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Permeable Parking Paves & Saves

A new 135,000-square-foot parking area on the east lot of Downers Grove North High School in Downers Grove, Illinois, became an unexpected exercise in sustainable stormwater management. The school and the contractor chose to install permeable pavers in the parking lot rather than standard asphalt due to changing county on-site stormwater rules.

When Wight & Company was commissioned to re-configure the parking situation at Downers Grove North High School, the project was straightforward and routine - combine and expand the school's parking facilities with a new larger asphalt parking lot.

The project, located in Downers Grove, Illinois, included the expansion of an existing parking lot by converting adjacent green space - an old softball field - into a larger asphalt lot. At the same time, an older lot would be turned into a synthetic grass field. The project would accommodate the need for additional parking for faculty and students and provide a second state-of-the-art athletic field at the school.

While planning the project, the contractor and school officials learned that DuPage County was in the process of changing the local stormwater code, and that the new rules would go into effect before the school parking lot's projected completion date. Under the revised countywide ordinance, stormwater relief needed to be built into any construction project that adds more than 2,500 square feet of impervious space, such as a parking lot or driveway. Wight's engineers reviewed the project in detail, and developed a plan that enabled the school district to complete the parking lot while abiding by the new stormwater regulations.

Workers expanded the existing on-site parking lot by converting an adjacent softball field, ultimately doubling the number of available parking spaces. An older lot nearby was repurposed as a synthetic grass field, accommodating faculty and student parking needs while upgrading the
athletics department.

''Considering the new ordinance and the project at hand, we recommended that the school district consider using permeable pavers instead of asphalt to renovate the parking lot,'' said Byron Wyns, Land Development director at Darien, Illinois-based Wight & Company. The firm was already familiar with environmentally friendly installations - Wight is certified by the Sustainable Performance Institute as a Green Firm, and has worked on 30 LEED-certified or registered projects.

DuPage County's new stormwater ordinance mandates any construction project that adds more than 2,500 square feet of impervious surfacing to provide relief for stormwater runoff. The permeable pavers' stormwater infiltration and retention capabilities eliminated the need for underground water storage that an asphalt lot would have required, saving the school district $140,000.

''This suggestion really raised some eyebrows among school district personnel, as well as the local community,'' said Craig Polte, construction project manager with Wight & Company. ''The general perception is that permeable pavers are a much higher-priced option, but with the project at Downers Grove North High School, this was simply not the case.''

The construction of an asphalt parking lot under the new stormwater regulations requires the installation of an underground detention system--essentially a concrete vault--beneath the parking lot. The vault would retain water before slowly releasing it into the local storm system. With permeable pavers, water is stored in the voids of a section of three-inch stone located beneath the stones, completely eliminating the need for underground storage tanks.

Infiltrated stormwater is held in the voids of a three-inch section of aggregate installed beneath the pavers before slowly entering the subsoil. The durability of the stormwater system in the new parking lot is also projected to keep maintenance costs down compared to standard asphalt.

At Downers Grove North High School, this shift in strategy resulted in significant cost savings for the school district. ''This essentially became a financial decision,'' said Polte. ''Eliminating the need to install the underground storage tanks actually saved the school $140,000. Once this was laid out to the local community--who initially though pavers would cost a lot more--support for the project was enthusiastic and construction was underway.''

Though not in the original plans, the project became the school's first foray into sustainable site design due to permeable pavers' 'green' qualities. The durability and segmented installation will also save the school on maintenance costs.

Wight & Company used a Bobcat T-300 track loader (right) and a Paver Max VM203 (center) to install Aqua Bric type 1 permeable pavers in the parking lot. The pavers were selected to match stone previously installed on campus, and installed in a herringbone pattern. Construction began at the end of May, and the project was completed ahead of schedule in late August.

''We were thrilled at the end result,'' said Polte. ''The school now enjoys the beauty of permeable pavers versus asphalt, achieved its first green site project that meets the new stormwater requirements, and saved a good deal of money in the process.''

The new 135,000-square-foot parking lot more than doubled the number of parking spaces at the east lot of Downers Grove North High School. The project was started at the end of May and was completed ahead of schedule in late August--just in time for the start of school and the first home football game of the season.

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August 20, 2019, 10:07 am PDT

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