Thursday, January 04, 2007

Permeable roads

I'll just say that one resolution for this year is to post here more frequently. I promise to finish going through the ideas and examples in 'How Buildings Learn', but I'll have to wait until I have a bit more free time. For the moment there are a couple of things I've been thinking about over the last months; differences in building conventions between Europe and the States.
As you ride your bike around the Netherlands (itself another great sustainable
habit that is reinforced by the necessary infrastructure,) you immediately notice the unique quality of the roads. Though the main roadways and highways are paved, most residential streets and certainly the town centres are all paved in brick, cobblestone or 'pavers'. Cobblestone is actually pretty rare except for really old sections where there is mostly foot traffic. The whole art of laying brick streets is a respected tradition here- there are even competitions for speed and artistry held regularly. The greenest part of these roads is that you have an integral drainage system (the whole design is aggragate, a layer of compacted sand, and bricks or pavers) that avoids the runoff problems of conventionally paved surfaces. There are still sewers but you rarely have the accumulation that you can get with paved surfaces, even after the (frequent) heavy rains. It is also much simpler to make repairs or access buried services; the pieces covering the area are just removed and replaced without a huge amount of effort or resources. The streets do need occassional maintenance as things settle and move over the years. They recently came and pulled up our entire street brick by brick and re-graded it for drainage and then relaid each brick.

One of the funniest things was the way they worked around this guy's car one day- everyone else had moved their car off the street by then but I guess he didn't need to go anywhere. They eventually moved it and redid the street in that spot.

Months later, my neighbor's water line from the street broke and after he called the utility company, they quickly came, located the valve in the street and pulled enough bricks out to shut it off.

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