Sunday, August 10, 2008

Green House, Green Driveway

There is a house in Oshawa, Ontario developed by Marshall Homes that is causing people to talk. It is an environmentally-friendly, green home that hosts one of the first green driveways. It was the driveway that first attracted all the attention – not your usual black asphalt; but, a soft grass-green substitute that filters out impurities and keeps salt, sealants and other chemicals out of the sewer systems. Passers-by weren’t sure what to make of this new material. The colour was certainly beautiful and it did soften the look of the house; but, what about the watering, weeding, and mowing. What is this wonder material? Think grass.

The trick to keeping the grass driveway from developing ruts and sinking is the plastic support grid that sits just below the surface and absorbs the weight of the vehicles. Not even heavy trucks or SUVs can destroy this driveway.

This technology has been around for many years; but, so far most installations in Canada (at least) have been in business settings. Most homeowners did not even realize that it existed or that it could be installed in personal residences. Marshall Homes feels that with the growing concern for the environment – NOW is the time to market this technology to home owners.

Grass driveways can prevent petroleum products such as driveway sealants, oil, salt and car care products from entering the sewer system. It does this by absorbing and/or reducing the runoff that would occur with an asphalt driveway. Keeping it out of the sewer also keeps it out our lakes, rivers and other water sources. This reduces the damage to the fish habitats and the ecosystems involved.

There are only two problems that Marshall Homes can see with installing a green driveway and they are working to remove the kinks. In winter, the grass could die back and in summer, if you leave a vehicle parked on it for days, it could yellow out.

However, Rick Cavallero of Invisible Surfaces, a company in Colorado that sells similar green driveways, says, "snow is not a problem for the surface; but, constant traffic is". He recommends that people not go in and out in exactly the same spot over and over – vary the places you park. He reminds us that this is real, growing grass and needs to be treated a little differently than asphalt. While this may take a different standard of care; at least, you won’t have to spray it with tar every year.

This driveway prices in at about $10 a square foot – less than an interlock driveway; but, five times the cost of a standard driveway. Possibly the only environmentally-unfriendly aspect of this technology is that extra water is required to keep your driveway green. However, many other environmentally-friendly components of the house make up for this.

Low-flow toilets, shower heads and faucets are installed throughout the house with a special tank in the basement that takes all the grey water from showers, baths, dishes, etc. and reroutes it to be used in the toilets. Reusing this water in-house not only stops 30% of your water and sewage usages; it also prevents this water from having to go through a treatment plant before being pumped back to you, consuming extra electricity in its journey. The only drawback to this plan is that the toilet water may be a little soapy; although, this could reduce your need for toilet cleaning supplies.

The final green touches to this home are energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs and recycled paint with low levels of volatile organic compounds.

When do I move in?

1 comment:

Kathi said...

Interesting! One of my rental houses does not have a permanent driveway, something I've had on the 'improvement list.' Now I may rethink the choice. It actually has a grass driveway that has some gravel. It's worked fine for the 30 years I've owned it - just thought a permanent driveway was desirable. Since it's a rental where tenants do a lot of damage, those repairs have always taken precedence over upgrades. Thanks for new info! :)