Designing a Sustainable Outdoor Space

By Joe Raboine, Director of Residential Hardscapes

Product: Eco Dublin® permeable pavers.

The intent of outdoor and landscape design has always been to create beautiful, functional spaces for clients and homeowners. However, the industry is seeing a shift in the mindset of consumers, as more individuals learn about sustainable spaces and seek a more balanced lifestyle with nature. As the environment is spurring conversations about sustainable practices, homeowners are looking for ways to make a positive impact on both their immediate surroundings and the world as a whole.

In addition, individuals are focused on creating spaces that allow them to spend more time outdoors, which has a positive impact on their lives and overall wellness. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, which equates to less than one hour per day outside, directly impacting stress, anxiety and mental health. By creating a functional and sustainable outdoor space, we can improve our own lives, the lives of our family, friends and our local communities.

These eco-friendly and beneficial spaces can be created by considering three key elements: materials, design and plants.

Materials

Materials and products used in a project play a significant role in the overall sustainability of an outdoor space. Though they might not immediately come to mind, concrete pavers offer a number of benefits and should be considered as landscape architects and designers plan projects. The first benefit to consider is lifespan; most hardscaped outdoor spaces boasting concrete pavers can last 60 to 80 years, if installed properly. Compared to other materials, such as a wooden deck that may last 20 years, hardscapes offer longevity and reduce waste. In addition, concrete pavers are often locally sourced, which reduces transportation costs and environmental impact.

Concrete pavers are also being designed for the specific purpose of offering a sustainable design to contractors and clients. Permeable pavers hit the market decades ago, but have been used mostly in commercial applications up until recently. Now, residential builders, architects and contractors are beginning to realize the benefits for their for residential applications as well, including patios, driveways and walkways.

Permeable interlocking concrete pavers (PICP) are a system of concrete pavers with layers of varying-sized stone – or aggregate – underneath that filter and direct stormwater to underground aquifers. These pavers mimic the way natural land absorbs water; any rain that falls on the patio or walkway seeps back into the ground, reducing the burden on storm drains. Water filtration is also a benefit that many are not aware of – as rainwater hits a normal surface such as concrete or asphalt, it picks up pollution elements such as oil or gas, which in turn enters the ground water. With permeable pavers, bacteria grow within the aggregate below, which helps break down those materials and harmful toxins, filtering them out before the water goes back into the ground.

Lighting is also considered as part of a larger outdoor project, which has also made strides toward eco-friendly options. LED lighting offers a huge reduction in electricity usage. Contractors can light a typical outdoor living space for less than 100 watts of power, whereas less than 10 years ago, the same space would have required 500 watts or more.

Design

The design of a permeable paver system also lends itself to creating a more sustainable space. With enhanced techniques, a permeable paver system can be designed and installed to harvest and recycle rainwater. The collected water can then be used to water plants, wash cars or for other landscaping maintenance.

On a larger scale, biophilic design is another trend that is growing in both the commercial and residential space, as an innovative way of designing spaces where we live, work and learn. Though the concept applies more immediately to interior design – as employers seek to reconnect people with nature, which has proven health benefits – it naturally expands to a landscaped space. By including a living wall, pergola or covered patio that incorporates more greenery, the designed space creates a natural, blended transition into the outdoors. Overall, landscape design should incorporate a mix of natural and modern materials throughout a landscaped space.

Though a larger outdoor space may offer more options for creating a sustainable environment, eco-friendly design is not limited to an expansive space. For those who have smaller real estate or are perhaps restricted by homeowner’s associations, raised beds and vertical gardens are a great option. In addition, community gardens that might incorporate any of these elements are increasingly popular.

Plants

When considering a sustainable design, native plants are always a safe selection for helping the environment. As they are accustomed to the local environmental conditions, they require less water, and are easy to maintain. In addition, the local wildlife benefits from having their native plants available to support the local ecosystem. Each state’s landscape and nursery associations and university system has information readily available on ideal plants for each area of the state.

As homeowners become more educated on the benefits of creating an eco-friendly outdoor space, there are many training and educational resources available to contractors. The Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) offers courses on permeable pavers and design. In addition, certain manufacturers of permeable pavers will staff engineers and experts in-house that are available for consultation while a project is being designed. Though it might be overwhelming at first to explore a new product and installation process, the educational tools needed are available, which will allow contractors to design outdoor spaces that benefit both the homeowner and the local environment.

This article was originally published on LandscapeBusiness.com. Reprinted with permission.

The Benefits of Concrete Pavers vs Brick Pavers

When planning a paver project, it’s important to know that not all pavers are equal. When comparing concrete pavers versus brick pavers, it’s particularly essential to understand the differences between the two, and the multiple benefits of choosing concrete pavers over traditional clay brick.

Paver Sizes & Shapes

Size and Shape Benefits Concrete Pavers vs Brick Pavers

Concrete pavers come in a tremendous variety of shapes and sizes –- from small 4″x8″ and 6″x6″ all that way up to 24” slabs, as well as irregular and plank shapes.  Clay brick pavers typically only come in 4″x8″ sizes.

Paver Finishes & Styles

Finishing Benefits Concrete Pavers vs Brick Pavers

While brick pavers all have a similar face, concrete pavers are available in an endless array of finishes — including smooth finishes, natural stone textures, cobbled looks, antique tumbled looks and more.  Most concrete paver finishes incorporate blends of colors, and many have unique faces created with specialized aggregates.

Paver Colors

Color Benefits Concrete Pavers vs Brick Pavers

Clay brick pavers are typically only available in a limited number of shades or color blends. However, concrete pavers are available in a wide array of hues and color blends — including warm color tones, cool color tones, deep shades, and variegated color blends. This allows for greater design flexibility and the ability to create more coordinated outdoor designs. Unlike most brick pavers, some concrete pavers also have built-in protectants to help prevent the color from fading over time.

Consistent Paver Sizes

Sizing Benefits of Concrete Pavers vs Brick Pavers

Concrete pavers are made in a highly controlled environment, allowing for more uniformed and consistent shapes and sizes within a particular style. This allows for more efficient installation. Brick pavers can often be warped as part of the firing process, which can make installation more challenging.

Coordinating Design Elements

Coordinating Elements of Concrete Pavers vs Brick Pavers

Concrete pavers are often designed to specifically coordinate with adjacent vertical products — such as retaining walls, outdoor kitchen and fireplace kits and fire pit kits — in terms of style, texture and color.  This makes it easier to plan coordinated outdoor living spaces. Although clay bricks can be used to construct vertical design elements, doing so is a longer, more complex masonry process.

Paver Design Flexibility

Design Benefits of Concrete Pavers vs Brick Pavers

With brick pavers, designs are limited to running bond, herringbone and basket-weave paver laying patterns. However, with concrete pavers, the design options are endless. You can mix and match various shapes, sizes, finishes and colors to create unique outdoor living designs.

Paver Durability

Durability Benefits of Concrete Pavers vs Brick Pavers

Clay is fairly unpredictable, and some clay bricks are prone to cracking in freeze/thaw environments. Belgard concrete pavers are manufactured to handle extreme weather conditions and come with a lifetime transferable warranty against cracking or breaking.

Introducing the Chiseled Stone Look of New Coventina Coping

Belgard’s newest hardscape product answers the call of two major design trends for outdoor living spaces: large-format materials and natural textures. Coventina™ Coping features chiseled edging, a lightly textured surface and unique color blends that emulate the look of large pieces of natural slate for a fraction of the cost. The perfect accent for a variety of trim applications, Coventina Coping can work with both contemporary and traditional designs and complements a variety of paver styles.

Stone Pool Coping

Coventina Stone Pool CopingCoventina Coping works well with traditional pavers, plank-style pavers, and contemporary porcelain pavers as an elegant chiseled stone trim for swimming pools, spas and water features. The large-format shape creates a clean stone look with a minimal number of seams.

Wall and Step Trim

Conventina Stone Wall Trim, Stone Step TrimCoventina Coping can be paired with a variety of Belgard landscape wall blocks to add a stylish finished look to multi-dimensional outdoor living design elements such as fire pits, landscaping walls, seat walls and built-in planters. Coventina Coping can also be used to create stair steps and terrace transitions. This versatility allows Coventina to be used in trim applications throughout an outdoor living design to pull the entire look together.

Natural Stone Looks

Natural Stone Coventina CopingChiseled edges, a gracefully textured stone top surface and variegated color blends combine to mimic the aesthetics found in nature.  A cost-effective alternative to natural stone, Coventina Coping emulates the look and feel of slate with the added benefits of uniform sizes, durability and slip-resistance.

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Coventina™ Coping is currently available in various markets along the East Coast and the Gulf South. Plans to expand distribution to other regions will be announced at a later date. For more information regarding availability in your local market, visit the Belgard contractor and dealer locator page.

PROJECT PROFILE: Southern California Porcelain Paver Project of the Year

Presenting the Belgard SoCal 2018 Best Porcelain Paver Project, featuring Noon Porcelain Pavers in the Ember color. The installation creates the look of interior wood flooring, yet uses durable Belgard Porcelain Pavers that won’t warp or splinter like wood are resistant to cracking, stains, mold, frost and fading. Available in two different plank sizes, this porcelain paver project uses the larger 12″x48″ planks to create an ultra-contemporary look.

Southern California Porcelain Paver Project of the Year

Created by Pacific Outdoor Living for the Pasadena Showcase House of Design, this tranquil outdoor living space is nestled in a lush mature garden adjacent to the home’s swimming pool. Bamboo sunscreens and draped awnings add to the comfort and help create a cozy space reminiscent of a Japanese garden that feels like it’s both indoors and outdoors.

An intimate sitting area features rattan and bamboo furniture that ties the look together.

porcelain pavers, rattan and bamboo furniture

A gorgeous concrete dining table doubles as a water feature, with water flowing through a rock garden down the middle of the table, creating a unique dining experience that is both communal and serene.

outdoor porcelain pavers noon

Natural rock gardens and Asian-inspired landscape lighting are incorporated throughout the space, enhancing the ambience.

wood look porcelain pavers

Don’t Remove that Concrete Slab!
Overlay it with Pavers

Few renovation projects will drastically improve your home’s curb appeal like converting an old stained and cracked concrete driveway to a stunning paver driveway. And nothing transforms an outdated pool like a beautiful contemporary paver pool deck.

However, these types of projects typically call for the painstaking, costly and time-consuming process of ripping out that old concrete. Or do they?

Driveway Thin Overlay Pavers

Overlay Pavers: Creating a Resilient Bedding Surface

Thanks to the incredible patent-pending formula of Techniseal® DriBond™ advanced mudset, concrete removal is completely unnecessary, as long as the slab is structurally sound. A driveway, patio, walkway or pool deck can be completely transformed in less than 48 hours, and for significantly less cost than concrete removal and replacement.

DriBond installs like sand — filling the cracks and seams of a sound concrete slab — to provide a bedding surface for the installation of thin overlay pavers (including concrete pavers, porcelain pavers, or natural stone.) Activated with water, DriBond sets like concrete to create a durable bond. The result is a stunning outdoor living space with lasting beauty.

Driveway Transformation

Before Driveway Paver Overlay

DriBond Overlay Paver Driveway

Belgard Products that Work with DriBond

(consult a local installer for additional styles in your area)

See DriBond in Action

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PROJECT PROFILE: Southern California Paver Driveway of the Year

Presenting the Belgard SoCal Driveway of the Year featuring Old World Paver™ in the Victorian color blend and Techniseal® NextGel™ Polymeric Sand in Sierra Gray. Over 5,000 SF of pavers went into this San Diego residence. The installer – Jay Erdos of Tuscany Pavers – did a fabulous job of matching the contour of the driveway. It’s also worth mentioning that the white chips in the polymeric sand are actually crushed marble that was hand-crushed and hand-placed to emulate the ancient streets of Pompeii, per the homeowner’s request.

Click below to see close-ups of project images.