Permeable Paving: An Important Option

The world we live in today is radically different from the world of a few generations ago. As we continue to evolve, progress, and change, we need to look at the way we live in this world. The next time it rains, take a look outside your window. Where does all of that water go? It has to go somewhere, and as we build more and more sidewalks, driveways, roadways, and parking lots, the water has fewer porous outlets to allow it to seep back into the earth.


Thankfully, technology is progressing to meet some of the demands we place on our planet. One innovative option is something called “permeable paving.” This type of pavement is a modern, sustainable solution that can cut down on flooding.

What Is Permeable Paving?

Basically, any street or sidewalk made with permeable materials, like porous concrete or unit pavers, is a permeable pavement. It allows air and water to pass quickly and easily through it into the soil. This provides the opportunity for storm water storage and/or the soil to recharge its necessary supply of groundwater. Another benefit is that permeable pavement reduces the amount of pollutants that go into our water supply. While permeable pavement acts very differently to traditional pavement, it looks just like other paved surface.

Where Can Permeable Paving Be Used?

Small property owners can benefit from permeable paving, as well as neighborhood developers looking to attain LEED certification. This green option is a great way to minimize negative impacts on the planet from development, like flooding and storm water pollution. Permeable paving can be done on its own or in connection with other green enhancements, such as:

In terms of location, permeable paving is appropriate for all street types.  Here are some of the places where it works best:

  • Sloped paving surface of 5 percent or less
  • Sidewalks, driveways, park areas, shared streets, plazas, walking paths, bike paths, open parking lots
  • Parking strips or gutters not used with traffic or bus stops
  • Streets that do not experience high traffic

Where Can’t It Be Used?

There are still some places, however, where its use is less than ideal. These include:

  • Hillsides with a slope greater than 20 percent
  • Traffic lanes that experience heavy congestion
  • Areas that have a history of shallow groundwater contamination
  • An place that is subject to chemical spillage, or where businesses such as gas stations, car washes or auto repairs shops are located
  • Streets with a history of combined sewer overflows unless as part of a project aimed at eliminating such overflows
  • Areas with shallow groundwater or seasonal high groundwater (less than 4 feet) if receiving run-on (storm water runoff from adjacent areas)
  • Within 20 feet of sub-sidewalk basements if receiving runoff
  • Within 50 feet of domestic water wells if receiving runoff

How is Permeable Paving Designed?

It is necessary to determine soil conditions in the area where permeable paving is to be installed. These conditions include percolation rate and infiltration capabilities, depth to the water table, depth to bedrock, and soil contamination. When the project is being designed, there are some common materials for the paving surface to consider:

  • Permeable hot-mix asphalt, typically 2.5 inches deep
  • Permeable concrete, which is similar to standard concrete but lacking items such as sand, typically 4 to 8 inches deep
  • Interlocking block pavers

How is Permeable Paving Maintained?

Just like most everything else, this special type of pavement requires some periodic maintenance. Once or twice a year vacuuming, or sweeping, (depending on the size of the area) should be performed when the sediments are dry. The pavement should also be tested yearly to determine if it is clogged in any way. Broken or damaged pavement must be fixed or replaced.

If you are interested in enhancing your neighborhood with permeable paving, or if you are concerned about flooding from a proposed development, consider permeable pavement. It is a great solution to help out the planet right outside your door.

According to the Asphalt Pavement Alliance, 94 percent of roads in the United States are surfaced with asphalt. Think about your daily commute, the errands you run, or walks in your neighborhood. All of this is possible because of the simple material we call asphalt. We hardly think about it, but asphalt is really important. Essentially, you know that your asphalt roads are working because you don’t have to think about them.

A new campaign going on right now centers around asphalt, the misconceptions and benefits of this unique form of pavement. The Asphalt FACTS campaign is centered on a new website,, which provides information about asphalt pavements. The site is filled with all kinds of fascinating tidbits that will change the way you think about asphalt. For example, did you know that American taxpayers save over $1.5 billion per year by recycling asphalt?

The Benefits of Asphalt

Asphalt has a great number of benefits, especially when compared to other types of paving materials. First, asphalt roads can be constructed simply and without a lot of money. Long lasting, asphalt pavement only requires minimal maintenance to keep in good condition. Asphalt is extremely durable, so that the road never needs to be removed or replaced. And it establishes an incredibly smooth surface for driving, resulting in a ride that is comfortable and quiet. Because asphalt is so quiet, expensive and ugly sound walls don’t need to be constructed to insulate roadways. Also, asphalt is safe. It provides incredible gripping power, keeping riders safe from accidents.


Many of us have the wrong idea about asphalt. The old mindset is that asphalt is expensive and not environmentally friendly. In truth, asphalt pavement is the most recycled material in America. That’s because you can make asphalt out of a wide variety of materials that are recyclable, such as roofing shingles, ground tires, and glass. Some areas are even experimenting with using plain, old, everyday garbage as part of their asphalt paving plans. When these materials are incorporated into the asphalt, everyone benefits. We have less trash going into landfills and our roadways are being built with the environment in mind. Did you know that recycling of asphalt pavements and asphalt shingles in 2010 alone conserved 20.5 million barrels of asphalt binder? Asphalt pavements are one of our greatest renewable resources. With recycling, tax payers benefit, especially when items such as shingles are recycled into our nation’s roads.

Can Asphalt Really Save Me Money?

Well maintained asphalt provides you with more than just a smooth ride. Most of us probably don’t think about it on a daily basis, but the smoother your asphalt, is the better your car is going to perform. Ultimately, a well-surfaced asphalt road helps to maximize your fuel economy. Go to and see how in just a short amount of time, asphalt has turned America’s worst roads into smooth ones.