Permeable pavers comparison: from sand to wood

April 23, 2024

Comparing sand, concrete, rubber and wood permeable pavers materials and their impact on the environment in search of the most sustainable solution.

Modern cities and urban areas are literally built on sand. Urbanization continues to grow and permeable pavers are becoming more and more in demand to combat stormwater. As urban development emerges, so does the demand for concrete and construction materials that use sand increases. In our permeable pavers comparison article, we will discuss environmental issues and green solutions to help stormwater management in cities. We will also discover wood permeable pavers materials and their impact on the environment in search of the most sustainable solution.

About permeable pavers in general

Traditional hardscape surfaces such as concrete and asphalt collect stormwater and do not allow the water to be absorbed in the ground. Permeable pavers make it possible for water to penetrate into the ground underneath. This results in significantly fewer pools of water and even flooding in cities. Permeable pavers have a porous surface and act a lot like the natural ground allowing water to be absorbed naturally.

 Permeable pavers make it possible for water to penetrate into the ground underneath. 

Concrete paving: impact of sand mining on the environment

Concrete paving is a prevalent building material used to pave driveways, walkways, patios, and other surfaces. As we mentioned before, concrete is not a permeable material and is not able to combat flooding and stormwater in urban areas. 

[ALT TEXT: Proflow Permeable Pavers stormwater schoolyard]

Pictured above is the first stormwater schoolyard in San Francisco: Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary School with ProFlow Permeable Pavers™ 

Moreover concrete isn’t the most eco-friendly material either. The amount of sand used to produce concrete pavers is becoming a genuine environmental concern. Industrial sand mining is happening faster than the material can be renewed. As of today, sand is the second most exploited natural resource in the world after water. In 2012 alone, the UNEP estimates enough concrete was produced to build a wall around the equator measuring 27 meters high and 27 meters wide.

What is the solution for cities and the environment? We must reduce the use of sand and thus concrete and substitute it with a viable alternative.

Rubber permeable pavers

Rubber permeable pavers are very durable, they will not crack or freeze during harsh winter weather. Some rubber pavers are made from recycled content and have porous properties. Open grid surface allows rapid drainage and quick drying. However, the production of rubber pavers consumes a lot of energy. Their environmental impact is high since their production causes severe air pollution.

On hot summer days, rubber pavers may reach an unbearable temperature of 170*F, giving them a lower resistance to heat than concrete or asphalt. Rubber pavers or rubber running tracks let dangerous gas vapor into the air when they are subject to warmer temperatures. It is not healthy to have children playing on play sets installed over recycled rubber pads breathing in toxic vapors. Other sustainable materials are being used in playground landscaping, that have a better impact on their surroundings.

Wood permeable pavers

Wood may seem as an odd choice for exterior paving at first. Selecting the right type of wood for your paving project is crucial. Black Locust Lumber’s ProFlow Permeable Pavers™ is made of sustainable Black Locust lumber that is capable of withstanding severe weather conditions. 

[ALT TEXT: Proflow Permeable Pavers]

ProFlow Permeable Pavers™ surface allows water to filter through to the ground underneath. Picture taken at: Google, Assembly at North First, San José, CA

Permeable pavements made of sustainable Black Locust wood are emerging as cool pavement and thus a solution for climate change. These wood permeable pavers allow air, water, and water vapor into the voids of the pavement. They are also great with stormwater management and will thus prevent your paving surface from flooding.

[ALT TEXT: Proflow Permeable Pavers production]

Production of ProFlow Permeable Pavers™ has a lower carbon footprint than any other permeable pavers available.

The most sustainable permeable pavers option is Black Locust wood pavers, as it has a minimum carbon footprint. Black Locust is becoming very popular for exterior use in landscaping. It is water-resistant, rot-resistant, and has anti-fungal properties. All without the help of any toxic chemicals. ProFlow Permeable Pavers™’ carbon footprint is way lower than any manmade permeable pavers available. 

To sum up…

Permeable pavers can be categorized by their carbon footprint and ability to allow water to infiltrate into the ground underneath. Concrete has a high impact on the environment because of the ever-growing danger of mining sand, but the material also has low permeability. Rubber pavers have porous characteristics, but require a lot of energy to be produced. Wood permeable pavers are the most natural and sustainable choice at the moment. Using Black Locust lumber as a material for wood pavers will result in a highly durable hardscape surface.

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