Replace Your Old Driveway with One that Sucks (Water)

Green roofs are pretty, energy-efficient, and easy to understand. But they're expensive to set up and often can't coexist with a house design due to load-bearing issues. So why not green your driveway instead?

A landscaped (or 'living') driveway sucks up rainwater, which decreases the amount of runoff that is routed to the local sewer system. It also prevents the heat buildup that occurs when the sun hits concrete or asphalt- and it doesn't crack over time. And it can look good enough to make the neighbors jealous.
Olde Cypress, Florida offers a glimpse of what may become a trendy way to reduce your house's ecological footprint. According to the Naples News, landscape architect Chris Busk got a gig reinventing a driveway at a home in Olde Cypress with "turf blocks [full of soil], pavers and zoysia grass." Zoysia is a heat resistant variety of grass native to Central Asia and Busk tells the Naples News that the owners will never need to cut it. He does warn that they should avoid letting cars sit directly on the grass since zoysia needs eight full hours of sun.

In Syracuse, NY, a nonprofit called the Center of Excellence proposed an experimental landscaping treatment for the driveway of 515 Marcellus Street, a home in the dilapidated Near West Side. The homeowner agreed, says Center director Ed Bogucz- and the resulting pebbly-and-frondy driveway has soaked up rainwater since its creation in 2006. (It's slide 22 in this presentation.) And in Toronto, a blogger Franke James chronicled her development of a green driveway in 2007 and 2008, which led to this story in Toronto's National Post.

You can also make your driveway absorb water with a cheaper fix.Nonprofits have been championing rain-drinking driveways for at least three years. A photo essay on the American Society of Landscape Architects' site shows how rain garden and pervious-pavement features went into a home in Minneapolis' Marcy-Holmes neighborhood (where slanted roofs and more runoff is common). Even though the driveway isn't totally green, it does make the landscape healthier (and cooler).

But back to the living driveway. Of course, finding and installing exotic grasses and turf blocks costs more than planting crabgrass. But consider the costs, time, and precious summer days you save from the agony of asphalt or concrete repair.
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