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Hardscapes May Exceed Suburban Needs

Permeable pavers like these--being installed in Palo Alto, Calif.--can dramatically reduce runoff. The pile of aggregate here is about to be swept into the gaps.

According to Environmental Health Perspectives, as much as 10 percent of a two-acre home site and 65 percent of a one-eighth-acre lot will probably be covered with some sort of hardscape or paved surface.

On a community level, local authorities can be encouraged to cut back on the width of streets required in new subdivisions. Many communities insist that builders put in paved streets that are thirty to forty feet wide even in subdivisions with little traffic, a practice described as “insane” by Robert Bannerman, a researcher with the Department of Natural Resources for the State of Wisconsin. He maintains that 25 to 28 foot widths are adequate. Citizens could make a difference by checking out local subdivision regulations and lobbying for change where street width is excessive.

Beyond the size of the paved area is the composition of the materials. There are many alternatives to the impervious materials typically used in residential areas.

Porous concretes and asphalts provide solid surfaces for foot and vehicle traffic but allow rainwater to seep down into subsurface soils. These porous materials are made with a lower concentration of fine aggregate in the coating and can be mixed at a regular asphalt plant. This porous material is laid over a bed composed of the uniformly sized aggregate materials which minimize voids and allow water to filter through. Under this layer is a special fabric layer which allows water to filter down but prevents soil from moving upward where it could penetrate and clog the aggregate. Such material is suitable for use on both streets and driveways and could be required by local building code.

Individual homeowners can increase the porosity of driveways and sidewalks by using any number of other materials other than concrete or asphalt; crushed shells and wood mulch are popular. Areas, such as auxiliary parking, that do not receive a lot of vehicular traffic can be planted with a hearty turf.

Increasingly popular are pavers with open joints that can be filled with aggregate or turf. Laying pavers is labor intensive but results in a very handsome finish and now there is a method available that allows concrete to be poured into a grid and finished to look like stone. When the grid is removed it leaves open spaces that can be filled with aggregate or planted with turf.

Source: Mortgage Daily News

Portland Cement Excluded From Danger List

Erin O'Boyle Photographics/Courtesy of Portland Cement Association

In a victory for affordable housing and against unnecessary government regulation, the final Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard on hexavalent chromium published in the Feb. 28 Federal Register excludes exposure to Portland cement in construction and other industries. Portland cement is a basic ingredient in concrete and mortar.

For more than a year, NAHB members and staff have met with OSHA officials, urging them to exclude Portland cement from any rulemaking because the agency's own data showed that possible airborne exposure to the chemical in construction activities involving wet cement -- such as mixing mortar, brick laying, footer cement pouring and cement finishing -- was minimal.

Research has shown that it is the alkalinity and abrasiveness of wet cement, and not hexavalent chromium, that can cause dermatoses when it comes in contact with the skin, and NAHB representatives pointed out that this was already covered by OSHA regulations requiring personal protective equipment in handling the material.

Courtesy of Rob Matuga at NAHB

Municipalities Across the Country Confront Mighty Mailboxes

A mailbox or fortress?

In last month's PMBR News, we mentioned the Georgia Department of Transportation code considers a mailbox with a support structure of stone or masonry a "right-of-way encroachment,” while in Council Bluffs Iowa, a developer just got the go ahead to install brick mailboxes (not larger than 60" tall, 42" wide and 27" deep) on city right-of-ways with speed limits of 25 mph or less.

The Saginaw County (Mich.) Road Commission is reportedly so upset about brick mailboxes that it is urging that the U.S. Postal Service to only deliver mail to "break-away" mailboxes. The commission asserts brick, concrete or stone mailboxes are road hazards. One Saginaw homeowner wryly told the local paper his behind the curb brick mailbox was only a hazard to motorists who drive on lawns.

Still, concrete, brick and other "hardscape" mailboxes are proliferating, particularly in newer, upscale subdivisions.

Masonry Companies Merge

Graham Partners, Inc., a private equity firm based in Newtown Square, Pa., recently bought and merged two of the largest independently owned masonry companies in the United States.

Design Masonry, Inc. of Santa Clarita, Calif., and John Ginger Masonry of Riverside, Calif., have been combined to form the Masonry Group.

The firm declined to state how much it paid for the companies. This deal was the fourth for Graham Partners in the past six months, and the fourth investment made by the firm's Graham II fund.

Source: Philadelphia Business Journal

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June 18, 2019, 7:00 am PDT

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