Curbing the Urban Heat Island Effect with Porous Paving

It’s no secret that our climate is changing and our world is heating up – but, as we now know, these changes aren’t happening equally. Even within any State or province, there are huge disparities when it comes to the weather. Let’s explore why that is, and what we can do to begin to undo the damage. 

What is the Urban Heat Island Effect?

An urban heat island is a metropolitan or urban area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural or suburban areas. The reason for this discrepancy is typically dense infrastructure (such as roads and buildings), along with a higher population with lots of human activity. Due to a lack of greenery and natural landscapes, the temperature climbs much faster than in areas with lots of vegetation. This is especially true during the night and is most apparent when there’s little to no wind. Daytime temperatures in urban areas tend to be about 1–7°F higher than temperatures in outlying areas while nighttime temperatures are about 2-5°F higher.

The Issue with Traditional Paving

Before we discuss heat island solutions, let’s chat about the problem with conventional paving materials in this scenario. 

Did you know that traditional paving options such as asphalt and concrete can reach peak temperatures of 120–150°F (48–67°C) in the summer? 

And as the heat rises from these non-porous surfaces, it contributes to the temperature of the air. Additionally, as stormwater on these surfaces pools, it heats up, further propagating the problem. And since an average of 30-45% of urban areas are covered by these non-porous surfaces, permeable vs. non-permeable paving is a huge factor to consider.

How Can Porous Paving Help?

So, now that you have a better understanding of urban heat island causes and why cities are warmer than rural areas, it’s important to pinpoint a few possible heat island effect solutions. Let’s chat specifically about porous paving products.

Below are a few of its benefits.

Heat Absorption

Because porous paving products like Ecoraster are made up of large open grid cells, rather than one solid surface, these act like “pores” that allow them to breathe. Thanks to this, they’re able to handle extremely high temperatures, without reflecting that heat into the air. In this way, these “cool pavement” options help keep the heat island effect under control much more successfully than asphalt or concrete, for example. 

Stormwater Management 

As we mentioned earlier, another important aspect of heat island effect mitigation is stormwater management. By allowing the water to pass into the ground, porous paving not only hydrates the earth and any surrounding vegetation, but it also prevents stormwater runoff from pooling on the surface and heating up the air. 

Various Fills to Choose From

The beauty of porous paving is that it can be filled with virtually anything. While popular options include gravel and pebbles, natural fills such as sand and grass are also an option. And by installing green paving that’s properly reinforced by porous grids, municipalities can benefit from heat-reducing green spaces that are low maintenance. 

Looking for urban heat island effect solutions? Learn more about permeable paving and its municipal applications.

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