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Permaculture Roads: Beyond Runoff Collection

 
Andrew Michaels
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So we all know that many elements of infrastructure we take for granted are either destructive or financially/environmentally nonviable in the long term.

Many US suburban towns are increasingly looking like ponzi schemes, with infrastructure requiring more in maintenance than it produces in profits, and replacement depending on new development: http://www.businessinsider.com/suburban-america-ponzi-scheme-case-study-2011-10?op=1

Stuff like sewer systems are ridiculous and can easily be replaced, but other elements are just really useful and not easy to do away with without significantly lowering quality of life. Well-maintained hard-surface roads are a good example, in my opinion.

I'm been living in southeast Asia for more than a year now, visiting undeveloped places like Cambodia and Laos as well as developed, "well-roaded" areas like Thailand.

I have to say, it's very, very annoying to travel on the rutted dirt roads in Cambodia and Laos, and even the few gravel ones are pretty bad. That goes for buses, cars, mopeds, and bikes I've been on.

During the rainy season, they turn into impassable mud slicks your tires sink right into. Even during the dry season they're jarring, at best, to go on.

Permaculturists often suggest collecting rain water off hard surface or hard-packed roads, but what about replacing them with something more affordable and sustainable?

What sort of options are there?

For instance, one driveway road I drove on in Thailand was made of a kind of concrete honeycomb material that allows grass to grow up through the holes. This allowed water to sink into the ground, eliminating the possibility of collecting considerable amounts of runoff, but it also added firmness to what would otherwise have been a very muddy surface. I have no idea about the price of this road, how it would stand up to heavy traffic, or even what it's called.

What other options are out there? Are dirt roads really the best we can do?






 
Geoff Lawton
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Hi Rustic
it just depends on traffic volumes, with long term options outside of concrete, bitumen or gravel we would have to use stone cobble stones, which although very labour intensive to built are very durable.

 
Andrew Michaels
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Hadn't thought of cobblestones. If it's good enough for the romans, I guess it's good enough for us

However, are cobblestones pretty labor intensive to maintain? My understanding is that the cobbles frequently break free due to the freeze-thaw cycle.

Thanks.

Geoff Lawton wrote:Hi Rustic
it just depends on traffic volumes, with long term options outside of concrete, bitumen or gravel we would have to use stone cobble stones, which although very labour intensive to built are very durable.

 
dave brenneman
Posts: 38
Location: london, england
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Rustic Bohemian wrote:Hadn't thought of cobblestones. If it's good enough for the romans, I guess it's good enough for us

However, are cobblestones pretty labor intensive to maintain? My understanding is that the cobbles frequently break free due to the freeze-thaw cycle.

Thanks.

Geoff Lawton wrote:Hi Rustic
it just depends on traffic volumes, with long term options outside of concrete, bitumen or gravel we would have to use stone cobble stones, which although very labour intensive to built are very durable.



I thought roman roads were compacted rubble that was then paved?

in downtown NYC there's areas of road that are often called cobblestone but are actually "setts" - rectangles of granite that are set closely together. They seem to be holding up pretty well.
 
Marcella Rose
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Location: Central Texas, it is dry here.
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Geoff Lawton wrote:Hi Rustic
it just depends on traffic volumes, with long term options outside of concrete, bitumen or gravel we would have to use stone cobble stones, which although very labour intensive to built are very durable.



I love cobblestone roads! My hometown in Minnesota had many of those cobblestone roads, and they required very little maintenence. They would still be there if the HOA did not decide they wanted to be "just like everyone else." Now, the new roads get ripped up frequently for all kinds of things. The last cobblestone road, I think, was taken out two years ago and it was still a good road, I loved to drive and bike on it.
 
Jewel Jubic
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Location: Baldwinsville
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You enjoy walking on cobblestone roads...very durable and long lasting
 
Galen Morgan
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Location: Ashtabula, Ohio zone 5b/6
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Rustic Bohemian wrote:

For instance, one driveway road I drove on in Thailand was made of a kind of concrete honeycomb material that allows grass to grow up through the holes. This allowed water to sink into the ground, eliminating the possibility of collecting considerable amounts of runoff, but it also added firmness to what would otherwise have been a very muddy surface. I have no idea about the price of this road, how it would stand up to heavy traffic, or even what it's called.



The bricks are called Permeable Pavers. They are marketed as an environmentally friendly paver stone for the exact reasons you stated, to reduce runoff. They come in standard stones like these: http://www.belgard.biz/environmental-pavers-permeable.htm and in the honeycomb shapes that you saw. I only know because I attended a hardscaping class for an old job. I also know they are not cheap and probably wouldn't hold up as a major road. Better for secondary roads/driveways/patios I would think. They are also made out of concrete just like any other paver. We have many freeze/thaw cycles here in NE Ohio and there's a parking lot made from these that's holding up well but it's only a few years old. Here's a picture of a city street paved in these: http://www.landscapeonline.com/research/article/14512
 
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