Sustainable School

July 1, 2014
Permeable pavers help gain LEED-certification for a college campus building

It is well known that you learn better when you experience something than you do when you read about it. This is true about sustainability—and also true about environmentally sound ways to conserve and purify storm water.

A number of years ago, officials at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., thought it was time to learn—and teach others—about the need for sustainability.

Today, the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability, a 3,400-sq-ft building on campus, is one of the nation’s leading think tanks where educators, students and community members can learn more about how to implement sustainability both in their daily lives and in the larger world beyond.

Five years ago, this building was an exhibit to show sustainability. Now, it has been repurposed into an example that demonstrates it.

The center is the home base for Sustainable Furman, a long-range master plan to help the university focus on ways to incorporate sustainability into daily life.

Between 2008 and 2013, Furman University invested $5 million in campus sustainability improvements. Students now are required to take a course on humans and the natural environment as part of the general education requirement.

Before it was an academic building, the Shi Center was The Cliffs Cottage at Furman, a showcase home built in collaboration with Southern Living magazine. The idea was to build a home that made extensive use of sustainable and energy-efficient materials. After construction was complete, it was certified as LEED Gold.

Inside, that meant bamboo flooring, a geothermal ground source heat pump, a photovoltaic system and Energy Star-rated appliances. Outside, it used xeriscaping and drought-resistant plants to minimize the facility’s water consumption, as well as extensive use of StormPave clay permeable pavers by Pine Hall Brick Co. in the walkways and terraces around the house.

“The Pine Hall Brick clay pavers were a perfect addition to this project,” said Ed Marshall, who served as project director on the original Cliffs Cottage project. “It is really a marriage of design and function—a beautiful product that meets our criteria for sustainability perfectly.”

When installed in a “best practice” permeable pavement installation design, the pavers allow rainwater to infiltrate through the walkway surface to the groundwater below, which acts as a natural filter, instead of flowing across the surface to a storm drain and picking up pollutants along the way.

StormPave and other clay pavers in Pine Hall Brick’s product line have been chosen by landscape designers for years for their permanence and aesthetic appeal.

Many of those installations have been done on college campuses. Sometimes, some of the pavers are inscribed with the names of donors to past fundraising campaigns. In the case of Furman, the new pavers visually connect the pedestrian walkways of the house with the existing pedestrian clay paver walks used elsewhere on the university’s campus.

Walt Steele is paver business manager for Pine Hall Brick Co. Steele can be reached at [email protected] or 800.334.8689.

About the Author

Walt Steele