Permeable Pavers Transform Walkways and Parking Lots
By Monica Helms, consultant to Pavestone Company

Approximately 4,300 square feet of Eco-Venetian pavers and 3,200 square feet of Villa Stone pavers were used in renovations to the buildings, walkways and main driveways at Ignatius House in Sandy Springs, Ga. Photos courtesy of Pavestone Company

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Surrounded by 20 acres of beautiful trees and hills is the Ignatius House in Sandy Springs, Georgia, a nonprofit, non-denominational retreat center geared toward helping people maintain their sense of spiritual well-being.

Located on a tributary which flows into the Chattahoochee River, the lush, green acreage helps promote the sense of peace and serenity its participants gain while on religious retreats. The owners of Ignatius House have a vested interest in maintaining that sense of calm, not just for the people who participate in those retreats, but for the environment as well.

So when the time came for Ignatius House to undergo renovations to the buildings, walkways and main driveway, it was decided that 4,300 square feet of Eco-Venetian permeable pavers and about 3,200 square feet of Villa Stone pavers would be used. Permeable pavers were chosen due to their porous nature and ability to allow rainwater to filter through them.

Water is collected through expanded joints in the pavers into the area west of the chapel, where a bioswale was built to collect and filter the water before it drains back into the river.

With the aid of the permeable pavers' filtration abilities, the Ignatius House parking lot and walkways were built to eliminate the impact of rainwater run-off and pollution of the nearby tributaries that lead to the Chattahoochee River.

Hardscape Choices

Without explanation, this may at first sound unimpressive; however, when compared to the potential environmental impact of pouring new concrete, the lightly colored permeable pavers were not only a more aesthetically pleasing choice, but a more practical one as well.

Another reason why the permeable pavers were a more practical choice for Ignatius House was because of their solar reflectance index (SRI). Like many Southern cities, Sandy Springs experienced a fierce summer this year. Unlike dark-colored asphalt or concrete, the light-colored permeable pavers reflect heat rather than absorb it, reducing what's known as heat-island effect. When covering large enough areas, this the heat-island effect can produce secondary meteorological effects, such as changes to local wind patterns, clouds, fog, humidity and rates of precipitation. This reflection from the parking lot will play a role in reducing discomfort for those walking across it in coming summers, as well as help reduce future energy costs for the structures that make up the Ignatius House campus.

Dan Kalar, a Pavestone Company representative, worked with Benning Construction and GP Hardscape to design and build the new parking lots, and noted that the owners of Ignatius House were worried about the repercussions associated with pouring new, nonporous concrete. They also knew that this would create an ideal surface for pollutants to wash into the Chattahoochee River as undesirable runoff when it rains.

Keeping sustainability in mind, the permeable pavers were selected for their ability to reduce rainwater run-off and reduce the heat-island effect that would normally accompany a nonporous, dark-colored asphalt surface.

Stormwater runoff can wash hydrocarbons and debris over concrete and any other nonporous surface, washing whatever it takes with it into nearby rivers and streams. Not wanting to adversely affect the growth of aquatic plants, harm fish, or contaminate drinking water for land animals and the people nearby, a permeable solution was embraced.

Water Management

Bearing this in mind, Kalar worked in conjunction with both Benning and the owners of Ignatius House to design and build a method for directing water to the west side of the Ignatius Chapel. This was accomplished through the design of drains underneath the system, where water is absorbed through expanded joints in the pavers. As the water is collected, it goes down into a storage area and is then drained into the area west of the chapel, where a bioswale was built to collect and filter the water before it drains back into the river.

This system of water filtration not only limits the collection of water in the courtyard on rainy days, it also filters and removes any other miscellaneous pollutants that may have been present. Basically, said Kalar, the water is being funneled into the river even cleaner than when it was found. The end result is an eco-friendly parking lot and courtyard, thus beautifying the Ignatius House campus with the pavers while simultaneously helping to maintain the vibrant greenery and vegetation around it.

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