The US Paved the Way
The history of using paving dates back to ancient times when trade and travel necessitated passable roads free of rocks and trees. As cities expanded and populations grew, paving stones were used to create walkways for pedestrian traffic, and roadways were built to accommodate the increase in horse and carriage traffic.
Years later in Colonial America we quarried granite and cut it into rectangular bricks (referred to as setts) for paving. As the US continued to grow and cities, suburbs and country estates developed, we loved the clean look and functionality of paving our homes. We laid neighborhood walkways and added hardscaping to sculpt and beautify our parks and gardens.
Then in 1870, a Belgian chemist named Edmund J. DeSmedt made the first true asphalt pavement in Newark, N.J. Advances in the technology were swift and with the popularity of the “horseless carriage” and Ford’s contribution to large-scale manufacturing, we paved over land at an astounding rate.
It wasn’t until many years later that we realized that this could cause some major problems.
What we didn’t realize for many years was that by laying all of this impervious material, we were disrupting the natural cycle of water. Impervious materials “seal” the surface by not allowing water to penetrate the soil. This causes storm water runoffwhich leads to flooding even in small storms. Additionally, it disrupts the way land naturally absorbs water, filtering out contaminants and recharging groundwater aquifers.
So in essence, we had built the perfect scenario to send contaminated water into our lakes, rivers and streams.
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. – from the Brundtland Report, “Our Common Future” In the 1960’s and 70’s Americans became more aware of how we were destroying our natural resources and began putting pressure on the government to create laws to protect our environment. In April of 1970, spearheaded by Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was born.
In December that same year, Congress authorized the creation of a federal agency to address environmental issues, and the U.S Environmental Protection Agency was created. Efforts to protect water were addressed and acted upon through the Clean Water Act of 1972; and through it, restrictions, regulations and pollution control programs were put into place. Through these and other initiatives, stormwater management and sustainable development programs evolved.
ECO-Friendly Hardscaping and Landscaping
Part of the solution was the introduction of interlocking permeable pavers. These systems are all about the space-and-base. At first glance, you’ll see that permeable pavers are installed with spaces left between the pavers. This allows for any water to pass through, instead of pooling or running off. The real benefit is underneath, where once the water passes it flows through to an “open-graded” base comprised of stones. These act as a filtration system and help to disperse water back into the earth in a more natural fashion.
Earth conscious homeowners and regulated businesses with cracked cement sideways and walkways, are replacing them with permeable systems. In Maryland, residences and businesses are made to pay a “rain tax” based on the amount of impervious material on their property. Other states are now issuing tax credit for installing permeable material.
When addressing any hardscape project it’s best to check local and state regulations and consult with a certified installer.