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Historic Buckingham Fountain in Chicago Undergoes a Renovation with Unilock

The Chicago Park District has begun installing Unilock permeable interlocking concrete pavers as part of the Buckingham Fountain Renovation Project. With 235,000 sq ft (5.4 acres) of permeable pavers being installed, the famous fountain will boast the largest decorative permeable paving area in the U.S. Not only will the pavers help maintain the historic character of the fountain, they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “The Chicago Park District approved the Eco-Priora Coral Gem pavers for Buckingham Fountain primarily because the product meets three critical requirements: the pavers satisfy federal guidelines for ADA accessibility requirements; they match the original fountain paving color and appearance; and they satisfy storm water management requirements without the need for additional water storage in surface basins or underground chambers,” said Michael Fus, preservation architect for the Chicago Park District. “Additionally, the permeable pavers have the added benefits of proven durability, minimal maintenance, ready availability, invisible repairs, and they demonstrate the use of best management practices regarding sustainability and environmental sensitivity.” Unilock matched the previous pebble surface with pink granite concrete pavers. The Eco-Priora pavers will make for a much smoother surface and provide a similar look surrounding Buckingham Fountain. Landscape restoration around the perimeter will further enhance it. Improvements to the fountain itself will occur in 2009 through 2010.

With this renovation, the Buckingham Fountain area will meet the Chicago Department of Water Management’s new 2008 ordinance for storm water detention requirements. Permeable pavers are included in the ordinance as a best management practice. Also, pavers are more durable than other materials, such as asphalt and concrete, with a lower lifecycle cost. Pavers can support heavier loads from large vehicles that use the area for events such as Lollapalooza and the Taste of Chicago. Unilock has seen an increased demand for permeable pavers in the last six years because of their environmental friendliness and efficiencies with storm water runoff. Currently, there are more than 3 million sq ft (68.8 acres) of permeable pavers in the Chicagoland area, mostly in parking lots. The Chicago Park District’s use of permeable pavers at Buckingham Fountain will set a new standard for pedestrian plazas and walks in North America.

Benefits of Permeable Paving

Permeable pavers allow water to infiltrate below the paving surface and detain stormwater runoff until after a peak storm surge. Eventually, the majority of the runoff will infiltrate naturally into the subsurface area, reducing or eliminating the amount of stormwater entering a municipal system.

The use of permeable pavers are a recommended best management practice by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a recommended construction practice under Low Impact Development and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) guidelines. The most significant environmental advantage of permeable pavers over traditional paving surfaces is that they make rainwater valuable, storable and usable. Other benefits include:

  • high durability – stronger than pour-in-place concrete and asphalt;
  • reducing or eliminating stormwater runoff by detaining water in base material;
  • maximizing groundwater recharge and/or storage;
  • improving water quality by filtrating water through the base and soil;
  • reducing runoff temperatures;
  • decreasing project costs by reducing or eliminating drainage systems; and
  • improving the health of living landscaping (e.g., plants, grass and trees)

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