GraniteCrete: A Wheel Good Choice for Driveways

As homeowners make green choices with increasing frequency—incorporating native plants into the landscape, opting for solar power, and switching to low-flow appliances—many are turning their sights toward the pavement surrounding their homes.

GraniteCrete driveway at a private residence in Pasadera, CA.

For the areas that see vehicle traffic, homeowners have some important factors to consider:

  • Is the material durable enough to bear the weight and movement of a vehicle?
  • Is the finished product going to be attractive and complement the home and surrounding landscape?
  • Will it be susceptible to annoyances common with traditional paving options, such as surface puddling or weeds poking through?

Finding a solution that fits all these criteria can be challenging.  Fortunately, one doesn’t need to look further than GraniteCrete paving material.

Durability
GraniteCrete is an average of 3.5 – 4.5 times stronger in compression than what is required to withstand the surface pressure exerted by a heavy vehicle, such as a fire truck.  Outside of laboratory testing, GraniteCrete’s durability has been put to the test at UC Santa Cruz: A crane with ballast weighing 95,000 pounds traveled down a GraniteCrete pathway to its staging area.  Two wheels were on the surrounding dirt and two wheels were on the GraniteCrete, for a total of 47,500 moving pounds on the GraniteCrete at one time.  Despite this heavy load, the GraniteCrete bore the weight without failing!

Aesthetics
GraniteCrete is available in five standard earth-tone colors, as well as custom colors, allowing it to blend in with nearly any surrounding landscape.  This also allows it to easily complement other landscaping elements, such as stone and wood – as shown by the excellent work of Dave Washer

Common Annoyances
Since GraniteCrete is porous, water won’t stay on the surface – meaning homeowners can say “goodbye” to having to choose between dodging puddles or getting their shoes wet after rainfall.  Despite its permeability, GraniteCrete deters weed growth as a naturally weed- (and gopher!) resistant product.  Although it’s common to see greenery poking through pavement, that won’t happen with GraniteCrete.

Other Benefits
While a GraniteCrete driveway is a winning solution for the homeowner, it also benefits the surrounding community.  Due to its high Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) value, it helps combat the Urban Heat Island Effect; this can lead to reduced energy costs, air pollution levels, and heat-related illnesses – now that’s cool!

Golden Gate Park’s Pawsome Update

In San Francisco, Golden Gate Park is a true treasure and oasis amongst the hustle and bustle of the city.  Visited by 24 million people each year, it stretches over 1,000 acres and has something for everyone, including: gardens, picnic areas, numerous trails, a disc golf course, and a dog park in each quadrant.

The newly-renovated Dog Training Area at Golden Gate Park.

One of these dog parks—known as the Dog Training Area, located near the Bison Paddock—recently underwent a renovation thanks to a generous grant from the California Natural Resources Agency.

The renovation included numerous improvements and updates, including new picnic tables and benches, replacement of the fencing, a multi-level dog fountain, new landscaping, and accessibility improvements to the parking lot and pathways throughout the area.

For the pathways, San Francisco’s Public Works department chose GraniteCrete paving material. GraniteCrete stood out as the best accessible choice because it requires minimal maintenance and is “firm and stable, non-slip, and permeable.”

GraniteCrete is thrilled to be part of the Dog Training Area’s fetching transformation, and hope visitors and their four-legged friends enjoy it for years to come.

GraniteCrete Joins the CLCA Board

GraniteCrete is excited to announce that our very own Senior Account Manager, Dave Ventura, has joined the Central Coast Chapter of the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) as a board member!  Dave will serve as both secretary and treasurer for the 2021 calendar year. He’`s excited to join the Central Coast Chapter’s team and looks forward to helping it grow.

GraniteCrete Senior Account Manager Dave Ventura.
David Ventura, Senior Account Manager

What is the CLCA?
Incorporated in 1952, the CLCA was formed when three regional landscaping trade groups joined together to “protect the scope of work allowed under the C-27 [contracting] license.”

Since then, the CLCA has grown to include a variety of programs and services designed to help and support landscape contractors throughout the state.  Those include statewide education efforts, an annual convention, and the  Landscape Educational Advancement Foundation (LEAF) scholarship for students majoring in programs related to landscaping.

Membership in the CLCA has also expanded over the decades to include landscape architects and designers, teachers and students, government personnel, and more!

Don’t Let Winter Send Your Landscaping Projects into Hibernation

While some paving materials can technically be installed under conditions that are less than ideal, doing so can be risky and increase the likelihood the product will fail shortly after installation.  Common issues that can plague these installations are large cracks, uneven surfaces, and holes in the pavement.  The need for these avoidable repairs can drive up both product and labor costs in the long-run – and cause unnecessary headaches!

GranitCrete installation in progress.
Installation of GraniteCrete at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve in Watsonville, CA.

Fortunately, there are a few paving solutions available that are less-prone to such issues, including GraniteCrete.  Two primary factors that might totally prevent the installation of other paving materials either don’t affect – or actually help! – the installation of GraniteCrete: low temperatures, and moisture in the air.

Low Temperatures
Low temperatures can affect the integrity of some paving materials, but not GraniteCrete!  It can be installed at temperatures as low as 33° Fahrenheit – just one degree above freezing.

Moisture
Moisture in the air can also negatively impact the installation of some paving materials.  While GraniteCrete cannot be installed during rainfall, light fog and mist are actually beneficial and aid its installation.  According to Geoff Smith, who developed GraniteCrete, even a drizzle won’t necessarily impede proper installation – provided adjustments are made to the moisture level added during the installation process.

Happy Holidays from GraniteCrete!

As the year winds down and we turn our sights toward the one to come, we’d like to express our gratitude to the architects, installers, retailers, and customers who chose to include us in their projects this past year. We appreciate your support, and look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.  Before we gear up for the new year, we’d like to take a moment to share a few highlights from 2020:

GraniteCrete has also been fortunate to be a part of many exciting projects that put sustainability, durability and permeability first.  Here, we recognize this year’s outstanding commercial and residential installations:

  • The new campus for a well-known tech company, AKA “The Camp”: Located in the Ardenwood district of Fremont, the surrounding landscape of this new “mega-campus” was designed by RHAA Landscape Architects and installed by Jensen Landscape Services (JLS).  According to JLS Superintendent, Eduardo Vera:

“GraniteCrete was a good fit for this campus because it offers a natural look that blends well into the surrounding landscape. We created a campground area with the GraniteCrete being the main paving, and it really brings this section of the job together!”

  • Corte Madera: The site of a former dairy, Dave Washer spent several months transforming this property in Corte Madera into something truly extraordinary.  While he incorporated GraniteCrete in traditional ways – as paving for patios or stairs – he also used it as “grout” in between stones, and  to create a more firm surface beneath a bed of mulch.

Retailer Spotlight

This year we would like to recognize Graniterock – Redwood City as our top retailer and Michael Doucette as our top retail salesperson. Graniterock has been a great partner over the years, and this year the Redwood City facility decided to become a pre-mix facility; the end result brought them six-digit sales for the year. We would like to give a special thank you to Michael for bringing us in on almost all of his sales involving GraniteCrete. This was a great choice, as his closure rate was almost 100% for the year. Thank you Graniterock and Michael for a fantastic year!

Outstanding sales representative Michael Doucette and a feline friend.

UCSC Chooses Sustainability

At the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC,) the Coastal Science Campus covers 100 acres, and encompasses several buildings that play significant roles in the university’s Coastal Sustainability Initiative.

GraniteCrete paving outside the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, UC Santa Cruz.

The Coastal Sustainability Initiative addresses various environmental issues with a focus on the health of coastal ecosystems around the world.  At the Coastal Science Campus, some of the facilities that help with achieving this goal are the Joseph M. Long Marine Laboratory and its Seymour Marine Discovery Center, as well as the Coastal Biology Building that opened its doors in 2017.

The Coastal Biology Building is an impressive 40,000-square foot building designed by EHDD Architecture.  It features various laboratories and offices to support both faculty and research. The building is equipped with a 125-foot seminar room, analytical labs, and a natural running seawater laboratory.  

When designing the surrounding landscape, landscape architects Joni L. Janecki & Associates (JLJA) were careful to consider the substantial impact this project could have on the fragile ecosystem surrounding the project.

GraniteCrete was uniquely qualified to meet these concerns while offering a sustainable and lasting solution.  JLJA chose GraniteCrete as a paving solution, and pushed for its inclusion for an 8-foot-wide walkway surrounding the Coastal Biology Building.  The aesthetics of the walkway add to the natural beauty of the campus and the surrounding area.

Installation of the walkway was completed by Graniterock Construction Division. The ease of installation and quality of GraniteCrete’s Admixture was recognized by Graniterock installers: “Everyone loves it. It really holds up well.”

GraniteCrete is proud to partner with fellow sustainable organizations such as the UCSC Coastal Science Campus, as they prioritize positive environmental practices.

GraniteCrete permeable paving pathway alongside the blue whale skeleton at UC Santa Cruz.
“Ms. Blue” is a blue whale skeleton at UC Santa Cruz; it’s one of the largest skeletons of any kind, displayed anywhere in the world! 

Mia’s Dream Come True: All Abilities Playground

Daniel Vasquez and Emelyn Lacayo had an uncomplicated dream: The creation of an ultra-accessible and inclusive playground where their daughter Mia—and people of “all ages and abilities”—could play and enjoy the outdoors.

Clockwise from top-left: Daniel’s sketch; the playground under construction; the airplane and water tower; the entrance to the playground.

From the time she was born at just 33 weeks, Mia has been a fighter.  Weighing just over two pounds at birth, she spent 100 days in the NICU and left the hospital weighing just five pounds.  Facing a host of health issues, doctors told her parents she likely wouldn’t live to see her first birthday, but Mia defied the odds.

As she’s grown, she’s developed a love for visiting parks and enjoying the outdoors.  Since she is unable to walk, her parents used to take her to the nearest accessible playground in Palo Alto whenever possible.  Due to the distance, traffic, and Mia’s needs, a trip to this playground would often be an all-day excursion.

In 2016, when Mia was eight-years-old, Daniel was inspired to sketch a design for an accessible playground that would be a little closer to their home in Hayward.  After securing funds from the Make-a-Wish foundation to help make this playground a reality, Daniel and Emelyn approached the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District Foundation (HARD Foundation) for additional support.  With the foundation’s assistance, what had once been a humble sketch soon morphed into a formal set of plans.  Two years later, ground broke on the playground and it was completed in 2020.

Christened Mia’s Dream Come True: All Abilities Playground, the playground features play areas modeled after notable places in Hayward.  Among these are:

  • A firetruck donated by the Hayward Fire Department that has been refurbished into a wheelchair-accessible play structure
  • A large airplane structure for the Hayward Executive Airport that has a wheelchair-accessible swing set hanging from its wings
  • A water tower

As a complement to these accessible play structures,  the ADA-accessible paving material GraniteCrete is used throughout the playground.  We are thrilled to play a part in helping people of all ages and abilities enjoy this wonderful and inclusive playground for years to come.

Restoring Nature: Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve

The Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve sits just outside of San Jose.  Encompassing 1,432 breathtaking acres, it has a rich history – it was once a logging operation, the site of a huge mansion, and the location of a Jesuit theology school.

In the late-1990s, it was also the planned site for a shiny new golf course and luxury housing development.  Fearing that such urbanization would “harm the rural character of the area,” environmentalists worked swiftly to halt these plans, and convinced Santa Clara county supervisors to block the development.

Nearly twenty years after the development plans were blocked, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (“Midpen”) completed the first of three phases to restore this area to its former glory.  This first phase included: removing invasive plant species to allow wildflowers and other native species to thrive; introducing drainage improvements to reduce erosion; and creating six miles of new hiking and equestrian trails, with an ADA-accessible path around Upper Lake.

To pave these new trails, Midpen selected GraniteCrete – a permeable and environmentally-friendly paving material that maintains its integrity even when subjected to rainfall and heavy traffic, perfectly complementing Midpen’s goals of reducing erosion and providing ADA-accessible pathways.

GraniteCrete was also chosen because it can be installed later in the traditional construction season.  It can be installed under wetter conditions – and has a shorter cure time – than similar paving options.  We at GraniteCrete are proud to have played a role in helping restore the Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, and we look forward to seeing what Midpen achieves in the following phases of restoration!

Piper Whitney Construction: Passionate About Permeability

Operating out of southeast Texas, Piper Whitney Construction has been bringing permeable paving solutions to both commercial and residential clients since 2015.

Synthetic grass around a pool area.
Photo property of – and courtesy of – Piper Whitney Construction.

Kryshon and Michael Bratton have been building pools for nearly three decades.  To allow clients to easily access the patios and outdoor kitchens often surrounding these pools, the Brattons began a small off-shoot business building driveways.  This off-shoot business gradually morphed into what is now known as Piper Whitney Construction (named after their two daughters).

Piper Whitney Construction (PWC) embodies one of the Brattons’ core values: “responsible hardscape construction.”  What this means for PWC is stepping away from traditional paving materials (such as concrete and asphalt) in favor of materials that are more sustainable and eco-friendly—without sacrificing the strength and durability found in traditional materials.

PWC also seeks to use materials that are permeable, to help offset the effects of heavy rainfall often experienced in the greater Houston-area.  Some of the products PWC has used in the past include: drivable grass, permeable pavers, and synthetic grass.

Recently, PWC has been looking to incorporate the environmentally-friendly GraniteCrete permeable paving material into future designs.  In August, a small mock-up of GraniteCrete was completed in Texas.  It is currently being tested through regular foot and vehicular traffic.  We are excited to work with PWC to bring a broader selection of permeable and sustainable paving solutions to Texas!

Dave Washer: Hardscape Artist

On paper, summarizing who Dave Washer is and what he does should be easy.  It’s not.

Limiting him to his occupation (landscape design and build contractor) would be doing a disservice to his creativity, his knowledge of—and respect for—the natural environment, and his innate sense of the spiritual threads that connect us as people, animals, and plants.

So, yes.  While Dave Washer is a landscape design and build contractor, he is so much more than that.

All images property of – and courtesy of – Dave Washer.
The GraniteCrete pathway in the upper-left image would later be covered with a bed of mulch after a discussion with Public Works.

I met with Washer at a property in Corte Madera he’s been busy transforming over the course of a month. The work isn’t done yet, and will likely take the rest of the summer.

While we walked the property, he described his basic formula for planning a landscape:

  • Large and beautiful specimen trees
  • A variety of grasses
  • The use of pollinator perennials both as “weeds” and to provide a splash of color (”See how it looks like a meadow?” he gestured to where grasses and perennials swayed as a gentle breeze moved through them; I had to admit that it did)
  • Pathways and terraces that weave throughout, helping create defined spaces.

The Importance of Defining Space
As we stood inside a fenced nook near the front of the property, he elaborated on this last point. Having defined spaces is a guiding principle for all landscapes he designs, as these establish the “bones” of a design. “You need strong foundations when you’re creating something – whether that’s a habitat, something dramatic, or something whimsical. If you can’t have it last for ten, twenty, thirty years… it’s kind of useless to try to even go there.”

He continued, “You can define space in different ways: You can use pathways, create alcoves, build walls, et cetera.” During our tour, he pointed out examples: dry-stack rock walls, strategically placed seating areas, and pathways that guide visitors from one area to another. There aren’t any doorways, but there’s a distinct sense of moving from room to room.

Remaining Connected to Nature
Washer also wants his designs to feel connected to the natural habitat “so that when a landscape is finished, it looks like it was there long before the house was built.” To accomplish this, he often uses GraniteCrete because it allows the surrounding landscape to continue “being in a relationship with nature.”

Washer acknowledged that using paving materials such as concrete or tile are fine close to a building. However, as the landscape moves away, it’s important to use material that has an aesthetic quality and is able to be out in a natural setting. GraniteCrete, he says, fits this need due to its structural integrity and overall look. Since he began using it roughly three years ago, he’s become a Certified Installer and has used GraniteCrete for pathways, stairs, as “grout” in between stones, and to create a more firm surface beneath a bed of mulch.

Practicing Sustainability
The fact that GraniteCrete can be recycled also fits Washer’s overall landscaping approach. While it’s not explicitly stated, it’s clear that sustainability is important to him, illustrated by items scattered throughout that he’s given a second life: We traversed a pathway paved with unused headstones, admired “sculptures” crafted from naturally-fallen and harvested redwood trees, and visited another garden that uses San Francisco cobblestones as edging.

Near the end of our time together, Washer and I talked about how he got his start designing landscapes in 2001. To secure his first job, he took a photo of the client’s front yard and did some work in Photoshop to show what he would convert it into. It impressed the client – who referred to him as a ‘hardscape artist’ – and he got the job. “I had no idea what I was doing then,” he admitted. Looking around at what he’s in the process of creating nearly two decades later, it’s safe to say that’s no longer the case.