Australia’s urban population, currently at 86 per cent of the nation’s total, is on the rise. While this is still low density in comparison to many other global cities, Australian urban environments are noticeably becoming more crowded as people flock to city centres and the jobs, infrastructure, and amenities they contain. This urban migration is not without consequence, and often comes at the expense of the natural world. Issues such as water runoff and the urban heat island effect are exacerbated, with the latter creating microclimates that are detrimental to both the broader environment and cities’ inhabitants. Such phenomena are not new. However, the frequency and intensity of their impact will continue to worsen should nothing be done to limit the harm caused by further urban development.
The responsibility for ensuring our cities remain liveable in the face of increasingly unpredictable and unfavourable environmental conditions falls on stakeholders ranging from urban planners and architects to product manufacturers. Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) and the broader – and increasingly important – concept of Climate Sensitive Urban Design (CSUD) are two key strategies that can be implemented by these stakeholders to mitigate the impacts of storm water runoff and reduce the urban heat island effect.
Despite being only one of many areas comprising the built environment, the ground upon which we walk plays a crucial role in either facilitating or limiting WSUD or CSUD strategies. In lieu of naturally occurring elements such as tree cover and permeable earth, hard, dark surfaces with high thermal mass – such as asphalt and concrete – trap heat during the day, raising city temperatures to 3-5 degrees above that of surrounds at night and 1-3 degrees during the day. Furthermore, contaminants such as heavy metals from car exhaust or other microscopic debris that gathers on pavements and roads is typically swept into drains by storm water. Upon entering the drainage system, contaminants make their way to surface waters such as rivers, creeks, and oceans, where they can damage natural habitats and even enter the food chain.
Permeable pavers such as Premier Hydropavers® are one means by which to counteract these effects. Allowing water to permeate the pavement and reach the water table below whilst filtering out contaminants and fine sediments, Premier Hydropavers® promote WSUD practices and limit the damaging impacts of water runoff on the surrounding natural environment. Furthermore, by retaining the water onsite and within the bounds of the built environment, permeable pavers can reduce the urban heat island effect through the process of evapotranspiration, whereby evaporated water provides a cooling effect as it is returned to the atmosphere.
The same porous structure that enables best WSUD and CSUD practices has additional benefits outside those immediately connected to sustainability. By filtering water away from the ground surface, permeable pavers may also improve safety by reducing glare from the sun and providing a constant non-slip, dry surface for vehicles and pedestrians alike. The patented permeable structure of Premier Hydropavers® has also been shown to absorb vehicle noise, contributing to a more peaceful urban environment.
While alternative permeable pavers rely on gaps between the pavers for water capture, the surface of Premier Hydropavers® is 100 per cent permeable, allowing water to infiltrate at a much higher rate and eliminating the need for significant gaps between each paver. This also prevents water pooling, thus reducing slip hazards and eliminating water runoff and its subsequent impacts by filtering out harmful contaminants as water passes through each paver.
Made by crushing recycled ceramic tiles, pressing them into a mould, and firing them at 1200°C, Premier Hydropavers® are manufactured for maximum durability with minimum maintenance requirements.
For more information about permeable pavers and Premier Hydropavers®, visit their website.