environment · health

Porous Roadways for Better Runoff

Water flowing through pervious concrete, courtesy of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association.

This post is more focused on conservation and environmental preservation than usual, but I’m a sucker for a good “save the planet” technology story. Plus, I believe pretty much anything we can do to conserve the environment makes for an overall better, healthier, happier us.

When I first read the headline for this article, I thought it was going to be a complaint about the poor quality of several streets in major cities like Seattle and Portland that are supposedly “bike friendly,” where even a seemingly small series of potholes in a street can mean trouble for bikers like myself.

But no, this is better; a type of concrete that actually lets rain water and other liquid runoff through to the soil beneath, preventing flash floods, bad puddling and worse erosion:

Permeable pavement can make old-school road engineers and pavement builders anxious. To them, the idea of water seeping through roads like they’re made of Swiss cheese just doesn’t seem right. Water runs off roads, not through them. Or at least it used to.

In the Northwest, there’s a growing acceptance of the use of pervious concrete and porous asphalt for roads, sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways. The unconventional pavement does a great job reducing the amount of polluted stormwater runoff that damages homes, streams and lakes. Instead of gushing from the roads carrying a slug of toxic chemicals, the water seeps through small pores in the pavement, soaking into the gravel and dirt beneath the road. Some of the pollutants get trapped inside or beneath the pavement, or are consumed by organisms living in the ground below it.

Those who’ve used the pavement praise the technology. Advocates can be found around the region, including a 32-acre eco-friendly development near Salem called Pringle Creek, where all of the roads and alleys were built with porous asphalt.

Read more at: The Porous Road Less Traveled | Sightline

I’ve heard of this technology being used in driveways with great success, so it’s nice to hear it being used in larger applications.

behavior · community · culture · environment

Making Sustainability Legal | Sightline Daily

Low Impact Development
Image by American Planning Association - Virginia Chapter via Flickr

We all know of a few laws that have outlived their usefulness that haven’t been taken off the books yet; where I grew up there was technically a law that while traveling the Cuesta Grade “trail” in a car, you had to blow your horn five times before cresting the hill to scare the cows away; it is now the major 101 Freeway and there are few cows anywhere near the top of the Cuesta Grade.

It turns out that in many places these outdated laws may be inhibiting our ability to instigate more sustainable practices.

Some of the smartest, most innovative solutions for building thriving and sustainable communities in the Northwest are, at present, simply illegal.

Take the problem of the urban stormwater runoff that threatens the health of Puget Sound and other waterbodies throughout the Northwest. Low Impact Development (LID) solutions—including such strategies as rain gardens, street-side swales, porous pavement, and green roofs—can treat stormwater more effectively, and for less money, than the costly “hard” infrastructure of downspouts, pipes, and sewers. Yet many development codes mandate the more-expensive, less-effective plumbing solution. If only codes would allow LID as an alternative, the region could see a proliferation of lower-impact techniques that could spare government coffers in lean times, and give developers and homeowners a financial break—even while providing cleaner water and patches of urban habitat.

more via Making Sustainability Legal | Sightline Daily.

The question, then, is how to remove or buffer these laws in order to encourage sustainable practices and make sure residents and construction companies alike are compliant with the law while also being forward thinking and adopting better practices. Thoughts? Have you seen a town actually remove an outdated law or ordinance? Share it hear in the comments below.

anthropology · behavior · community · culture · environment · health · Nature

It’s Raining Rain Gardens | Sightline Daily

View of a bioretention cell, also called a rai...
Example of a rain garden. Image via Wikipedia

Oh, all right, but only because you asked soooo nicely; for Earth Day, an example of how communities in the Puget Sound are coming together to protect the Earth and improve their own personal environments as well.

Researchers have pointed the finger at stormwater runoff as the top source of pollution that’s getting into Puget Sound and other Northwest waterways. And because runoff comes from just about everywhere — roofs, roadways, parking lots, farms, and lawns — the solution has to be just as widespread.

Enter 12,000 Rain Gardens.

This week Washington State University and Stewardship Partners, a nonprofit working on land preservation, announced a campaign to promote the installing of 12,000 rain gardens around Puget Sound by 2016. The website even has a counter tracking the number of gardens and encourages folks to enter their rain garden into the database.

more via It’s Raining Rain Gardens — Sightline Daily – Northwest News that Matters.