These days, the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond are a mix of the old and the new. Sited on Shockoe Hill, which overlooks the falls of the James River in downtown Richmond, VA, the Virginia State Capitol looks very similar today to the way its original designer, Thomas Jefferson, envisioned it.
But the river isn’t the same. Elevated levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, byproducts of modern life, have polluted area rivers and the neighboring Chesapeake Bay. Couple that with the need to lessen demand on fresh water supplies–and it became increasingly clear that these were problems that needed solutions before things got worse. Those environmental concerns was the primary driver of a project called “Greening Virginia’s Capitol.” The project includes the use of StormPave® permeable clay brick pavers by Pine Hall Brick in plazas and walkways, along with other innovative methods of stormwater management, in an effort to preserve and protect the river that Jefferson admired from that hilltop.
As it is, the Virginia Capitol has a presence at once both singular and imposing. Modeled after an ancient Roman temple in the south of France, the stark white building has been a backdrop for many historic events: Seat of government in Virginia; Capitol of the Confederacy; and as the backdrop for television and films, including its role as both White House and U.S. Capitol in the Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln.”
Use of the StormPave® product was a good fit, because everything looks strikingly similar to the way it did before the renovation. Years ago, genuine clay pavers had been set into place on the grounds. As part of the renovation process, those pavers were removed (and recycled) and virtually identical permeable clay brick pavers were used as replacements in some areas, with first-time installation of the same permeable pavers in others.
Beyond appearance, the project had two main goals: Reduce the amount of runoff treated off-site by reducing the amount of impervious surface; and reduce demand for water from the city for watering plants. One way that runoff is reduced is when stormwater is filtered naturally by seeping into the ground, instead of allowing it to wash across solid surfaces, where it carries pollutants into the nearest storm drain. It’s particularly important in this project, because downtown Richmond combines its storm water with sewage. Using a permeable clay brick pavement system means less water to treat, which saves money; and results in cleaner water being discharged downstream into the James River.
In addition to the clay brick permeable pavement, the project uses curb-side bioretention planters, rain gardens, native plantings and rainwater harvesting to achieve runoff reduction goals. One of the biggest methods for rainwater harvesting came from an existing underground tank, originally intended to collect stormwater. It’s been modified to redirect stormwater into the irrigation system on the grounds, thus reducing demand on the water supply during the warm months.
The problem was that the old parking lot at Gotts Court (the Annapolis (Md.) & The Chesapeake Bay Visitor's Center) clearly needed work. The asphalt was worn out, poorly drained and sometimes inaccessible. Visitors encountered ankle-deep water in summer and ice in winter. The only way in was through a parking garage that when full meant that the parking lot was closed off.
The solution came a step at a time. Landscape architect Shelley Rentsch, RLA, ASLA, a partner in Annapolis Landscape Architects, provided a design that reoriented the entrance for better access. Pine Hall Brick Company’s clay StormPave® pavers, atop a best-practices base of graded aggregates (without fine particles), was specified. Runoff was directed underground to six rain gardens and an outflow pipe. In terms of aesthetics, the deep red color of the pavers was chosen to complement the surrounding neighborhood and its red brick buildings, some of which date from Colonial times.
Durability and the ability to drain properly were the goals. Engineering tests show the pavers have a compressive strength of greater than 13,000 pounds per square inch, meaning that the pavers will last for centuries. The drainage tests came over two years when tropical storms and hurricanes hit the area. Through it all, the water hit the pavers, infiltrated into the aggregate, watered the rain garden and only a trickle came out of the outflow pipe. When winter and freezing temperatures came to the Chesapeake Bay, there was no ice on the ground in the parking lot because the standing water that would have frozen had already drained.
The clay permeable pavers, which can qualify for LEED points in several categories, are green for several reasons. They help conserve water, because rainwater that goes into the ground is naturally filtered, while rainwater that goes across an asphalt or concrete surface picks up pollutants and takes them to the nearest storm drain and eventually, to a lake that supplies drinking water. In addition, since StormPave® pavers are made the most abundant building materials on the planet, clay and water. Because they last virtually forever, they are the definition of sustainability.
Think about genuine clay brick pavers and a walkway through a tree-shaded college campus, a plaza in a downtown or a patio near a classic older house normally springs to mind. At first glance, you wouldn’t think of a street. But maybe you should.
In New Albany, Ohio, the new Third Street is made of Pine Hall Brick’s StormPave® pavers. The system enables stormwater to infiltrate and recharge the water table instead of washing pollutants across the surface into nearby storm drains or waterways. The materials are green and sustainable, because they are made out of abundant natural materials and last virtually forever.
But more than that, they’re cost-effective and durable. Planners found that it cost slightly less to put in a permeable paver street as it would have for conventional asphalt and storm drain, when future maintenance is figured in. Additionally, the pavers can handle 13,000 pounds per square inch of pressure, so they’re built to handle vehicular traffic.
The story began when city officials determined that Third Street was beyond repair. It needed to be dug up and totally rebuilt. In addition, a nagging problem lay at the end of the street, where the Rose Run stream habitually overflowed. The city decided to find out if there was something that would be more environmentally friendly than asphalt, while resolving the stormwater problem.
Comparing the two means considering what’s required. Conventional streets require new asphalt, curb inlets and underground storm sewer piping – as well as patching and other maintenance in the years to come. Permeable paver systems require that layers of graded aggregates be hauled to the site and layered for the base, large to small, before the pavers are installed. Once in, the smallest aggregate is swept in the joints. The only required maintenance is that the pavers be vacuumed occasionally to remove debris that would otherwise clog the system.
The bottom line? The costs of putting in permeable pavers came in at $424,389. The estimates for putting in asphalt including five years of maintenance was at $427,718; maintaining it for ten years raised it to $434,085. Using permeable pavers goes beyond cost advantages. Brick streets have an aesthetic appeal to many potential residents – and their use often negates the need for additional stormwater retention. Without a required retention pond, there’s more land available to develop.