Permeable Paver System Installed for Sustainable, Multi-Use Outdoor Space

Designers went with permeable pavement because it was both a structural paving surface capable of supporting vehicular traffic and a green infrastructure solution for managing stormwater runoff.

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Ursinus College | Bernardon | Belgard Commercial

In 2020, Ursinus College, in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, completed construction of a new Student Commons building to better meet the needs of the college and, hopefully, serve as the leading edge of a downtown revitalization benefiting the community. Designers had to consider the several intended purposes of the building, as well as the desire for it to include as many sustainable infrastructure components as possible. To manage stormwater runoff into nearby Perkiomen Creek, they chose to install a permeable pavement system with Belgard Aqua Roc II under the main roadway and the building’s courtyard.

Architectural firm Bernardon was hired to design the Commons and was given two primary goals: they had to design around a historic house that sat at the main intersection between the college and town; and the new building would have to serve many functions. It was going to be the new home for Admissions, with a bookstore and café accessible to the public via the front entrances on Main Street. There would be study lounges for students near the café, and a multi-purpose room would be available to both the college and the community.

Dji 0033 Copy (2)Ursinus College | Bernardon | Belgard Commercial

“We knew from the beginning that sustainability was at the very core of the project,” explains Michael S. McCloskey, Vice President and Principal with Bernardon. “A key part of this was the idea that as much water as possible was to be held on campus instead of being allowed to flow to the creek.” Img 4303 Copy 2Ursinus College | Bernardon | Belgard Commercial

Ursinus College collects stormwater through an existing stormwater collection system that ultimately discharges into the Perkiomen Creek. Over the last decade, the regional drainage area and creek has been prone to severe flooding due to increased impervious land coverage in the growing suburban area. It was important the Commons be designed such that it would limit any increased runoff and minimize local flooding. 

The existing road to the building was a two-way asphalt drive. McCloskey and his team envisioned turning this space into a new type of roadway that could easily be used as an outdoor plaza and event space. In addition to regular traffic, they envisioned a time when the college would host food trucks there as part of community-wide festivities. They determined permeable pavement was an ideal solution because it was both a structural paving surface capable of supporting vehicular traffic and a green infrastructure solution for managing stormwater runoff. Working in conjunction with the installer, they chose Belgard Aqua Roc II (4x8 mechanical Herringbone, 80 mm). The blend of colors, Sable with Charcoal and Linen accents, complemented the colors of some of the existing brick buildings on campus and the official Ursinus red.

“Belgard is our number one go-to in concrete paver products, and the installer was also very familiar and happy with it,” says McCloskey. “It’s attractive and durable and has really good ratings for product quality from a vehicle capacity standpoint.”

To meet the design plan for a multi-use space, the road was redesignated a one-way. Parking spaces were defined with lighter colored pavers rather than paint, and EV charging stations were installed within the parking area. There are also removable bollards to help designate pedestrian areas and these can be removed when needed for snow plowing.Img 4310 Copy 2Ursinus College | Bernardon | Belgard Commercial

In November 2019, Belgard’s Stormwater Engineer Paul Cureton, P.E., provided design input to civil engineers Woodrow & Associates, Inc. to design the permeable pavement. Cureton provided information as to how much aggregate was needed beneath the pavement, how to address the drive lane slope, and how to tie-in the underdrain to the existing storm sewer.

A cross-section that includes a 4-in. base layer and 12-in. subbase layer of open-graded aggregate was designed for the approximately 20,000 sq. ft. permeable pavement system.  An underdrain within the subbase was incorporated with an outlet control structure to control the release of stormwater from the permeable pavement system when needed. Two flow dams were installed along the 300 ft. long drive lane to maximize vertical infiltration into the 2-degree sloping subgrade.

Because Aqua Roc II is palletized for fast and efficient machine installation, the Edgewood Company was able to install the roadway mechanically, saving time and cost.

“This was our first experience with Belgard and we found it to be a really good product,” says Steve Gehringer, director of facilities for Ursinus College. “We’d like to continue to use Aqua Roc II as a permeable solution as future projects allow.”

Ursinus College Aqua Roc Ii Sep 2022 7 OverviewUrsinus College | Bernardon | Belgard Commercial

Other sustainable features used in the Student Commons include the use of all-LED lighting and outdoor furniture constructed of recycled material. The landscaping is also very intentionally natural and free flowing. The architects successfully combined the historic building – which now houses the café and study spaces—with a more modern aesthetic to create an impressive space that regularly welcomes prospective students, families and Collegeville residents.

With the installation of Belgard permeable pavers, Ursinus achieved its goal of having a sustainable green infrastructure with minimal impact on the watershed and the Student Commons successfully serves both the campus and local community.

About the author

Kevin Earley, Director of Commercial Hardscapes for Belgard Commercial, has been performing surface infiltration rate testing since 2020. In fact, he will analyze the change in infiltration rates over time from this project and the information to forecast future maintenance. To date, the infiltration rates remain high, and no surface runoff is occurring.