Flood control — see how permeable concrete pavement can help reduce stormwater runoff and reduce flooding

by Brianna Crandall — December 15, 2017 — If your corporate, education or health-care campus is researching ways to prevent flooding, especially in light of the major flooding this hurricane season in such areas as Houston, a recent demonstration in Raleigh, North Carolina, of permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) may be of interest.

Sixty members of the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI), local design professionals and government officials, including U.S. Representative David Price (D-NC), recently participated in a demonstration in Raleigh, North Carolina, of how permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) can help mitigate stormwater runoff and reduce flooding. ICPI also recently suggested the technology be used as Houston is being rebuilt, and released a publication describing best practices for the pavement.

Congressman Price is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Ranking Member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Committee. The demonstration, which took place at The Greens at Centennial Campus at North Carolina State University, was led by Fred Adams, Fred Adams Paving, and Dr. Bill Hunt, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished University Professor and extension specialist at North Carolina State University’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.

Group of people watching a woman pour water over pavement

Raleigh demonstration of permeable interlocking concrete pavement.

Permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) is a durable, cost-effective solution for compliance with national, state/provincial and municipal stormwater regulations, says the Institute. The surface consists of solid, durable concrete pavers with small, stone-filled joints that allow water to flow into highly permeable, open-graded bedding, base, and subbase aggregates. The spaces among the aggregates store water and enable infiltration into the soil subgrade rather than generating surface runoff.  PICP is an excellent option for freeze/thaw climates, adds the group.

Congressman Price remarked:

For people in our state, particularly in this part of the state where we have been growing so much, the words permeable and impermeable have been in our vocabulary for quite some time. We think of them every storm, particularly in my case when I look out my door and see the creek swelling and know that it has to do with the impermeable pavement upstream and the way development has proceeded for many, many years.

There is a need for a better way. Not only to mitigate damage from a particular storm, but also to build to better standards to mitigate damage in the future.  This (permeable pavement) is part of a bigger picture that has to do with everything from the way we pave, to the way we construct housing, to where we put our wetlands and parks.  But, it (permeable pavement) is a big part of the picture.

ICPI says that permeable interlocking concrete pavement can provide the best of all worlds: facilitate robust construction, economic development and jobs, but in a way that will not add to stormwater runoff, and will reduce flooding and improve water quality. These are critical public policy imperatives at all levels of government, notes the group. PICP is recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Best Management Practice for stormwater mitigation, a means for creating low-impact development and meeting growing construction mandates to build without adding to flooding.

Matt Lynch, ICPI chair, stated:

PICP has shown significant runoff and pollutant reduction for walkways, plazas, driveways, parking lots, alleys, and streets throughout the U.S. We are pleased that Congressman Price is examining how PICP can help achieve national policy imperatives.

Houston advice

ICPI recently strongly encouraged federal, state and local government officials to include permeable interlocking concrete pavement in their plans to rebuild Houston. Lynch stated:

While no man-made solution could have completely prevented the devastation in Houston, permeable interlocking concrete pavement for flood-prone cities can help to significantly alleviate damage and save communities. Impervious roads, parking lots and roofs prevent the natural infiltration of water and direct stormwater runoff to low-lying areas where major flooding occurs.

Many American cities, such as Atlanta, are now using permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) to reduce flooding and improve the quality of life for their residents. Atlanta installed four miles of PICP streets to alleviate combined sewers flooding neighborhoods. Houston can study Atlanta’s experience to help protect its citizens in the future.

Best practices publication

ICPI also recently released Tech Spec 23: Maintenance Guide for Permeable Interlocking Concrete Pavements (PICP). The guide provides PICP maintenance best practices to project owners, design professionals, stormwater and road agencies and others.

The 12-page Tech Spec 23 guide is available in a PDF download version or in print from the ICPI Web site. For a PDF, see the Resource Library and click on “Find a Tech Spec.”  The print version is also available for purchase on the ICPI Bookstore.

For more information about permeable interlocking concrete pavement, visit the ICPI Web site.