Grass Driveways: An environmentally sustainable alternative.

Why would you want a Grass Driveway?

Grass driveways can be a great way to create more space to play, make your yard cooler, and reduce storm water runoff.  

Ever since the first asphalt streets were laid in Sydney in the early 1930s, the use of concrete has become the default choice for high pedestrian and vehicle traffic spaces throughout Australia’s urban landscape. With an increased focus on sustainability throughout design and the wider community, an attitude shift has occurred with people looking for alternatives to traditional building methods.

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 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.

Recognised Architects are Using It

Sometimes it’s best to trust the professionals.  In 2018, Sydney architect Madeleine Blanchfield won the My Ideal House design competition run by Mirvac and Australian House & Garden.  Her plan for the home comprised two modules: a double-storey sleeping zone at the front and a single-level living area at the rear.  It also had a GrassCel® Porous Paver reinforced Grass Driveway.  Check out the Video below.

What are the benefits of grass driveways?

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 help our kids development by incentivising them to get them away from the dreaded screen and spend time outside.

Integration of a grass driveway 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 driveway is not in use.
  • 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 driveways 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.
  • A GrassCel® Driveway is more flexible and wont crack with tree roots.

Are there any downsides to driving 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 when 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 provide 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, such as GrassCel® Porous Pavers, 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 help stop 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 driveway 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 driveways?

Grass-Cel® Porous Turf Pavers can help you create a reinforced grass driveway 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. 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 result 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 in 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 driveway, 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 driveway 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 drive 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. 

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