Today, most of our urban housing plots measure either ‘one ground’ (2,400 sq.ft.) or sometimes even less. Within these plots there is an aspiration to build as much as possible, compromising the open space around the home. Minimal setbacks are left, which most likely end up being paved by some hard surface in order to facilitate the easy movement of vehicles and people.
In such situations, there is no space for any landscaping or vegetation on-ground. One option is to make a thoughtful decision on the type of paving to use. Pavers that are spaced out allow for growing grass or other vegetation in between the gaps. This not only reduces the unnecessary use of hard paving materials, but also ensures storm water percolation into the ground.
Such pavers can be varied types of stone, brick or laterite, providing an aesthetic solution and also serving as ‘stepping stones’. Today, prefabricated ‘grass pavers’ are also widely available, making them convenient and easy to install. Also known as grass block pavers, they are made of concrete or recycled plastic with open cells that allow grass to grow through them. They’re a porous, eco-friendly option for driveways and parking areas.
Grasscrete is yet another option. The material is a cast-on-site cellular reinforced concrete system with voids created by plastic forms (moulds). It is also known as void structured concrete. These disposable forms are then removed and replaced with grass or other vegetation. A few advantages of using such pavers include:
Reduction of runoff: Stormwater runoff from our cityscape is one of the biggest sources of water pollution today as the rain water flowing down our hardscapes will pick up oil, dirt and other pollutants, washing them into our larger water bodies. Vegetated pavers help slow down this.
Recharge ground water table: The areas of grass/ vegetation allow rainwater to seep into the ground, replenishing the water table. In addition, the vegetation in the pavers will filter out the pollutants, so the water that returns to the earth is clean.
Minimise heat island effect: The air above our cities is hotter than the air above surrounding rural areas. This phenomenon is called the ‘urban heat island’ effect. One of the reasons for this is the amount of hard surface paving around our closely packed buildings. In Chennai, for instance, the increase in temperature is as high as 5 degrees celsius when compared to its outskirts. Providing space for vegetation or grass within pavers will help keep the air around our buildings cooler.
Aesthetically pleasing: Hints of vegetation amidst hard surfaces can be very aesthetically designed in varying patterns, providing a sense of relief in our concrete jungles.
Given the multiple options available in the market today, it is time to reconsider the process of ‘paving’ our plots.
The author is the founder of Green Evolution, a sustainable architecture firm.