Liveability Guides

There are myriad outdoor paving options, and environmental and financial costs can be high. Guest blogger Kate Smalley provides top tips to creating beautiful hard-wearing surfaces with timeless appeal.

Sustainable Paving Options

This path by Humus Sustainable Gardens, made use of antique stone, reclaimed from where it was half-buried and unused on a nearby property, when the original concrete path disturbed by a jacaranda had to be removed (recycled off-site). The soft surface under the stones allows water to soak down to the tree roots and for the pavers to be easily lifted and rearranged as the tree grows. Image Sheryn Pitman

This path by Humus Sustainable Gardens, made use of antique stone, reclaimed from where it was half-buried and unused on a nearby property, when the original concrete path disturbed by a jacaranda had to be removed (recycled off-site). The soft surface under the stones allows water to soak down to the tree roots and for the pavers to be easily lifted and rearranged as the tree grows. Image Sheryn Pitman

There are more outdoor paving options than you might think, and environmental and financial costs can be high. Our guest blogger landscape designer and garden design educator Kate Smalley urges careful consideration for hard-wearing surfaces with timeless appeal.

Planning the hard landscaping or built components of your garden may present many of the same dilemmas faced when building or renovating. Just as you might scrutinise the source, embodied energy and durability of your building materials, you should apply the same eagle eye to your paving choices. The purpose of the paving will obviously also influence your choice of product, and of course aesthetic is essential. If it doesn’t look good, it’s likely to be removed and replaced down the track, with additional financial and environmental costs.

Your material choice should be influenced by both the style of the building and what’s already in the garden. But aside from design issues, there is also the practicality of the material to be used and the permeability of the base.

A permeable base, which allows rainfall to soak into the ground, is preferable.

The source of the materials used is also important. Most landscaping materials have come out of the ground at some stage. Quarried materials such as gravel and stone are non-renewable resources and their extraction can lead to vegetation loss, ground and surface water pollution and soil erosion. So, as with all building products, opting for recycled materials can help reduce demand for the virgin product. Transport miles from quarries to distribution centres and to the site should also be considered.

The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) recommend the following tips for sustainable paving choices:

  • Look at materials already on site and try to reuse as much as possible.
  • Source recycled materials wherever possible.
  • If possible, use products from your local region — enquire with your retailer about their source.
  • Measure the amount of materials needed, choose the smallest size pieces necessary and design elements to standard size to reduce waste.
  • Choose materials that require minimal processing.
  • Avoid river gravels mined from existing river systems — ask the supplier where the material has come from.
  • Limit paving to areas where you will sit, stand and walk.
Permeable recycled red brick is used throughout the Australian Native Garden in the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide. Image: Sheryn Pitman

Permeable recycled red brick is used throughout the Australian Native Garden in the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide. Image: Sheryn Pitman

Before you Concrete – Important considerations

  • Consider preparing your own wet concrete mix including chunks of cleaned broken brick, recycled glass and salvaged sand instead of new aggregate.
  • Use only as much cement in the mix as required for the project.
  • Don’t dispose of concrete waste into waterways, open spaces and drains.

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Cecille Weldon

Cecille Weldon

Head of Liveability Real Estate and with a long career in business development and innovation. Cecille is passionate about creatively collaborating to achieve a better world.

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