River City Green

The Midwest is no stranger to the use of interlocking concrete and permeable pavement solutions for many private, commercial, municipal and educational projects. In particular, municipalities with rivers that overflow seasonally and those receiving polluted stormwater are increasingly deploying permeable interlocking concrete pavements (PICP) for their projects and enjoying the benefits.

In St. Louis, the challenges of an aging combined sewer system and new stormwater requirements mandated in 2006 by the City’s Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) led to the implementation of PICP in alleys, parking lots, sidewalks, trailheads and many other applications. Multiple projects including a series of green alleys constructed since the MSD mandate demonstrated concrete pavers as a trusted solution for many City initiatives, as well as for private projects. While often used to reduce stormwater pollution, the successful performance and aesthetic appeal of concrete pavers in projects across the city has led to their popularity and continued use.

Eco-Installation: Lewis and Clark Community College – National Great Rivers Research and Education Center

At the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center at Lewis and Clark Community College in East Alton, IL, it’s all about green. Established to lead research, education and outreach related to the interconnectedness of large rivers and their communities, being “green” was non-negotiable for the center’s construction. The first of two phases of construction began in 2008 with a field center to drive research and serve as a home base for educational programs.

The project secured a total of $6.8 million in construction funding with an additional $16.3 million designated by former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. From the project’s inception, the goal was obtaining the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. LEED credit-earning components for this project include: sustainable heating and cooling systems; a detention basin for stormwater quality control; plus permeable interlocking concrete pavement, as well as other pervious pavement systems.

The paver portion of the project includes a plaza, sidewalk and main access road totaling more than 25,000 sf of manually and machine-placed pavers, installed in less than one week’s time. Speed of installation was a factor in the project’s success because it quickly opened the roadway (unlike other pavement options that require downtime while curing), thus enabling multiple construction efforts to occur simultaneously.

“The facility is a showplace for green building that incorporates multiple types of green paving systems,” says Dave Godar, P.E. for Sheppard, Morgan & Schwaab, Inc. Material reuse was accomplished by using fly ash in the cast-in-place concrete and in the modified soil road base.

Also, the project had to consider the historic flood levels from the nearby Mississippi river. “We didn’t want permeable pavement where the flood level is, because it could clog,” Mr. Godar says.

The sidewalk portion of the project covers about 875 square yards; another 2,500 square yards makes up the roadway. The system uses 3-1/8 in. thick concrete pavers, 2 in. of bedding aggregate, 4 in. of open-graded aggregate base and 12 in. of larger aggregate subbase over filter fabric or geotextile.

“There are two schools of thought about using filter fabric,” Mr. Godar says. “Some say that over time the filter fabric can become clogged and prevent the rainwater from soaking into the ground. This site had sand material as the subgrade. We opted to go with filter fabric to prevent the underlying sand material from migrating up into the voids of the subbase aggregate, which could cause settlement of the pavers.” 

To reduce labor costs, project design included machine installation for the interior pavers. “It was all kind of new,” Mr. Godar says of the plans created in 2009. “We hadn’t done anything like this before, although there were some examples out there.”

Funding for the project included some federal highway money, which meant all approvals had to go through the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). Because many of the components were not standard and were not covered by IDOT specifications, some of the materials were considered experimental. The project took most of the 2010 construction season to complete. “The idea was for this to be a showplace,” Mr. Godar says. “It is open to the public, so if we had clients who wanted something similar, we could point them to the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center.”

Health Appeal: Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital


At Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, about 15 miles northwest of St. Louis, permeable pavers satisfied the hospital’s stormwater requirements, providing an overall healthy feel to the campus. Coined a “bridge” hospital, the facility staff works to help children transition between hospital and home. With a history of expansion and growth, the hospital was built in 1941 as the Ranken-Jordan Home for Convalescent Crippled Children. In the 1960s, it expanded to accommodate more patients and staff, and in 2002, moved to a new 62,000 sf, 34-bed facility in Maryland Heights, MO. Several years later, the facility required more parking for patients and visitors.

When the organization first looked into expanding its parking capacity in 2009, stormwater requirements came into play immediately. The facility includes bio-retention basins and rain gardens. PICP met the MSD’s stormwater reduction requirements.

“At the time it was fairly cutting edge,” says Ted Spaid, co-founding principal of SWT Design, based in St. Louis, which led design for the project. “The MSD had just started enacting water quality management regulations for the region.” Rather than using underground stormwater tanks and other solutions, the design team decided on PICP to meet the requirements.

The first of Mr. Spaid’s projects with PICP took place at SWT’s office as an early test run right when the pavers first became available. Having successfully worked with them, SWT decided to use them in the hospital project. The pavers were manually installed between September and October of 2009, but required some special design attention because the parking lot presented a challenge with its radial layout. The designers addressed this by taking advantage of the paver pattern. The contractor installed the entire parking lot in a herringbone pattern, which can accommodate radial layouts, and saw cut the edge pavers to fit the non-uniform shape.

Another unique design element used pavers in contrasting colors to designate parking stalls rather than paint lines on the pavement. “The installation itself was a month-long process,” Mr. Spaid says. But the outcome was several-fold, for the 20,980-sf installation. First, it satisfied required municipal green elements by draining to rain gardens to help with bio-filtration. And while there was additional expense due to the paving materials, the aesthetic appeal was a positive payback.

“Many clients are timid about wanting to spend the extra money on permeable pavers, but then they realize it delivers more than stormwater management. If you can turn stormwater management into a positive aesthetic attribute, it’s much nicer. There are multiple layers of savings by using the pavers correctly and strategically.”

For example, the parking lot design allowed for surface runoff to sheet-flow over the asphalt and infiltrate into the permeable pavers. Eventually, that water would go to a centrally located rain garden or bio-retention area, and would flow to a larger detention basin as needed to prevent downstream flooding.

“This design replaced the need for typical drainage structures and piping system that you would find throughout a parking lot,” Mr. Spaid says. “Based on a cost-benefit analysis, a traditional stormwater infrastructure design was comparable to the cost of the permeable paving system. Furthermore, the permeable pavers provided the required stormwater management to decrease the flow of runoff and help control sediment.”

The pavers and rain garden also decreased the size of the necessary detention basin and preserved land for future expansion. The project is maintained with annual vacuuming and regular cleaning. MSD requires an annual inspection report that includes dates of inspections and cleaning methodology. Additionally, the report must confirm that all stormwater structures are functioning and that watersheds have not been disrupted by pavement clogging or erosion. The report must demonstrate that all best management practices (BMPs) and landscapes are functioning as designed.

In a care setting, particularly one focused on children, the sub-story is aligning construction materials with quality and health, Mr. Spaid says. “It’s a healthy living story,” he says. “Here we are at a pediatric care facility and we want to show quality care for children. Through stormwater management and rain gardens, there’s a story to be told about water quality and creating an environment not only contributing to a healthy planet, but to human well-being and aesthetics.”

Trailhead Series: Great Rivers Greenways


Concrete pavers may be “green,” but they’re not often found in the woods. The Great Rivers Greenway (GRG) District is an exception. The network spans more than 100 miles of trails and greenways among 1,400 acres through St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County that support hiking, biking, walking and other outdoor activities. Established in 2000, the GRG initiative set out to improve health, reduce pollution and stabilize communities, among its many goals.

That’s where PICP comes in. In 2006, the organization extended one of its trails, which involved installing two new trailheads. Given the stormwater restrictions then recently passed by the MSD, the Great Rivers Greenway project managers and designers crafted a proposal for PICP as the surface for the new sites. A handful of other trailheads and parking areas built in the following years also realized the benefits from PICP.

“We considered leaving it asphalt,” recalls Carey Bundy, project manager for GRG. “It would be cheaper on the front end,” she says, “but PICP would count toward water quality credits. We went with pavers mainly because if something did go wrong later, they are much easier to get into and work on.”

Because it spans the city and two counties, funding for GRG projects comes from various sources, including tax dollars and federal grants. GRG resources are used to build and improve the trail network and then projects are turned over to the municipalities for maintenance. Working with pavers required a lot of testing, partnerships on design elements and determining performance requirements that would satisfy the mission of the trails.

The installations were not easy. “The most challenging part is the location and site accessibility,” says Scott Rozier, president of St. Louis-based Rosch Company. “The trails go through the middle of the woods, or across old abandoned tracks, and it’s very challenging logistically to get the subbase installed and place everything where it needs to be.”

In spite of the challenges, GRG found that the PICP systems with additional green elements such as plantable walls and reclaimed water systems have performed well. So well in fact, more projects are in the design and planning stages as a result. “Initially, people said they wanted to go with the traditional route and didn’t want to try this new but different material,” Ms. Bundy says. “But it’s on the ground now in a lot of places. Getting a pilot installed so people can see what it is, that is very helpful.”


Larry Nicolai, Senior VP

Larry Nicolai, Senior VP of Pavers by Ideal, Westford, MA


Where do you see the industry, and ICPI’s role in it, in the next 20 years?

In many ways, we have a long way to go. If you look at the per-capita consumption of North America, you have less than two square feet, and that’s in contrast to Europe, which is more like 10 to 15 square feet per capita. So, there’s a lot of opportunity for growth, that’s for sure. We need to continue to validate the long-term performance of concrete pavers, not only to the design community, but also to the larger buyer who may be thinking about industrial applications.

To get more traction, we’ll need to continue to build on our membership, and keep investing in the type of research that allows us to offer facts supported through studies, instead of refining a sales pitch by a regional producer. ICPI has served an important role in substantiating concrete pavers to the design and engineering communities, and I think the organization’s role will be even greater in the next 20 years.

Part of ICPI’s role is to help members recognize opportunities as well as trends that might be happening. For example, storm water management will continue to be a major topic in the next 20 years and beyond, so we need to build awareness going forward about how permeable pavers can help. ICPI will contribute to this awareness with research as well as regulatory agency work on the local, state, regional, and federal levels. As we face mandates that may be onerous, ICPI will step in to be an advocate for us and for the industry’s future.

In general, we’re all working toward a future where interlocking concrete pavement can be seen as a first choice for projects. We definitely haven’t reached that point yet and maybe we won’t even in 20 years, but who knows? With the level of effort brought by ICPI and the commitment of those in the industry, we could get to that point. I think people in this industry work well together, and work well with ICPI, and I believe the next 20 years will bring us all even more success.

return to the Back to the Future article


2014 HNA Hardscape Project Awards

The Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute with the Brick Industry Association and National Concrete Masonry Association are pleased to announce the 7th Annual HNA Hardscape Project Award winners in recognition of outstanding hardscape projects, including residential walkways, patios, driveways, commercial plazas, parking lots and streets. One hundred entries were judged on project intent, design, quality of construction and craftsmanship, compatibility with related construction materials and systems, construction innovation, detailing and overall design excellence.

1. Eco-Healing Retreat Center

  • CATEGORY: Combination – Commercial – Less than 20,000 SF
  • LOCATION: Victoria, MN
  • SIZE: 5,500 SF
  • INSTALLER: Mom’s Landscaping & Design, LLC
  • PRODUCTS: Belgard pavers; natural stone from US quarries; local concrete
  • DESIGNER: Becca Bastyr



The client’s main goal for this project was to pay homage to the 146-acre forested land by incorporating “natural” (stone) products. The project’s objectives: create pleasant walkways (some had to be ADA compliant); increase parking space; and improve drainage. The natural stone retaining walls and paver driveway sweep drainage from the hillside by directing water away from the two upper buildings. Cutting through and down two hillsides increased parking stalls from 4 to 15 using 2,000 sf of concrete with natural stone parking stripes. Dry- and wet-laid walkways of approximately 3,500 sf were installed and multiple retaining walls were built or restored.


2. Trinity Academy Sports Complex


  • CATEGORY: Combination – Commercial – More than 20,000 SF
  • LOCATION: North Wichita, KS
  • SIZE: 33,600 SF
  • INSTALLER: Elevated Paver Systems
  • PRODUCTS: Pavestone
  • DESIGNER: Elevated Paver Systems



Segmental retaining walls and concrete pavers were used to create a look similar to ancient coliseums. Elevated Paver Systems (EPS) designed and constructed the stadium portion of the project, a unique opportunity for the design to be based on a contractor’s perspective. The result was a segmental project with little field fabrication required. To efficiently construct the project and minimize excess excavation, EPS coordinated with the civil contractor to sequentially build the area below and behind the seating area as each seat wall was built.


3. Savageau Residence


  • CATEGORY: Combination – Residential – Less than 4,000 SF
  • LOCATION: Omaha, NE
  • SIZE: 3,000 SF
  • INSTALLER: Paver Designs LLC
  • PRODUCTS: Pavestone/
  • Earthworks, Techniseal NuLook
  • DESIGNER: Jim and Justin Hampton



Paver Designs LLC developed a renovation plan for a patio and pool deck, a deteriorated mishmash of stamped concrete, old concrete pavers, clay pavers and a rotting cedar tie wall. The plan included a water/fire feature flowing into the pool, a grill/bar island, stone fireplace and a fire boulder. Planters were cut into the walls to create character and soften the hardscape, and a flowing inlay design connected the patio nook area to the pool deck. A sealer was used to differentiate colors for the inlay. LED uplights highlight the walls and fire features.


4. Wayne Pool


  • CATEGORY: Combination – Residential – More than 4,000 SF
  • LOCATION: Wayne, NJ
  • SIZE: 4,200 SF
  • INSTALLER: Monello Landscape Industries
  • PRODUCTS: Techo-Bloc
  • DESIGNER: Joe Monello



Design elements and features include six multi-level paver patios, three permeable paver patios and a sunken pool bar and kitchen with seating inside and outside the pool. The project also includes a 20-ft double waterfall, three built-in bistro tables, a 20-ft high boulder wall system featuring perennial garden plants and floating boulders built into the pool. Trenching was so extensive under and around the hardscape areas that 1,500 cubic yards of soil had to be removed and replaced with compacted clean stone so there was no threat of future settlement.


5. Nemours Auto Court


  • CATEGORY: Concrete Paver – Commercial – Less than 15,000 SF
  • LOCATION:  Wilmington, DE
  • SIZE: 7,200 SF
  • INSTALLER: Pickering Valley Landscape Inc.
  • PRODUCTS: Hanover Architectural Products Inc.
  • DESIGNER: Oasis Design Group



A bituminous-set paver cross section was chosen for the parking area with a reinforced concrete base. The three colors selected for the concrete pavers were Super Black, Limestone Gray and a Matrix with black, gray and white aggregate. The paver surface is a sandblasted Tudor finish. Parking spots are a 45-degree herringbone pattern with Limestone Gray and Super Black while the drive-through area is a 60/20/20 ratio of Matrix, Gray and Black. The two paver fields are separated by a 20-in. wide soldier-sailor-soldier band of Super Black and Matrix.


6. Alfa External Paving


  • CATEGORY: Concrete Paver – Commercial – More than 15,000 SF
  • LOCATION: Jumairah Village Circle, Dubai, UAE
  • SIZE: 21,500 SF



The location of this driveway and parking lot project is developing into a newly established city. In order for the property to be rented, a paver design project was initiated to complement the building and add practical value. The project achieved these requirements with a pathway that reflects the building theme and logo. The logo spans 15 meters in diameter, the largest done by DUCON. The details of the logo and the associated font were achieved with high accuracy as the complete job was done in-house.


7. Sierra Nevada


Brewing Company

  • CATEGORY: Concrete Paver – Permeable – Commercial
  • LOCATION: Fletcher, NC
  • SIZE: 147,000 SF
  • INSTALLER: Rivertop Contracting, Inc.
  • PRODUCTS: Belgard
  • DESIGNER: Glen Walters and Drake Fowler, Design Workshop, Asheville, NC



The client emphasized “green” practices, including a 147,000-sf permeable paver system in the parking area. The chosen paver withstands heavy vehicular traffic, has a favorable reduction in water runoff and meets ADA requirements. Colors include Ardennes Grey, Slate Grey, Westerwood Blend and Limestone for LEED certification. A variety of shapes and the untumbled texture are complemented by a 90-degree herringbone pattern.


8. Permeable Paradise


  • CATEGORY: Concrete Paver – Permeable – Residential
  • LOCATION: Grand Island, NE
  • SIZE: 4,300 SF
  • INSTALLER: Grindstone Hardscapes
  • PRODUCTS: Belgard
  • DESIGNER: Grindstone Team



The goal of this new driveway, patio and front entrance project was to create a maintenance-free system with extreme curb appeal. The entire project is permeable and heated to melt snow. The paver field was laid at a 45-degree angle to the house, a solution to the challenge of the road not being square to any entrance on the driveway or walk. Snow and sleet drain through the joints upon touching the heated paver surface. The heat tapes were fastened to wire mesh on top of the rock base to hold it in place, and then the bedding layer was screeded over it.


9. A Slice Of Paradise


  • CATEGORY: Concrete Paver – Residential – Less than 3,000 SF
  • LOCATION: Strongsville, OH
  • SIZE: 2,700 SF
  • INSTALLER: Rock Bottom Lawn & Landscaping
  • PRODUCTS: Unilock
  • DESIGNER: David Hemme



The homeowner requested an area for hosting large parties without feeling crowded. The separate design elements allow for more intimate gatherings within the overall project and include a partially covered outdoor kitchen/bar, large dining area, covered pavilion and fireplace patio, in-ground swimming pool with accompanying pool deck and a raised gas fire pit patio bordered by a curved seat wall. Large pavers were chosen to fit the grand scale and style of the project, but also create a smooth surface along the pool deck.


10. Reno’s Circular Whirlwind


  • CATEGORY: Concrete Paver – Residential – More than 3,000 SF
  • LOCATION: Reno, NV
  • SIZE: 3,600 SF
  • INSTALLER: Hain Enterprises
  • PRODUCTS: Basalite Concrete Products
  • DESIGNER: Mark Hain



A homeowner challenged his contractor to design a patio environment incorporating as many circles as possible and create a unique visual experience. The contractor designed one-of-a-kind patios, walls and planting areas utilizing concrete paver circle kits. Among many challenges was how to continue the arc of the varying circles’ sizes through the connecting pathways. To accomplish this, the contractor installed only curvilinear courses of pavers that appear to run off the pathways and rejoin later. In total, 14 paver circle kits were used and approximately 3,600 sf of pavement.


Honorable Mentions



Home Advantage

Sometimes, being popular has disadvantages. In Montgomery County, MD, the area’s good schools, low unemployment rate and proximity to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore have led to an increased population density. To construct enough housing and commercial properties to support those residents, numerous neighborhoods have been built over existing streams, leading to erosion, minor flooding and property damage.

Fortunately, new solutions are being employed, and permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) is one of them. PICP emerged as a solution after a pilot project identified tactics for creating healthier local landscapes conducted about 10 years ago. In response, the County’s Department of Environmental Protection created RainScapes, a pioneering program focused exclusively on reducing stormwater runoff and improving water quality in affected neighborhoods.

Designed to incentivize and implement projects that reduce stormwater runoff, RainScapes offers technical assistance and advice with a rebate program that pays homeowners and commercial building owners to use PICP among other tools. Other RainScapes techniques include tree planting, conservation landscaping, dry well installation, green roof implementation, rain garden design and cistern installation.

One of the most popular aspects of the program has been permeable pavement because the rebate helps offset the high installation costs. For residential projects, the rebate maximum is $2,500 and commercial or multi-family projects can be eligible for a rebate of up to $10,000. To receive a rebate for permeable pavement for residential properties, a homeowner must hire a Montgomery County certified contractor and convert a minimum of 100 sf (9 m2) of hard surface to PICP.

For commercial, multi-family and institutional properties, a minimum of 300 sf (28 m2) must be converted.

The amount of the rebate is meant to cover the cost difference between traditional pavers and permeable pavers, says Dan Somers, who oversees the RainScapes Rewards Rebates. “This is a way to get homeowners to feel more comfortable with permeable pavers,” he says. “When you remove that cost difference, they’re able to compare the options based on factors other than budget.”

In addition to providing the rebate incentive, Mr. Somers visits the project site, talks with homeowners and explains the programs in detail. Sometimes, a homeowner might take on several projects, like installing a rain garden and planting canopy trees, as well as considering permeable pavers.

Although PICP doesn’t make sense for every property, they’re often chosen for residential projects, Mr. Somers says. “Permeable pavers are modular, with a predictable quality, and we have good data on them for the scale of projects that we’re doing, so they come with many advantages.”

Homeowners in the county consider PICP for a number of reasons, says Ann English, RainScapes Program Manager for Montgomery County. Some want to make the property look nicer, while others might want to reduce runoff because they’ve had runoff problems in the past. Some just want to do something for the environment, she adds.

Training Program

When the RainScapes program started, Montgomery County contacted the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) for assistance in creating a successful program that would draw interest from homeowners and contractors. The county’s design manual for the RainScapes program was developed with input from ICPI staff who provided technical review of the material.

In addition to the manual, the County developed a professional training course geared toward contractors who want to learn the nuances of a permeable paving system. The daylong class covers stormwater basics, installation processes, troubleshooting and rebate specifics, so they can be more familiar with the program.

Once they complete the course, contractors are included on the County’s “professionals list,” which can be accessed by homeowners and commercial building owners. The list also includes information on how many rebates contractors have garnered, so those perusing the options can determine level of experience with permeable paver projects and RainScapes rebates.

For homeowners and other building owners, the County offers a series of consumer-friendly manuals on the RainScapes website that give more detail about potential projects and show photos of successful installations. For example, on the permeable pavement page, the Department of Environmental Protection includes a slideshow of permeable paver projects, including “before and after” photos that give a homeowner a sense of what installation might include. The website also contains information on how a homeowner can assess a property to determine the best location for a permeable paver project, and actions that can be taken to maintain it after installation.

Strong Results

With over 40 residential projects completed, Ms. English and Mr. Somers have a sense of the program’s effectiveness, finding that the RainScapes projects show significant success in handling stormwater. Although there’s some pressure from outside sources to include porous concrete or other alternatives in the program, RainScapes remains focused on PICP because of its numerous advantages, says Ms. English.

“They’re easier to clean for homeowners, and we feel very comfortable with a system that includes pavers that must be recognized by the ICPI,” she notes. “There’s an extra level of credibility and support there.”

Local contractor Mike Walters, owner of First Impressions Hardscapes in Sandy Spring, MD, installed permeable pavers on about 30 residential properties as part of the RainScapes program. In total, he’s done close to 300 projects with permeable pavers in the county. He shares Ms. English’s opinion that permeable pavers provide several benefits that would be challenging to replicate with other pervious or porous paving materials.

“The pavers are aesthetically pleasing, but what’s genius is the system below them,” he says. “That’s driving demand, because people are looking for new ways to handle water problems on their property, and using a permeable paver system dramatically cuts down on water runoff.” Mr. Walters installed a permeable paver system on his own driveway and uses the captured rainwater to water his lawn.

As an advocate of better stormwater management, Walters believes the RainScapes program could be a boon for any community, city or county as most have too much stormwater runoff. “The program is awesome, there’s great incentive for people to invest in a greener alternative here, and you’re getting an attractive product at a better cost,” he says. “In this situation, everybody wins.”

Additional Resources

To learn more about the Montgomery County RainScapes program, visit


Great Preservation

Across Iowa, cities and towns are using permeable pavement in infrastructure rehabilitation. They are exploiting the multiplier effects (and benefits) that result from combining stormwater management with pavement rehabilitation using permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP). These projects not only reduce local flooding and stormwater pollution, they support road rehabilitation and historic preservation.

Three Iowa cities recently completed multimillion dollar PICP projects with local, state and federal government funding. A primary funding source comes from the diversification of Iowa’s State Revolving Fund (SRF). The low-interest loans, normally used for wastewater treatment projects, are now additionally directed toward infrastructure projects that reduce stormwater runoff, specifically flows into wastewater treatment plants and combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

PICP has been deemed an eligible project element for infiltration in projects intended to reduce CSOs. Other municipalities, including those in Washington, Oregon, Michigan, California and Washington, D.C. are conducting similar projects with more on the way.

Green Alley Project: Dubuque

Situated on the Mississippi River and chartered in 1837, Dubuque lays claim to being Iowa’s oldest city. Its location and topography make it prone to damage from stormwater runoff and flooding. In 2011, the city experienced over 13 in. (325 mm) of rainfall in 12 hours, resulting in severe flooding of over 1,300 households. The event was a major impetus for the installation of nine green alleys to reduce flooding and CSOs, which led to planning for another 80 alleys, all built from PICP.

“We’re a very sustainable city, and it’s a mantra that resonates with City staff,” says Jon Dienst, civil engineer for the City of Dubuque. “The pavers were a natural fit for clean water and city design.”

City officials took cues from Chicago, now home to more than 100 green alleys under a program targeting four initiatives:

1. Stormwater management (CSO reduction)

2. Urban heat island reduction

3. Material recycling

4. Energy conservation

Dubuque’s first two alleys were piloted in 2009 using porous asphalt and PICP; funding was through the federal Community Development Block Grant program. “The City council, without even talking about the performance, just liked the look of the concrete pavers in the alleys,” Mr. Dienst recalls of the initial decision.

After the launch, the City decided to take advantage of the state’s low-interest loan funds to borrow $64 million for a major overhaul of Dubuque’s wastewater treatment plant. The alley financing comprised $9.4 million in State Revolving Funds designated by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for wastewater and clean water projects. The alleys qualified.

The catch: the funding had to be spent within three years. “That’s a lot of alleys,” Mr. Dienst says. Forty-eight alleys will be constructed this year with an additional 25 next summer. The 25 alleys next year will have sewer and water mains and services replaced at City cost with the SRFs used for the alley pavement and stone.

The alleys are roughly 300 ft (90 m) long and 12 and 14 ft (3.6 to 4.2 m) wide. Each costs about $100,000, depending on topography. The City uses modeling software to determine the reservoir capacity and resulting thickness for open-graded aggregate subbase in each alley. A range of rain events are modeled and the subbase thicknesses determined by extensively testing the soil subgrades for infiltration. 

Each alley uses 31/8 in. (80 mm) thick concrete pavers over 2 in. (50 mm) of ASTM No. 8 stone. That sits on a 4 in. (100 mm) base layer of No. 57 stone. Under this layer is

a No. 2 stone reservoir subbase. The project team employed geotextile on the soil subgrade of each alley to help keep the stone clean.

Some of the alleys are next to buildings with foundations over 100 years old. Those installations included new waterproofing to prevent water infiltration. From a cost standpoint, this was well worth the expense, Mr. Dienst says, to prevent water in basements or worse.

“We didn’t have experience in Dubuque,” Mr. Dienst says. “We had to talk with others and learn from their mistakes.” Suppliers and contractors were hard to come by at first, but now are abundant in the area, with pricing around $3.75 to $4/sf ($40 to $43/m2). “It’s almost cheaper to put in the pavers than concrete or asphalt,” he says.

The alleys are being monitored for water quality performance and are expected to reduce nitrates by 25 percent and phosphorous by 60 to 70 percent, achievements supporting the City’s clean water initiative. An 80 percent reduction of stormwater runoff volume is expected as well. Maintenance costs are low, and the City has invested in a vacuum cleaning truck to help in that effort.

Aesthetically, pavers are well suited for a city heavily rooted in its past. “They are historically appropriate,” Mr. Dienst says. “A lot of them are downtown. We are a historic city, recently celebrating 175 years. Historic preservationists are excited about this.”

Permeable Streets: Charles City


About 130 miles (78 km) northwest of Dubuque sits Charles City with a history of flooding and runoff problems. Federal and state funding provided resources to install 27 blocks of PICP in a residential neighborhood slated for street rehabilitation. 

Through the help of now-retired City Administrator Tom Brownlow, Charles City received $3.6 million in 2010 from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to install the initial phase of the project. At $2 million, phase two utilized Iowa’s State Revolving Fund and 30 percent forgiveness of the eligible costs, essentially paying for the paving portion of the project. The remaining funding paid for sanitary, sewer and water line improvements.

Both projects involved city street renovations with the second phase having learned several lessons from the first. “The first time was a hard sell,” recalls Dirk Uetz, Charles City’s superintendent of streets. “People were a lot more open-minded after they had seen the first project.”

The City commissioned the Conservation Design Forum (CDF) to design the permeable streets. The designers modeled the system to capture runoff from streets, yards and alleys and infiltrate the runoff. Peak discharges for the 10-year storm were reduced by more than 90 percent, according to CDF. This reduction prevented the necessity and expense of upsizing many existing storm sewers. The design took advantage of the sandy soil subgrade by infiltrating much of the runoff rather than directing it to inlets and into storm sewers. Also, the permeable streets were narrowed by 5 ft (1.5 m), thereby increasing the tree lawns and the graceful appearance of the old neighborhood.

Phase one spanned 16 blocks and included permeable areas at intersection corners covered with large stones surrounding raised beehive intakes. These areas ultimately proved difficult for the local homeowners and for the city’s maintenance staff to clean. They also presented some risk to children playing nearby. The phase two design of six-and-a-half additional blocks reverted to regular storm drainage intakes, which were easier to maintain and presented no risks to children. Additionally, phase one used slightly depressed retention areas with amended soils in the tree lawns behind the curbs. These proved inconvenient for pedestrians and were replaced by an improved, raised design in the second phase.

While response to the new streets has been positive, the real success lies in the runoff reduction, Mr. Uetz says. “If we have a heavy rain now, you don’t see any water going down to the river,” he says. “In phase one, we opened the hydrants onto the street and let the water run. The spectators couldn’t believe it.”

Downtown Restoration: West Union


A farming hamlet about an hour’s drive west of Dubuque, West Union had its share of stormwater flooding problems including contamination of nearby Charles Stream. Moreover, its aged and worn downtown needed an update.

West Union took the opportunity to implement its Clean Green Climate Action Plan in six downtown blocks. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory weighed in on the project, which included energy conservation, greenhouse gas reduction and pedestrian infrastructure improvements. Geothermal heating and cooling systems were also built as an incentive for businesses to fill the downtown storefront vacancies, and these systems included snowmelt capabilities.

Completed in 2013, the project totaled $10 million and used state stimulus money, funding from the Iowa Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and others. Both the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Watershed Improvement Review Board contributed $500,000 each toward the project, with the majority going toward PICP.

“Prior to the project, there was nothing for storm drainage in the downtown area,” says Jon Biederman, branch manager for Fehr Graham, an engineering and environmental firm that worked on the project design. “We were looking for a way to clean and cool water [before it runs] into Charles Stream. An easy way to accomplish this was with permeable pavers.”

The infiltration system filters runoff through an open-graded stone base to cool it and clean it, accomplishing both goals at once. It also slowed the stormwater runoff substantially. “It can take a few days versus a few minutes,” Mr. Biederman says.

West Union’s PICP design differed from the norm. While typical PICP installations include a stone subbase storage layer no more than 1- to 2-ft (0.3- to 0.6-m) thick, West Union needed much more storage. In most areas, the subbase is 3- to 5-ft (0.9 – to 1.5-m) thick to store, infiltrate water into the clay soil subgrade, and release any excess slowly to the downstream waterway. The subbase storage layer was topped with a 6-in (150-mm) layer of clean, crushed stone as a base for the bedding layer of 1½ to 2 in. (40 to 50 mm) limestone chips.

The concrete pavers rest on this bedding layer, their joints filled with small permeable aggregate.

The clay soil subgrade demonstrated that PICP can be designed to infiltrate into low infiltration soils. The City purchased a vacuum truck for the main thoroughfare and a smaller unit for the sidewalks and to clean the joints twice a year. Ultimately, the design met the project goals for infrastructure restoration, positive environmental impacts and historic preservation.

The street previously had been paved with asphalt over brick pavers placed in 1914. The contractor retrieved the old bricks and incorporated them into decorative strips in the intersection centers. They are installed on the same stone base as the concrete pavers with permeable, stone-filled joints.

“We’ve had very positive responses,” Mr. Biederman says, noting the initial skepticism of the local residents and business owners who were not initially keen on the change. “They look good.”

As demonstrated by West Union, as well as by Charles City and Dubuque, Iowa presents some groundbreaking examples of creatively funding infrastructure renovation projects with PICP.

Additional Resources

ICPI Permeable Pavement Resources

Permeable Interlocking Concrete Pavement Design Manual

ICPI Permeable Pavement Resources:



Investing in Efficiency

Bill Gardocki, owner of Interstate Landscape Company in Londonderry, New Hampshire, brings his 40 years in the landscape business and over 10 years of ICPI and NCMA teaching experience to this year’s Hardscape North America show in two classes covering efficiency. A hands-on class, Tools for Paver Installation Efficiency, covers efficient paver installation, while an indoor class, Increasing Efficiency on the Hardscape Jobsite, covers efficiency from the initial quote to job site preparation and on-site techniques. The classes offer information for contractors new to the business or experienced ones looking to learn more.

The Right Tools

Mr. Gardocki’s hands-on class demonstrates the latest tools and techniques that expert paver installers use, from simple hand tools to big, complex vehicles. Using more efficient tools reduces labor costs and accelerates job completion without compromising quality.

All of this creates more time for more projects and more income. Mr. Gardocki stresses this in his classes, as some contractors often are hesitant to buy new tools due to sticker shock.

“I can’t tell you how many guys tell me that they can’t afford the extra $10,000 for a higher load-capacity skid steer,” says Mr. Gardocki. With their lower load-capacity machine, they have to remove two or three layers of pavers from each pallet to be able to lift and move each around the job site. So I get them thinking about the two or three layers of pavers they removed from every single pallet and extrapolate that out to how many times a year that’s done, and the total amount of time spent. Beside this, I ask them to consider all the little things they think don’t waste time—they think it’s just a part of what they do—and then add up all that time they waste by using inefficient equipment. They think, ‘it takes just five minutes longer,’ but they’re doing it hundreds of times a week and thousands of times a year. It adds up to wasted time and money.”

Mr. Gardocki still remembers coming home from an ICPI class he took 17 years ago and throwing away all of his compaction equipment and completely changing the way his company worked, because it was inefficient. “It was an instant change in our business,” he says. “We were able to extend our warranties. Most guys will offer a one-year, maybe two-year warranty, when you should easily be offering upwards of a five-year warranty.”

“Compaction equipment is probably the most important equipment in this industry and guys just don’t look at it as an investment for better compaction and warranty sales, they look at it only as a necessity,” he says. “In my classes, I try to show them how the compaction equipment pays for itself very quickly over time, more quickly than any other piece of equipment in our industry.”

Mr. Gardocki sees HNA as a great way to find out about new tools that could help make your business more efficient. That’s why he brings some of his employees there to investigate new tools and techniques. “I always tell my guys: ‘If you see something that’s going to make your job easier and less stressful on your body, let me know,’” he says. “Because I’ve invested a lot in my foremen and I want them to stay healthy as long as possible.”

A Solid Plan

While planning is hugely important for efficient, successful contractors, Mr. Gardocki understands why it is often one of the more overlooked aspects of the business. “Let’s face it, most contractors have never taken a class in business,” he says. “The last thing they want to do is come home at night and sit down and plan things out for the next day, but that’s the way it really needs to be done.”

Although planning may not be the most desirable activity for contractors, Mr. Gardocki emphasizes just how important it is by pointing to a statistic from a book by Charles Vander Kooi that reads, “One hour of planning saves eight hours in the field.” For contractors looking to save money, Mr. Gardocki says the first thing they should look into is more focused planning.

He ascribes much of his own success to his ability to plan well. “In my town we’ve been by far the longest running landscape business. It’s not because we’re any better at installation than anyone else—it’s because we’re better at running the office than anyone else,” he says.

Mr. Gardocki explains that finishing a job with a healthy profit margin requires careful planning. In his business, he bids jobs based on the hours they take to complete, rather than on square footage or another measurement. To do this, he divides tasks his employees do into 18 labor functions, which he can then benchmark against previous jobs to come up with the right bid.

“You need to track [this data] so that in the future you’re bidding accurately and understanding how long it’s taking your crews to do certain tasks,” he says. “The record-keeping really pays off in the long run because you may be bidding too high based on tasks that aren’t taking you as long as you think. All the guys I know that are very successful track their hours.”

While some contractors will bid on contracts using square foot pricing as their basis—as opposed to tracking labor hours—Mr. Gardocki says this is a mistake because no two sites are the same.

“There’s no situation where it’s better to do it by square foot,” he says. “One key thing for us is access to the site. You could have two houses right next to each other that both want a 400-square-foot patio, but if one has a fence around the whole backyard and you have to take down the fence and drive across a beautiful lawn and rehab the lawn, the job will cost more. It’s impossible to charge by the square foot and understand whether you’re making any money or not.”

Keeping records of your jobs is helpful for all contractors, but Mr. Gardocki says it’s especially important for people who are new to the trade.

“For the new guys, they have to know and understand that one crew might not be as quick and efficient as another crew,” he says. “So it really comes down to their foremen and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their foremen. Can their foreman handle three guys and be really efficient or is he the kind of guy that can only handle one other guy with him? It’s all in the record-keeping and as long as you’re keeping track, it makes [answering those questions] much, much easier.”


Additional Resources

To learn more about Bill Gardocki’s classes at the 2014 HNA show and to register, visit

The Complete Business Manual for Concrete Paver Contractors


Charity Car Wash Bans

An article in a recent Washington Post reported that a city in Northern Virginia is banning ad hoc fundraiser car washes sponsored by charities. The article noted such bans are common in western states, but new to the nation’s capitol area. The reason cited, not surprisingly, is uncontrolled water pollution entering storm drains, streams, rivers and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

However, such regulations send an inadvertent blow against volunteer groups wanting to raise money for good causes. Their fundraising options are reduced to passive and possibly financially riskier activities such as yard and bake sales. 

There’s another side to these types of car washes. Where are they are held? Often on commercial parking lots such as a bank, coffee shop, gas station or a fast food restaurant. Business owners must like the attention drawn to their businesses as well as the civic support message. Some water exchanged for publicity? Not a bad public relations deal. So with regulations closing down ad hoc car washes, businesses that host them lose as well.

Instead of nixing a viable revenue source for often financially-strapped volunteer organizations, why couldn’t regulations allow such car washes only on permeable pavement? Granted, there aren’t a lot of commercial properties with permeable pavement right now, especially on highly visible sites conducive to attracting customers.

But there is hope. A growing number of municipalities are providing cash rebates to residential and commercial property owners to install permeable pavements. Municipalities realize that it might be less expensive to revert the earth’s surface from impervious back to permeable to break the vicious financial cycle of upsizing storm sewer pipes.

Montgomery County, MD, (pop. 1 million) is one such place providing financial incentives to install permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) in residential driveways and commercial parking lots. Called RainScapes Rewards, the financial incentives aren’t huge, but they are a positive start. This issue features an article on what the County and its residents have accomplished.

Stormwater utilities abound across the U.S. and Canada where property owners pay their municipality a fee—like trash and sanitary sewage—to carry away and dispose of stormwater. The fee is often paid with the water and sewer bill. About half of the stormwater utilities offer as much as a 50 percent reduction in fees if permeable pavement or other practices are installed to reduce the amount of runoff the municipality must transport via its storm drainage system.

Beyond stormwater utility fees, what if municipalities offered property tax relief for installing permeable pavement for the purpose of supporting charitable organizations? Relief could be offered for the permeable area for a period of years or as long as the permeable pavement exists. A more generous approach might include tax relief on the impervious surface(s) draining into it, as well as on the permeable pavement. From the municipal perspective, they would want to know the extent to which their drainage system benefits by giving up a few to several thousand dollars annually in tax revenue. For cities with minor flooding areas, adjacent high-value rivers and lakes, or combined sewer overflows, it might be worth it. 

If municipalities went this route, or even the more benign stormwater utility fee route, they could incentivize car washes on permeable pavements. Example: install PICP, host 10 car washes annually and receive a property tax or utility fee break. Wouldn’t that send a positive signal to volunteer organizations? Many of these organizations already do public sector-type activities, saving municipalities time and money. Keeping such organizations going with a range of revenue options while protecting the environment is good for everyone.


Wiki Guidance

Big numbers boggle the mind. Two people won $414 million from the Maryland lottery the other day. How much is that besides more money than you would ever need? Let’s start simply on how much one million is. It’s roughly all the rice grains in about 31 2-pound boxes. So experiencing one million could happen in the grocery store.

Most of our readers know that state stormwater agencies publish guidelines of best management practices for reducing runoff and pollution. Some state agencies are moving away from the term, “best management practices” or BMPs, to a more regulatory-flavored term, “stormwater control measures” or SCMs. In either case, all of the state manuals are available online, providing guidance to city and county governments charged with implementing reduction of runoff and pollution. Some of the manuals offer general guidance while others are quite prescriptive.

Many state stormwater manuals have been revised and updated. An increasing number emphasize runoff volume reduction as a means to reduce pollutant concentrations. This means greater reliance and detailed information on infiltration practices such as rain gardens, roof gardens, bioswales and permeable pavements.

Over the years, the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute took the opportunity to review several drafts of state stormwater manuals’ guidance on permeable pavements. These include those from state stormwater agencies in Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Maryland; Pennsylvania; North Carolina; New Jersey; Massachusetts; Minnesota; Wisconsin; Washington state; and California (issued by Caltrans). Virginia and Minnesota provide detailed information on permeable pavements. In addition, Virginia and Minnesota offer Excel-based calculators to assist in determining how much water can be infiltrated in order to earn credits, i.e., a ticket to site development.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) organizes its SCMs into nine Minimal Impact Design Standards (MIDS). These are the core of revisions to their state stormwater manual. MIDS provide a toolbox for city and county agencies to implement via local ordinances to reach a performance goal of managing the first 1.1 inches of rainfall. One of the nine MIDS is called permeable pavements, posted on the MPCA website in July 2013.

MPCA took a different approach than most states by presenting its guidance in a wiki format that links and integrates MIDS practices to each other, to a calculator and to other guidance pages. It is a refreshing, non-linear approach to presenting the complexities of managing stormwater. We hope that other state agencies will move from static PDFs to a wiki format that requires a more integrated approach, and one that can be easily updated.

MPCA’s approach resulted in one million hits on the entire MIDS site in the first year of posting. A majority of those hits were on the permeable pavements pages. Not surprising because the MIDS wiki format brings information-rich web pages on permeable pavements. The pages include information on permeable interlocking concrete pavement systems that survive Minnesota’s harsh winter climate.The million hits, led by those on permeable pavements, might be an unofficial record for a state stormwater agency. Among other things, the one million hits can be understood with a shopping cart full of rice boxes.

Read More

Check out MPCA’s website to see the potential of using a wiki-based interface.


Long-Term Payoffs

Numerous surveys rank Minneapolis as one of America’s best places to live. Forbes magazine recently ranked the City of Lakes as the healthiest in the nation, in part because of its green spaces and walk-friendly downtown. So, when dealing with stormwater, it’s no surprise the City chose permeable interlocking concrete pavement that boasts a major benefit: extending the longevity of urban street trees. “This project was unique because the City wanted to treat rainfall where it fell while capturing nearby runoff, and it realized that tree health could benefit from that process,” says Bob Kost, Landscape Architect Director for Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH), who worked on the project. “This was one of the first projects of its kind in the country, and I think other cities should consider this kind of system.”

New Vision

Named Marq2, the project extends along Minneapolis’ major downtown corridors of Marquette Avenue and Second Avenue South and covers about 15,000 sf (1,400 m2) along 48 blocks of city sidewalks. Marq2 rebuilt streetscapes, from building front to building front, widening sidewalk space and incorporating 190 new trees, public art and new transit shelters. Permeable pavers enabled a substantial reduction in stormwater and pollutant runoff on a mile-long stretch of downtown.

The stormwater retention system consists of an underground grid of nearly 11,000 plastic-framed cells filled with about 580 cf (16 m3) of a bioinfiltration soil mix. The cell groups, which resemble milk crates stacked on top of each other, provide pavement support while preventing soil compaction in order to maintain infiltration. Perforated pipes in the cells convey excess water out of the system. Based on research by Prince George’s County, MD, the filtration by the soil inside the cells removes 80 percent of the phosphorous; 60 percent of the nitrogen; and over 90 percent of the lead, copper, zinc and iron from the stormwater.

A grated cap on top of the cells is covered with geotextile, granite infiltration stone, followed by a layer of smaller granite bedding aggregate. Permeable pavers were placed over that, allowing runoff to enter the soil-filled cells beneath. Tree grates and guards were designed by a local artist and fit well with the natural gray-colored pavers. The grates allow water to filter down to the tree roots. The combined use of the permeable pavers and the bioinfiltration system can receive some 21,600 cf (610 m3) of stormwater from each rain event, keeping it from entering the Mississippi River.

“This system protects the waterway,” says Kost. “Many cities face this exact issue because plenty of them have old stormwater systems connected to sewer systems. Managing each of these is important if you want to protect your water resources.”

Role of Pavers

Utilizing the permeable interlocking concrete pavers led to greater sustainability, believes Chris Behringer, principal at Behringer Design, who worked as senior urban designer on the Marq2 project. She notes that the permeable pavers are becoming a regular part of planning for landscape architects because they allow for better stormwater management. “There’s a higher comfort level with pavers than with other permeable surfaces like porous concrete or asphalt,” she says. “The pavers help alleviate stress on the whole system because they disperse water in a larger capacity [than other options].”

That’s important not just for summer and fall rainstorms but also for spring thaws. Minneapolis receives an average of 45 in. (114 cm) of snowfall annually, and as the huge mounds of plowed snow melt, the permeable pavers make runoff management more effective.

Like any well-traveled surface, the pavers require maintenance, she adds, but even then, they seemed a much stronger choice than other options. Unlike asphalt, which would have to be cut out in a chunk, for example, the pavers can be replaced on a smaller scale, limiting disruption and saving on maintenance costs. “You mainly have to replace some of the infill as well as vacuum out some of the substrate to prevent clogging,” she says. “These are very affordable, minimal maintenance tasks, though.”

Leafy Return on Investment

Another key factor for improved ROI for the City of Minneapolis is just above pedestrians’ heads. Typically, urban trees need to be replaced about every five to seven years, Kost notes. Trees begin to decline in health due to soil compaction and/or limited availability of suitable soil, or a city might replace them to control irrigation costs. Because of Marq2’s innovative system, the mix of hardwoods and ornamentals planted in 2009 are still growing strong and aren’t up for replacement in the near future. The permeable interlocking concrete pavers and the system beneath prevent soil from compaction while stormwater draining through the permeable pavers significantly reduces the need for additional irrigation. That means the City saves money that would have been spent for watering. Also, each tree costs about $450, so extending the lives of all 190 trees means major savings.

Beyond those short-term savings lie longer-term benefits. As trees mature and expand their canopies, they provide more oxygen, urban island heat reduction and sidewalk shade. “You don’t get these benefits from younger trees; it’s only when trees reach a certain size,” Kost says. “Many cities are forced to replace trees just before they mature so they don’t reap these huge advantages.” By extending tree longevity and controlling stormwater management — with the help of permeable pavers — Minneapolis isn’t likely to lose its healthiest city title anytime soon. “This whole system is part of creating a healthier environment,” says Behringer. “It creates benefits for everyone.”


Read More

Download the following case studies to learn more:

Willow Creek Case Study

DeepRoot Case Study


Restoring Glory

Concrete pavers are long-lasting. No one disputes their decades-long staying power. But as with all investments, a little maintenance can go a long way. All pavements get dirty, and interlocking concrete pavement owners want to keep great pavement looking great. From discolored pool decks to driveways marred by oil leaks and tire marks, contractors are rising to the demand for sprucing up pavers, especially high-visibility residential applications.

Contractors today are landing residential and commercial paver restoration projects installed 10, 15 and 20 years ago. “When they first came out, concrete pavers were being sold as [practically] maintenance-free,” says Rich Colletti, founder of Seal n’ Lock, a Florida manufacturer of concrete paver sealing products. “That’s what people believed at the time.” But as they aged, the UV light, environment and surface wear made them not look as good as when they were new.

All pavements are at the mercy of nature and use. However, it’s how they age and what can be done about it that’s important. Older paver projects can be restored economically and quickly. Today, there are a host of solutions that contractors can use to develop revenue opportunities from existing and new clients.

Additionally, the capital investment isn’t as high as that required to equip a paver installation company. The biggest upfront expense is equipment used for power washing and cleaning to remove efflorescence and stains, and for applying sealers. This investment is augmented by the redeployment of existing equipment to repair pavers, including pullers, pry bars, mallets, screens and the like.

Contractors say it’s a good supplemental or standalone business, and it’s growing.

“You do a paver installation, with everything according to ICPI guidelines, but they still need to be maintained,” says Pat McCrindle, east coast regional sales manager and technical sales rep for Global Sealer Technologies (GST) International, who started a maintenance and repair company after several years of installing pavers. “The investment comes back quickly to make you more efficient and effective. It’s a very natural progression to get involved with maintenance, particularly in markets with older paver projects.”

A Product Evolution

In just a few decades, a host of products and methods rose to meet the demand for paver maintenance, cleaning and restoration. Treatment of pavers might include applying a colored seal—yellow, red, green—allowing owners to redesign their installations, or a specific product to protect against mold, moisture or chemical stains.

From water- and solvent-based sealers to penetrating and surface sealers, polyurethane and acrylics, there is a sealer solution for every climate and installation. Many are compatible with polymeric sand. “If you look at 15- to 20-year-old pavers, they’re structurally sound, and they will last another 20 years,” says Al Dorais, president of Techniseal, a maker of sealing products based in Candiac, Quebec, Canada. “We can take old pavers and bring them back to life.”

Contractors report that while interest is increasing among newer clients who are opting for cleaning and maintenance plans that begin shortly after installation, there’s a substantial market for clients with older installations looking for the “wow factor” of restoration. 

Here are some case studies.

Case 1: The Facelift

When Omaha, NE, homeowner Reid Kenedy contracted the installation of a concrete paver patio over 10 years ago, he couldn’t have imagined how it might respond to the harsh climate. Fortunately, a local contractor was able to offer restoration services. “Normally we do our sealing right as we finish the job,” says Justin Hampton of Paver Designs LLC in Omaha. “But we installed a patio more than 10 years ago, and the pavers had lost their original color. We were trying to come up with a way to restore it.”  The 400 sf (37 m2) red and black patio provided a home for outdoor enjoyment and activity while enduring hot, humid Midwestern summers and cold winters.

Hampton recommended a colored sealing product. Kenedy had several extra pavers remaining from the original installation, which they used as a test for the new treatment. They waited 10 days after the test application and decided to move forward with the entire patio. “It made all the difference in the world,” Kenedy says. “They look better today than they did when they were first installed.”

The concrete pavers’ color was restored and the patio has not required additional maintenance since the sealer was applied.

Case 2: Body and Fender Work

Name it, and this 10-year-old Howell, NJ, patio endured it: snow, rain, heat, moss, fading and settlement. Owner Greg Varner initially imagined surface restoration was in order, but the patio required some repairs, too. “The repairs covered every aspect of pavers without replacing them,” Varner says of his repair and restoration, completed by Rob Densieski of Paver Restoration Inc, in Freehold, NJ. The patio had also become a safety hazard. “It’s a high traffic area,” Varner says. “People tripped constantly.”

The 920 sf (85 m2) patio received more than just restoration and spanned services Varner didn’t know were available. “It was a total restoration including cleaning, polymer sand placement and sealing of steps, patio and walkway,” says Densieski, who completed the work in fall 2013. In addition to cleaning and restoring the existing pavers, some were pulled up and moved to relay the shape that had been desired initially—but never fully realized—for the multi-color, multi-shaped patio. This was inexpensive compared to repairs on cast-in-place concrete surfaces that require cutting and replacing with a patchy result.

“We didn’t know this was available,” Varner says. “I called around to landscape and hardscape companies. No one wanted to touch it. They only wanted to rip it out and redo it. I wanted it cleaned, but also wanted it to be fixed.” The project was completed over a week and a half including cleaning and sealing plus the patio expansion with new pavers. “It looks brand new,” Varner says.

Building a Business on Restoration

The concrete paver industry is quickly realizing the potential business from aftermarket products and services. McCrindle began his maintenance business with an initial investment of $4,000. Today, he has a $30,000 trailer with top-of-the-line equipment, including diesel-heated power washers and electric reels. Service contracts are offered to new customers as well as to those with older paver projects. A maintenance schedule is developed for new customers depending on environmental factors and intensity of use. “Patios need some maintenance,” McCrindle says. “Any real estate investment has a maintenance schedule. You paint and repair your house. For pavers, we offer a two-year service contract with a renewal.” The result is a patio that looks perpetually new.

Of the 10 billion sf (930 million m2) of pavers in the U.S., less than 2 percent are sealed. While most don’t need sealing, there is still a significant market. “The growth potential for the market is huge,” McCrindle says. But education is a hurdle, especially when it comes to sealing pavers right after they have been installed as a means to prevent problems, repairs and restoration down the road. Dorias of Techniseal agrees. “It’s about raising awareness.”

Contractors are doing their part to spread the word. For Densieski, the launch of his business came after talking with a paver distributor nine years ago who told him that everyone is installing pavers, but no one is taking care of them. “For the first two years, it was an add-on to my full-time employment,” Densieski says. Now, restoration is 95 percent of his business. “We’ll install new projects, but we don’t go out looking for them anymore,” he says.

Others have been slower to expand into restoration, but they know it’s becoming a lucrative and essential business line. “Historically, we did not push a lot of cleaning and sealing, but we are now looking at it as a mandatory part of the business,” says Charissa Farley of Farley Interlocking Paving in Palm Desert, CA, now in the process of adding a maintenance unit to the business. “We are learning and growing and investigating what’s appropriate and when, not just for residential maintenance but also for maintaining streets. This includes vacuum cleaning permeable surfaces and selecting different types of products for removing stains on municipal paver projects.”

In the same way that waxing and washing a car keeps it looking new, or replacing mulch will keep landscaping appearing fresh, by explaining the benefits upfront, contractors are finding that customers are open to maintenance to keep pavement looking brand new.

“People are spending thousands of dollars on hardscaping,” Densieski says. ”You spent all that money, you want to maintain it to keep your investment looking beautiful.”