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Wake Forest University goes water permeable with local clay pavers

September 28, 2012


For some, September marked the beginning of a new school year. For Pine Hall Brick Company, it also marked the beginning of a makeover at the neighbor’s place.

Students returning to Wake Forest University, which is close to Pine Hall Brick’s headquarters in Winston-Salem, NC, noticed some changes on campus when they got back. Among them was a brick sidewalk, made of Pine Hall Brick’s StormPave® permeable pavers.

Ryan F. Swanson, university architect, says the project concentrated both on three things: aesthetics, practical design and available space.

The aesthetics come in because red brick is so much an identifiable part of Wake Forest’s campus that Pine Hall Brick Company makes a special color called Deacon Blend for new campus buildings. Deacon Blend complements the handmade red brick that was chosen for many of the original campus buildings – and was used to construct Deacon Tower at BB&T Field, which won the Bronze Award in the commercial category in the Brick In Architecture Awards from the Brick Industry Association this year.



So far, the eight-foot-wide sidewalk is alongside Carroll Weathers Drive on campus near Worrell. By the end of next summer, the sidewalk will extend past Farrell Hall, the new Dining Hall and the two new Residence Halls. There will also be a 24-foot wide walkway extending 120 yards, built to handle fire trucks and other emergency vehicles, directly east of Farrell and leading to the student parking lots.

The practical design was part of a larger effort on the university’s part to meet Winston-Salem’s stormwater mitigation requirements.

Swanson says that part of the challenge is the nature of a university campus itself. Like many commercial installations, universities require a fair amount of hard surfaces, including parking lots, sidewalks, driveways, roads and rooftops, in a fairly limited amount of space. Were the land left undeveloped, rainfall would run off and be absorbed into the soil naturally.

Once the area is built up, rainfall has nowhere to go. The excess water can cause a surge of water downstream that can cause erosion, flooding and property damage. As a result, cities and counties now require owners to install storm water management mechanisms, such as permeable pavers and other means, to keep more rainwater on site and return downstream flows closer to a volume that would occur naturally.

Swanson pointed out that those considerations have been part of recent campus construction projects.

Two large concrete cisterns, capable of handling 110,000 gallons, were installed under the parking lot at the Byrum Welcome Center to collect and then dissipate stormwater at a slower rate. The cisterns are used in conjunction with three bioswales – hollowed out earth areas – to slow water flow into Lake Katherine and Silas Creek. At the new South Residence Hall, two bioswales were created that collect rainwater in a crushed rock bed that’s 5 feet deep. There are also several in-ground mini-cisterns with a rock filtering system connected to the stormwater system under Jasper Memory Lane.

Swanson says bioswales are excellent ways to mitigate stormwater, but they take up a lot of land area, which is at a premium on college campuses.

“As part of the north campus construction project, there is an opportunity to move away from large cisterns and bioswales to more cost-effective stormwater strategies such as the permeable pavers,” says Swanson.

The pavers, Swanson says, represent an opportunity to allow rainwater to filter through the field of bricks and be absorbed by 18 inches of aggregate beneath them. The aggregate keeps the pavers stable, while at the same time collecting the rainwater and then slowly releasing it.


“In a tight space where a large amount of sidewalk is programmed, permeable pavers are much more cost efficient than underground cisterns, allowing water to naturally seep into the ground feeding nearby trees and grass,” says Swanson. “And as most would agree, they look great at the same time.”

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