Paving the way to new revenue streams
By Taylor Davis,
CEO and founder of PurePave Technologies
PurePave offers a Canadian designed and tested permeable paving solution.
Driveways and other household surfaces remain a fringe part of most contractor’s business, in part because it’s hard to compete against companies that specialize in asphalt, concrete, or interlocking brick surfaces for a living. But, also, because many contractors and consumers alike are unaware of new permeable paving technologies that exist in Canada.
Permeable paving has been around for decades to reduce water runoff, typically in the form of paving stones, interlocking brick and, more recently, pervious concrete and asphalt. But it was always just a partial solution that helped to reduce runoff versus eliminating it altogether. In the case of pervious concrete and asphalt, both surfaces have been plagued with a combination of being difficult to install and not standing up to our harsh winters. As for interlocking brick or paving stones, they’ve always been prone to buckling due to seasonal freeze-thaw cycles.
About 30 years ago, in response to such challenges, European companies started using resin as a binding system to create permeable pavements with natural aggregates. An anti-slip surface with greater design flexibility (achieved by using different coloured aggregate) and stormwater management – capable of handling a year’s worth of rainfall within an hour.
For Canada and the northern U.S., the missing piece of the puzzle was that the binding systems used in Europe still couldn’t handle our winters. But all of that began to change in 2014 when PurePave – with the support of the National Research Council, developed a new resin binding system that had an even higher porosity than the European surfaces and could also withstand North America’s temperature extremes.
As part of now completed research, PurePave samples (28 in total) were tested by the University of Ottawa’s Structural Laboratory to determine how they would handle Canada’s harsh winters. After a forty-cycle freeze-thaw-test, the samples were first placed in a freezer at -400C for an hour, then transferred into an isolated room with a temperature of 300C for an hour. Under comparable tests, asphalt and concrete lost 50 percent of their flexural strength. However, the University of Ottawa found that the strength of the PurePave specimens remained the same.
Breaking new ground
So now that some of the past challenges have been overcome, what are some of the reasons that contractors should consider adding this type of highly permeable, weather-resistant surface to their repertoire of homeowner solutions? One of the biggest arguments is the opportunity to establish a significant new revenue stream. Most “driveway companies” don’t currently offer an aggregate/resin surface as an option – even though they’re relatively easy to install, so the starting point for new business is to promote a product that mainstream players aren’t offering. Driveways can also lead to other projects, including as previously mentioned, walkways, patios, and pool surrounds either at the same location or as door openers to other sites.
Due to the cooling qualities of this porous surface (made even cooler with lighter coloured stones), backyard patios are becoming increasingly popular. And because of the water absorbing qualities, some homeowners are opting to have their entire homes surrounded by this surface tied to concerns over basement flooding. Other ways renovators are coming up with to help drain water away from the house, include tying the homeowners’ downspouts into this permeable paving solution to virtually eliminate the chances of water pooling at the foundation.
It’s also worth noting there are significant labour cost savings to be realized when installing these surfaces. For instance, an experienced five-man crew can install a 2,000-sq.-ft. aggregate/resin surface in a day. In contrast, it would take at least a week to install an interlocking paver surface of the same size, even though the material costs are about the same.
One of the most promising aspects of this new generation of permeable paving is an infinite range of possibilities in terms of applications and vertical markets that can be opened up. Including outside of the residential home sector that reno contractors may not have considered tapping into. For instance, one of PurePave’s partners in Halifax landed a job with the local Jaguar dealership that wanted attractively designed sidewalks that helped to reduce insurance rates (because of the drainage capabilities) and this has since transitioned into a national contract for all of Jaguar’s dealerships. Another partner in Calgary has been asked to bid on installing an aggregate/resin surface on a stretch of road where there are no drainage gates. In addition they’ve been asked to bid on the installation of 4,000 tree pits for the City of Calgary because conventional tree pits made from metal cost three times as much and are prone to a constant cycle of rusting and replacement.
A driving factor with many of these product applications is a concern over water, which as any contractor knows, is often the source of untold damage. For instance, any home or neighbourhood where there is a more frequent incidence of flooding and with it, steeper insurance rates, highly permeable surfaces can be part of the solution that could help to reduce insurance rates as well. Solutions can range from an outdoor surround for the house and basement flooring in homes where the water table is high, to driveways that slope toward the house.
A whole new wave
There’s also a whole new wave of homeowners who are looking for solutions that greatly reduce if not eliminate runoff from their lots due to environmental concerns. For instance, one homeowner in Toronto who is a volunteer for the local conservation authority, opted for an aggregate/resin surface because it would give her peace of mind, knowing that at least where she lives there is zero runoff from her driveway, thus helping to reduce pollution going into the local waterway.
Interestingly in addition to the “carrot” of installing such a surface, some of the “sticks” on the horizon, include everything from stormwater charges homeowners in some communities such as Mississauga now have to pay (but could possibly avoid if they don’t have any runoff) and as previously alluded to, higher insurance rates that some home and condo owners face.
Whether carrots or sticks, all of this translates into an increased opportunity for contractors, while at the same time, providing an essential service for homeowners as well as potential clients outside of the residential sector.