Observe storm water disappear right before your eyes through the environmentally beneficial phenomenon known as permeable pavement. Constructed of porous materials, it allows for the passage and filtration of water. While “normal” asphalt and concrete tend to be a less expensive option, permeable pavement has many benefits that help our environment, making it a better – and greener – alternative. During heavy rainfall, sewer systems tend to get overwhelmed and may result in flooding, along with basement backups and polluted waste water. To combat this, the porous material captures the runoff and filters out any pollutants. This collection of rainwater also helps to recharge groundwater and reduce surface temperatures, which is extremely beneficial to the surrounding ecosystems.
The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) is paving the way for a more sustainable environment by utilizing this progressive green design. We first implemented permeable pavement at the Detroit Zoo in 2015 with the construction of the Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness, which features visitor walkways made with porous material. As we continue to improve the infrastructure at the Zoo, we are incorporating permeable pavement within our design plans, such as a parking lot we constructed in 2016 near the main entrance with 215 additional spaces, as well as a new visitor walkway outside the Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat added in 2017.
Join us on our Green Journey! By implementing sustainable storm water infrastructures, we can help relieve the influx of water into the sewer system. Try disconnecting your downspouts and channel the water into your lawn or garden, plant a rain garden with native Michigan flowers and/or harvest rain water – these are all cost-effective ways you can help too.
– Rachel Handbury is the manager of sustainability for the Detroit Zoological Society.
Beth Wallace is the manager of sustainability for the Detroit Zoological Society.
One year ago this month, the metro Detroit area went through some of the worst flooding in recent history when a sudden storm dumped more than 4.5 inches of rain on the region, overwhelming sewer systems and causing an estimated $1.1 billion worth of damage.
Heavy rains like this record-breaking event can have serious impacts on infrastructure – sewer overflows, pollution runoff and flooding. The Detroit Zoo experienced major flood damage during this storm, which forced us to close for a day as we evaluated systems and began cleanup efforts and repairs. It became apparent that we needed to find a better way to manage large rain events, so we started to incorporate a form of green infrastructure, called porous pavement, into major projects.
Porous pavement is a material that encourages water to percolate through the surface into the ground for natural absorption. By incorporating this surface throughout the Zoo, we’re encouraging more natural absorption of water into the environment, which lessens our need for irrigation. It also prevents excess water from entering the Detroit sewer system. In addition, we have chosen a permeable surface that is light in color to reduce our urban heat island effect – a phenomenon whereby a warmer envelope of air exists over urbanized areas due to human activity – which will decrease ambient temperature to improve air quality and the health of nearby plants.
Porous pavement can be in the form of brick pavers, gravel, porous concrete or even recycled rubber or glass. When you visit the new Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness, notice the colorful pathways of porous pavement. In addition, once the Polk Penguin Conservation Center opens in early 2016, the nearby parking lot will be made with porous material.
Join us on this green journey – next time you consider resurfacing your driveway or pathways, consider this application to help lessen your impact on the environment.
– Beth Wallace