to complete.

The final result: a beautiful open, flowing design with plenty of space to entertain hundreds of people, with over 3,000 sf of paver patio, 1,200 sf of wall stone, six fire features, four water features, a brick pizza oven, full outdoor kitchen, a 20-foot-long bar and 140 low-voltage light fixtures that are completely automated with a phone or tablet.

Honorable Mention: Houston Residence Location: Knoxville, TN Contractor: Precision Landscapes Manufacturer: Belgard Designer: Jeremy Rose, Precision Landscapes

9. Combination of Hardscape Products—Commercial, More than 20,000 SF

Westlake Shopping Center 

  • Location: Peoria, IL
  • Contractor: Interlock Brick Paving
  • Manufacturers: Belgard, Unilock, Solistone, Milestone Imports 
  • Designer: Cohen Development Company with Bruce Brown, AIA, and Zumwalt and Associates, PE

As part of this $25 million award-winning redevelopment, all asphalt was removed from main parking fields, entrance driveways, Main Street, and approaches, and rebuilt entirely of interlocking concrete pavers. Approximately 300,000 sf of asphalt was removed. The project also came with an industry-first 30-year commercial warranty against defects from Belgard, guaranteed by Northfield Bend/Oldcastle. The high solar reflectivity finish on the ICP makes the parking lot 20 degrees cooler than the old asphalt lot. During rainstorms, wind and snow, adhesion is improved. People love the traffic calming, the cobblestone sound effects and the overall aesthetics of ICP!

10. Combination of Hardscape Products—Commercial, Less than 20,000 SF

Church Mutual

  • Location: Merrill, WI
  • Contractor: PICS Inc.
  • Manufacturer: County Materials Corporation
  • Designer: Carey Owen

Because this building is a rented space, the business owner wanted the option to take anything invested into the building to a new location if they ever moved. The patio project was carefully designed and constructed to integrate on top of an existing concrete slab. The contractor mortared the retaining wall into place on top of the concrete slab. Each wall unit was individually leveled then mortared because of the slab’s uneven surface. Meeting the owner’s need to create a relaxing space for employees was met with the expansive application of pavers surrounded by tall retaining walls to block the sound of passing traffic. An outdoor grill and kitchen area doubles as an ideal spot for work celebrations or to take a lunch break.

Honorable Mention: Courtyard & Curb Appeal Homerun Location: Hamilton, NJ Contractor: Monello Landscape Industries Manufacturer: Techo-Bloc Designer: Joe Monello

Honorable Mention: Semco Outdoor Display Location: Cincinnati, OH Contractor: Outside Insight (Cincinnati, OH) Manufacturer: Belgard and Unilock Designer: Scott Gifford, Outside Insight


PICP 5th Edition Manual

Authored by ICPI’s Technical Director, David R. Smith, the 138-page book emerged from an initial tome published by ICPI in 2000 and subsequently improved over 17 years from PICP research and experience. With over 100 color figures and tables, the manual is for civil engineers, landscape architects, urban planners, contractors, and stormwater and transportation agencies. Those who use it should be familiar with stormwater management concepts and calculation methods.

This fifth edition includes revised subbase thickness design tables developed via full-scale load testing and mechanistic modeling in 2014 by the University of California Pavement Research Center. The revised tables, selected figures and design methods from this manual are also included in the ASCE/ANSI national standard on PICP now in its final stages at this writing and will be announced when available from ASCE. That standard gives more in-depth information on PICP hydrologic and hydraulic design. The ICPI manual presents comprehensive reading on construction and maintenance. The two publications should be read together.

As with the 2011 fourth edition, this 2017 fifth edition is divided into five sections. Section 1 provides an overview on PICP. Section 2 provides criteria for selecting appropriate sites and systems. Section 3 includes basics for sizing storage and selecting base and subbase thicknesses. A design example is presented. Detailed, time-based inflow and outflow calculations can be worked using ICPI’s Permeable Design Pro software or other stormwater models. Such modeling and calculations are for engineers familiar with hydrology and hydraulics, as well as pavement structural design using flexible pavement design concepts articulated by the University of California Pavement Research Center and by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Updated construction methods and guide specifications are included in Section 4. Much has been learned about maintenance, so Section 5 is completely revised. There are construction and maintenance checklists, as well as a model ordinance for use by municipal governments. There is a Glossary of Terms and References at the end that provides a wealth of information beyond the manual.

In the book’s Introduction, the author asserts that while synonyms, the words porous, pervious and permeable differentiate surfacing materials with underlying base configurations, e.g., porous asphalt, pervious concrete and PICP. These terms have been designated by their respective industries. Etymology is instructive. The Latin root for permeable (permeare) means capable of passing something such as air or water.

The Latin root for pervious (pervius) means capable of accepting something such as air, water or even ideas. The Latin root for porous (porus) means full of holes.

When referring to runoff-reducing pavements collectively, all pass water through them, making all permeable. As readers use this fifth edition PICP manual, the author encourages reader to apply PICP within the context of broader site designs and community goals that encompass integrated stormwater management. The book’s introduction notes that besides runoff reduction, PICP likely improves the mental health and well-being of people. The author notes that PICP does this more elegantly than any other pavement: porous, pervious or impervious.

ICPI offers the book in print only for $52.25 plus shipping and handling on ICPI members and design professionals can purchase the book for $26 plus shipping and handling.


Texas Team Wins North American Hardscape Installer Championship

CG Paving of Fort Worth, TX, won the 5th Annual HNA Installer Championship at the 2017 Hardscape North American tradeshow, an Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) event.

Twenty-three segmental concrete pavement installation teams from throughout the United States and Canada competed in the two-day event. Each installation project was judged on safety, craftsmanship and compliance with industry best practices.

In the preliminary round, each team was given 60 minutes to construct an 8 ft x 10 ft interlocking concrete patio with a small seat wall as detailed in the drawings provided to each team. The teams with the top four scores moved on to the final championship round where they were given 90 minutes to construct their own creative design.

The CG Paving championship team members were Carlos Gomez, Alfredo Estrada and alternate Ismael Rendon. As champions, the team was awarded a prize package valued at approximately $14,000. The package included a check for $2,400, an iQ360 14-in. masonry saw with fully-integrated dust collection plus accessories (valued at $2,425), a Weber MT CF3 Pro forward plate compactor (valued at $3,600) and a hand tool package from Hulton Tools and Pave Tool Innovators (valued at $500). ICPI will also cover the team’s cost to return and compete in the 2018 HNA Installer Championship.

General Pavers AOJ, LLC of Dallas, TX, (Omar Hernandez, Jose Hernandez and alternate Juan Perez) finished second. The team received a check for $1,200, an iQ360 14-in. masonry saw with fully-integrated dust collection plus accessories (valued at $2,425) and a hand tool package from Hulton Tools and Pave Tool Innovators (valued at $500).

A student team from Brigham Young University from Provo, UT, (Marco Closland, Masen Putnam, and alternate McKayla Sundberg) finished third. The team was awarded $600 for their third-place finish and a hand tool package from Hulton Tools and Pave Tool Innovators (valued at $500). 

Precise Paving, Inc. of West Palm Beach, FL, (Jim Workman and Eric Martin) finished fourth. The team earned a hand tool package from Hulton Tools and Pave Tool Innovators (valued at $500).

About Hardscape North America

Hardscape North America (HNA), THE hardscape show for contractors and dealers/distributors, is an Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute event. Its focus is to bring top-notch education including certification courses, products and technology to contractors, installers and dealers involved in the segmental pavement and retaining wall industries, as well as to provide networking opportunities. HNA features indoor and outdoor exhibits displaying state-of-the-art tools and products and trade floor demonstrations and offers the latest technology for contractors. Hardscape North America is produced by the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute and endorsed by the National Concrete Masonry Association and the Brick Industry Association. To learn more about HNA, visit

About Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute

ICPI is the trade association representing the growing industry of segmental concrete pavement systems in the United States and Canada. The association’s membership includes producers, contractors, suppliers, design professionals and distributors. ICPI is the authority for concrete pavers, which are universally recognized as the best value for pavement systems. The association delivers education and technical guidance leading to awareness, acceptance and use of segmental concrete pavement systems in the United States and Canada. For more information, visit


Opening the Skies

I think this is a first. The University of California Pavement Research Center and Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure hosted a Permeable Pavements Road Map Conference, Nov. 14–15 in downtown Davis, CA. The event was sponsored by the ICPI Foundation for Education & Research, the National Ready Mix Concrete Association, the National Asphalt Pavement Association and Tonji University in China.

About 50 participants gathered, representing federal, state and municipal agencies that look after pavements or manage stormwater, as well as several stormwater and pavement consultants and academics. Orchestrated by Professor John Harvey, who directs the UC Pavement Research Center in Davis, the conference included presentations on technical, economic, political and social aspects of permeable pavements. During the presentations, the group was asked to generate questions to consider the following morning in breakout groups. Seventy-six questions were generated by the group that fell into the following subject headings:

  • Costing & cost decision support
  • Material & pavement performance
  • Education & training
  • Communication
  • Project-level design issues
  • Watershed & flood control design issues
  • Designing for additional benefits & impacts
  • Construction standards & issues
  • Maintenance
  • Asset management
  • Funding for research, development & implementation
  • Planning & development codes

These topics were discussed among the groups and some solutions brainstormed. The breakouts reconvened to present their observations and possible solutions. We expect a report in the coming months.

Some of issues that rose to the top of the discussions:

There are disparate sources of information and documented experiences on permeable pavements. There needs to be an information clearinghouse for permeable pavements to capture and coordinate information. Where this might occur (e.g., ASCE, Water Environment Federation, the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, a university, etc.) needs to be decided. While the permeable pavement industries have taken leadership in design guidelines, specifications and development of test methods and guidelines through ASCE, ASTM and ACI standards, there needs to be a national information hub stormwater and pavement folks can use to exchange information.

Streets serve multiple economic, environmental health and social objectives within a city. Permeable pavement advocates will be more successful when their technologies are positioned to enhance a broader set of design objectives besides reducing runoff and combined sewer overflows. This includes safety, traffic calming and providing a social platform for public events and businesses.

Green infrastructure projects, generally implemented to reduce combined sewer overflows, often include permeable pavements. These projects are usually administered by public water or sewer utilities. They are most often not the folks responsible for municipal roads with city administrations. Full-width permeable pavements, or a transition to a permeable road infrastructure, will occur when public works officials embrace permeable pavements. They must be given control soon.

One gap or barrier to such officials embracing permeable pavements is the inability (and resulting unwillingness) of engineers to design pavements where soils are saturated much of the time. That is outside their education and zone of experience. There needs to be a shift in civil engineering training that develops instructional curriculum addressing this as a prerequisite to learning how to design permeable pavements.

Finally, it is this editor’s opinion that the reduction of pollutants alone sometimes hampers the expansion of permeable pavements. While federal and state pollutant reduction laws have spawned the permeable pavement industry, they can become a barrier to societal institutionalization of permeable pavements. Most states only mandate pollutant reduction to fulfill their permitting authority under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. There are a handful of states that have mandated volume reduction and offer pollution reduction credits (approval) precisely because volume reduction means a corresponding reduction of pollutants. Such states have seen enormous growth of permeable pavements. States that only mandate pollutant reduction will need to see laws changed to include volume reductions at levels that qualify for pollutant reductions. When that happens, the skies will open and permeable pavements will reap the harvest.