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The heart of UCSB’s campus has been undergoing some major renovations for the past few months. The new, more eco-friendly changes are taking place, literally, at the ground level as workers install new Hydro-Flo Pavingstones and a new underground drainwater system.
The newly engineered paving product, developed by San Francisco-based company Pacific Interlock Pavingstone, is touted as one of the safest and greenest materials on the market today. Hydro-Flo technology, said company representatives, allows rainwater to pass directly and rapidly through the permeable material that is reportedly several times stronger than concrete. With traditional concrete, rainwater runoff is transferred directly into storm drains. What makes the Hydro-Flo Pavingstones unique, explained reps, is that they allow for increased groundwater replenishment by filtering it through the ground and eventually depositing it into the lagoon on campus.
Paul Hathaway, special projects director at Pacific Interlock Pavingstone, explained the benefits of installing the new walkways on campus. “It’s more environmental and it’s ideal for areas with handicapped populations because it eliminates puddles from forming when it rains. The product that allows it to be permeable is made from recycled materials that are readily available throughout the world, making it a sustainable product. It’s more expensive than concrete but a lot of times there are many grants the school can apply for to abate the costs,” he said.
The new footpath is just the first installment of a university-sponsored, three-part master plan that includes expanding Davidson Library. While UCSB officials are hoping to finish the paving by June of this year, the actual master plan will take at least three to five years to complete.
Kimberly True, of the architectural firm True Nature, designed the landscape of the pathway and explained the positive environmental impact it will have for the school. “Water filters through the permeable paving, then is sent through an additional storage area that will lead to a rain garden and vegetation filtration. That filtered water is eventually deposited into a wetland,” said True. “The neat thing about this product from a biological standpoint is that it’s really sustainable and you improve water quality.”
UCSB is not the first school to benefit from the new paving stones; Santa Clara University was its premier campus and the school has already noticed the safety benefits when no puddles formed on the pathways during recent rain storms. The new concrete substitute has only been produced for the past year, but already the company is receiving major project requests to build greener walkways.
“The company has been manufacturing paving stones for the last 30 years, and past projects include work in Sacramento and Berkeley,” said Hathaway. “Homeowners are beginning to use it, and now the City of Carmel is replacing their sidewalks with the Hydro-Flos. Right now it’s the main street of Carmel called Ocean [Avenue], but they want to do the whole city,” said Hathaway.
As of now, company reps said they have installed several thousand square feet of path at UCSB, but by the time the project is complete they will have installed about 20,000 square feet of new sidewalk.