Reinforced Grass Parking: Don’t get stuck in a rut!

Reinforced Grass Parking: Don’t get stuck in a rut!

Why would you want to park on your grass?

Parking space is at a premium across a lot of Australian cities, and will only get worse with ongoing high-density infill development.  Reinforced grass parking areas are a great way to improve parking options.  You can create multi-use areas for temporary parking or provide parking on sites whe

re council landscape ratios are tight .  The wider community are focusing more on sustainability throughout design.  Reinforced grass parking is a great alternative landscape solution to traditional concrete parking.

Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD)

The CSIRO ebook on WSUD states: “Water sensitive urban design offers an alternative to the traditional conveyance approach to stormwater management. It seeks to minimise the extent of impervious surfaces and mitigate changes to the natural water balance, through on-site reuse of the water as well as through temporary storage.”.  A grass parking area or driveway is a great way to reducing hard paved areas and improve stormwater management on your site.

Weight bearing great turf driveways

Urban Heat Island Effect

The Urban Heat Island Effect has been identified as a critical climate issue, particularly in areas such as Western Sydney.   Temperatures are predicted to increase because of the changing land use from grassland to low or medium density development. As a result, councils such as Parramatta Council are implementing cooling strategies such as urban greening or shading to reduce the impacts.  This will create cool zones which are more comfortable for their residents.  You can create your own cool zone at home by replacing concrete with a grass parking area and planting to provide shade.

The National 202020 Vision aimed for 20 percent more green spaces in urban areas by 2020.  Additionally, the National Water Initiative has identified the need for greener urban development.  Grass surfaces can play a significant role in achieving these goals.

What are the benefits of grass parking areas?

If 2020 taught us anything, it was that we need our homes and local communities to be places we enjoy.  Places that help us unwind.  Green spaces and nature are good for our health, but never before have we needed direct access as much as we did in 2020.   Green areas ale help our kids development by incentivising them to get them away from the dreaded screen and spend time outside.

Integration of a grass parking are into your home or landscape design could help improve your access to green space.  A range of other benefits include: 

  • More space for kids to play when the parking is not in use.
  • Additional parking areas which improve development landscape ratios.
  • Improving stormwater infiltration can improving the health of your surrounding soil, reducing the amount of rainfall runoff and potentially reducing downstream flooding.  It may also help recharge and maintaining natural groundwater aquifers.
  • Permeable parking may give trees the space they need to grow to full size. A porous surface lets vital air and water migrate down to the rooting zone. This can help with your planting and allow a living tree canopy above to improve your green outlook.
Small spaces and inner city living, it's great to have dual purpose lawn and parking areas.

Are there any downsides to parking on the grass?

Soil compaction by vehicle loads

Healthy grass needs healthy aerated soil.  The loads from vehicle traffic, or even high foot traffic, can result in soil compaction which will reduce the amount of air and water that reaches the root zone for your grass.  Compaction also stops water infiltration and increases runoff.  Compaction occurs soil is compressed and air and water are pushed out.  This makes the soil dense and restricts root movement, infiltration, drainage and air circulation.  Then your grass dies!

Grass Pavers are designed in a hollow honeycomb or square pattern, that provides support to the root zone and protects the grass from the impacts of soil compaction.  Systems are typically laid over gravel, sand, or in some cases turf underlay.  The extent of support, and need for a heavily compacted sub-base, depends on the loads being applied and the design of your selected grass paver.  Some superior options act as weight bearing blocks and are strong enough to carry vehicle loads empty.  Others rely on the soil within and may provide less protection to the grass, or be less durable in the long term.

Wet weather and Ruts

When it rains the soil gets saturated and loses its strength.  If you drive on your grass when it is saturated you will cause ruts in your grass.  This results in unsightly ruts, bogged cars and damaged grass that needs to be repaired. A well installed reinforced grass solution will prevent your wheels slipping and distribute loads to the underlying soil.  Reinforced grass will stop you getting bogged and prevent wheel ruts.

Grass is a living plant, and needs sunlight

Anyone who has left something on the grass for a few days knows the yellow of dying grass.  The unfortunate reality is that if you park on your grass permanently, the grass will not get any sunlight and will die.  But how often would you be at home parking on the grass all day?  Can your grass get enough sunlight while your away from home? 

General consensus is that common couch grass requires 6-7 hours of direct sunlight a day to survive, but there are other options which require much less.  Lawn Solutions Australia states that Sir Walter DNA Certified can thrive with as little as 2-3 hours of direct sunlight daily.  Sir Grange zoysia grass is another option which can thrive with little as 2-3 hours sun daily.  We recommend speaking to a specialist turf supplier who can recommend a variety which is suited to your area.

How do Grass-cel porous pavers help with grass parking?

Grass-Cel® Porous Turf Pavers can help you create a reinforced grass parking area capable of supporting the heaviest of loads.   The design utilises the most efficient shape in nature, the Hexagon.  Hexagons are often seen in nature: bee hives are the common example, but definitely not the only. Basalt columns and insect eyes also form hexagonal patterns.  While we’re getting distracted by Hexagons, this article explores more weird and wonderful examples of Hexagons in nature.

Now, why was the Hexagon selected for the design of Grass-Cel® Porous Pavers?  Well, the answer is one of efficiency.  Hexagons of equal size fit together in the most efficient way across a surface, and results in the minimum perimeter distance of any shape.  That’s all a bit mathsy… but it means we can increase the wall thickness and subsequently the strength of the block.  As a result, Grass-Cell® is one of the strongest weight bearing grass pavers on the market.

Turf Driveways Weight Bearing Porous Paving

  Prevents soil compaction and ruts

Grass-Cel® is made of hexagonal cells that provide structural rigidity to the block, allowing vehicle loads to be isolated from the grass.  The flat base transfers traffic loads efficiently into the sub-grade, just like a typical paver.  These two features combine to prevent soil compaction and reduce the need for heavily compacted sub-grade for light vehicle applications.   Grass-Cel® Grass Pavers prevent wheel ruts, because they provide a stable base for your wheels in wet weather.

Promotes healthy grass

The base and sides of the cells have holes within them, which allow the roots to grow through into the underlying soil and also let air, water and nutrients reach the roots.  Runners can move laterally across cells too, through the small groove at the top of the cell.  The design has carefully considered the way grass grows to  protect your lawn and provide the best environment for success under vehicle loads.  

Environmentally Friendly and Certified

Grass-Cel is the only Grass Paver to be certified by Good Environmental Choice Australia.  Other products are similar, but none provide the combination of weight bearing, strength, and environmental certification that you can get from Grass-Cel® Porous Turf Pavers.  

Longevity and Maintenance

One of the great aspects of using grass as a paving area is that it’s a living plant and will re-grow over time.  The longevity and strength of grass pavers means that the pavers themselves are set and forget.  Grass pavers need little maintenance once they are laid and will last significantly longer than a concrete slab. A sealed driveway will eventually crack and need to be replaced which adds to maintenance and repair costs.  Grass pavers support the grass which grows in them and allow some movement.  Since the finish is grass or pebbles there are no surface to cracks.

The first driveways which had Grass-Cel® installed are still in operation today, over 40 years later.  That speaks to the quality of the product.  We have even had clients contact us for extra pavers to supplement old stock which was excavated, washed off and reused for a new installation!   The only upkeep required will be that of the lawn, but due to the protection provided by a quality grass paver issues of wear and tear and disease outbreaks are either a non-event or super easy to maintain. You’ll still be able to use your mower like normal!

What grass should I use?

Grass breed and types

Most grasses available on the market will be suitable for a grass parking or driveway area, providing they are well maintained.  We have seen great results with Sir Walter, Zoysia, Kikuyo and Couch.  The best bet is to contact your local turf supplier and speak to them about the best option for your specific climate and application.  

Don’t forget that the grass paver only protects the root zone, the grass leaf will still be exposed to the traffic as it sits above the paver.  The leaf can be damaged if you have heavy traffic.  Water, fertiliser and sunlight are critical to growing a strong and healthy grass which can withstand this damage and look beautiful for years to come.

Seed or Turf?

The best way to grow the grass is to sprinkle seeds into the cells. It’s the slowest way to grow the grass, but your grass will have a deeper root system and be hardier under traffic loads.  If you want instant gratification you can use pre-grown turf rolls which give you a grass parking area by sunset.  Another option if you live in an arid climate, have a lot of shade, or need to park on the area regularly is to fill the cells with gravel or crushed rock. This will achieve a lot of the infiltration benefits discussed and can look amazing with a specialty pebble.

Maintaining Healthy Grass

If you park on your grass you need to maintain your lawn.  Fortunately, our friends at Lovegrove Turf Services have published a great guide on how to care for your lawn.  In this guide they cover the key aspects of lawn maintenance such as watering, fertilising, mowing and more. 

permeable grassed overflow parking areas

Caufield Racecourse Carpark Grass Parking

Victoria, Australia

Grass-Cel was installed to reinforce grassed parking areas as part of the redevelopment of Caufield Racecourse Members Carpark in 2018.   Evergreen Turf were engaged by the Melbourne Racing Club to redevelop the members carpark and used Grass-Cel® Porous Grass Pavers as part of the installation of overflow parking for bus parking.  The project was successfully completed and continues to be used today. 

Evergreen Turf were engaged by the Melbourne Racing Club in 2018 to redevelop their members carpark at Caulfield Racecourse. We installed approximately 1,850m2 of GrassCel reinforced turf parking. From our experience we found the product to be strong, rigid and easily assembled onsite.
Grass-Cel®: Supporting the Circular Economy through design, reuse and recycling

Grass-Cel®: Supporting the Circular Economy through design, reuse and recycling

What is the Circular Economy?

Put simply, the concept stems from the idea that we should live within our means as a global community and focus on sustainable development to improve the quality of living for all.    According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, transitioning to a circular economy means the gradual decoupling of economic activity from the consumption of finite resources.  This requires a focus on designing waste out of the system.  

The circular economy is about:

  • Regenerating our natural systems and processes.
  • Prioritising long term effectiveness over short term efficiency.
  • Focusing on whole of life cost rather than solely initial capital cost.

In some respects, the concept is akin to going back to our grandparents generation.  A generation where quality products were purchased once with available funds and used for a lifetime.  

Focusing on our long term needs as a society, and seeking to address them with efficiently rather than always focusing on the minimum short-term cost.

Is the Circular Economy a 'thing' in Australia?

Most Definitely!  While you may not have heard a lot about it, there has been discussion and action in Australia around circular concepts for some time.  From moves toward reuse and recycling of materials, to investment in renewable energies, to organic farming and life cycle cost considerations; we have been discussing circular concepts for years.

More recently, there has been an increasing focus on the Circular Economy.  In 2020, whilst most of us were hiding from a virus, the Australian Circular Economy Hub was formed.  The ACE Hub is committed to facilitating and accelerating the transition to a circular economy in Australia. Becoming a circular economy will require the action and commitment from all individuals in our community, government and businesses.  The ACE Hub three year strategic plan is focused on knowledge sharing and networking, to facilitate a transition to a circular economy. In their words….

What is the Circular Economy
Image Courtesy of Australian Circular Economy Hub (https://acehub.org.au/)

How does Grass-Cel® help design out waste?

Design is an interesting concept, which can be considered in a number of ways.  We think of design as the way we create products, services and systems.  To us, design is the mechanism by which we shape the material environment to meet our needs and desires.  We consider two separate questions relating to the concept of designing out waste:

  1. How has the design of Grass-Cel® Porous Turf Pavers evolved to avoid waste?
  2. How Grass-Cel® Porous Turf Pavers can reduce waste in your design?

Grass-Cel® pavers have been manufactured in Australia for over 40 years.  In the early 1990’s,  we reviewed the design and considering refining the plastic thickness in the cells.  This included reductions in wall thickness and other modifications to the base and joints, with the aim to reduce construction cost.  Through the design process, comparative load testing was completed and it was decided that the strength and longevity of the product would suffer if the manufacture cost was reduced.  The change was rejected, and Grass-Cel® Porous Pavers remain one of the strongest in the market which has allowed the product to last longer and reduce waste from reinstalling.  In some cases, the blocks have even been pulled up and re-laid after they are no longer required.  This represents the best form of wast avoidance, ongoing use or reuse of a product.

Grass-Cel® pavers can help you reduce waste in your next landscape or civil design.  You can reduce wasted space by utilising grass areas for driveways and parking.  You can reduce wasted water by allowing infiltration rather than runoff.  You can reduce wasted energy by avoiding high energy products such as concrete.  Grass-Cel® pavers allow you to make beautiful multi-use spaces such as turf parking and grass driveways.  Alternately you could include a load bearing decorative pebble driveway or path in your next design or support the regeneration of natural systems.

How does Grass-Cel® keep products and materials in use?

The Circular Economy strives for a scenario where materials are kept in use.  This can be achieved through a range of methods, but some are better than others.  In order of best to worst:

  1. Reuse – Reusing products in their current form.
  2. Repair – Doing work to repair broken products and allowing ongoing use.
  3. Dismantle – Dismantling products and using their components for new products.
  4. Recycle – Taking materials from unwanted products and reusing them to manufacture new products. 
  5. Recover – Recovering materials from landfill and reusing to manufacture new products.
  6. Landfill – Disposing a product in landfill.

Our decision to maintain the strength and longevity of Grass-Cel® Porous Turf Pavers has allowed products to be used significantly longer, and avoided the need for replacement.  One of the first installations of Grass-Cel®, our intial trial of the product, is still in use today after about 40 years.  The product has also been pulled up and reinstalled successfully in the past, achieving the best outcome for an unwanted product – Reuse.

In addition to maintaining the strength of the end product, we have chosen to use recycled, rather than virgin materials, in our manufacturing.  We have selected one of the leaders in recycled plastic as our manufacturing partner and are proud to be the only Porous Turf Paver to be certified by Good Environmental Choice Australia against their Environmental Performance Standard for Recycled Products

We are committed to providing Material Stewardship for our products.  If you have unwanted Grass-Cel®, or other HDPE that you wish to recycle, please contact us and we can help arrange for the material to be Recycled.  Contact us if you want to know more.   We have also recently launched a Facebook group to facilitate the Reuse and Recycling of unwanted Grass-Cel®.

Grass-Cel® Fire Access and Golf Buggy Paths

Grass-Cel® Fire Access and Golf Buggy Paths

I was a young, enthusiastic, and fit student when I moved to Sydney for University.  Little did i know i was about to learn about international distribution channels and fire access paths in Singapore.  My grandparents were particularly interested in the enthusiastic and fit aspects.  They were manufacturing Grass-Cel® in Sydney already, and had established a relationship with a re-seller in Singapore who loved the product.

 “We have some product we need to sent to a client in Singapore, would you like to earn a little money on the weekend and help the team pack it?”.  

It seemed like an innocent enough request, until i arrived to find an empty forty foot container parked in the driveway of the factory in Taren Point.  Behind that was pallet after pallet of Grass-Cel® Porous Turf Pavers waiting to be loaded.  To get the most into a container, we needed to break down the packs and pack individual blocks into the container.  It was like a giant game of Tetris.  Fueled by chicken rolls and Berts Soft Drinks, we stacked until there was no space left.  It wasn’t until we were watching the truck drive away into the sunset that i asked my grandfather what the green hexagon blocks were used for in Singapore.  

His response: “High Rise Development, Hotels and Golf Courses.”

By the late 1990s, a new vision had been put forward—that of transforming Singapore into a City in a Garden co-created with the community.   With this in mind, from 2000 to 2009, Singapores town planners focused on building “A Liveable and Sustainable City”.   This was a paradigm shift in how Singaporeans lived and interacted with their natural environment and with each other. A key realisation was that the liveability of a city is intrinsically linked to its natural ecosystem.  With sustainable design in focus, and a recognition of the need for water sensitive design considerations in a monsoonal climate, and a need for fire safety of new developments a market gap emerged. 

New high rise developments were required to provide safe perimeter access for the large ladder fire trucks used by the Singapore Civil Defence Force to access high rise buildings.  At the time, these were some of the largest and heaviest fire fighting plant in the world.  To allow for infiltration of heavy monsoon rains and provide some green space for residents between buildings, Grass-Cel® Porous Turf Pavers were a perfect solution.  The hexagonal cell structure and solid base of Grass-Cel® was load tested to hold 26ton per block, and the product was endorsed for use in Fire Engine Accessways.

 

Grass-Cel® as pathways in Hotels and Golf Courses

Golf courses and hotel resorts across Singapore were investing heavily in expansion throughout this period.  The period 1990 to 2009 was the biggest investment in golf resorts in the history of the sport.  A lot of this expansion was driven by the opening of Changi International Airport in 1981 and subsequent Terminal 2 extension in 1990.  With an expanding business trade golf and tourism followed.   

Soils in Singapore are predominantly clayey.  Regular monsoonal rain keeps the soils moist and constant loading from golf buggies along the courses result in wear and tear on the golf courses which required maintenance.  To limit this impact, golf courses and hotels alike turned to Grass-Cel® Porous Turf Pavers as an aesthetically pleasing solution.  Grassed pathway maintain the image of a green fairway, but the load bearing cells protect the grass and reduce maintenance.  It was a match made in heaven, and a range of hotels and golf courses installed vast areas of Grass-Cel® along their paths.

References and Links
  1. GROUND BREAKING: 60 Years of National Development in Singapore (2019) – Online: Link