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.

The Culinary Institute of America at Copia Achieves Sustainable Perfection

Located in Napa Valley, California—the pinnacle destination for exploring the world of food and wine—the Culinary Institute of America at Copia (CIAC) campus achieves sustainable perfection.

GraniteCrete permeable paving pathway at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia Napa.
GraniteCrete is featured next to the reflecting pool walkway at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia

“CIA at Copia is a first for The Culinary Institute of America, entirely dedicated to offering its innovative, industry-leading food and wine education and experiences to the public. It opens a window into what the CIA truly is: a visionary thought-leader and innovator in food and beverage, with world-class faculty and facilities.” 

-Thomas Bensel, managing director of CIA’s California campus

The CIAC is a branch of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).  It’s led by Strategic Initiative Groups, which works with other culinary institutes to ensure guests and students are provided with the best and most up-to-date information.  The Copia building was originally utilized by the Copia museum from 2001 to 2008; the CIA acquired the building in 2015 and redesigned the facility with sustainability in mind. 

The CIAC campus is truly a sustainable marvel.  It features various solar, water, and renewable material strategies in its design. The campus also prioritizes stormwater runoff management and the mitigation of the urban heat island effect.  Not only does GraniteCrete perfectly address these issues, it’s earth-tone color beautifully complements the amphitheater and the entrance to the facility where it was installed.

The CIAC demonstrates sustainable excellence, while offering the top culinary education and experience for the community.

At Hirondelle House, GraniteCrete Helps Create a Terrific Terrace

Located along the Silverado Trail, Clos du Val Winery has been producing award-winning, estate-grown wine for nearly fifty years.  To accomplish this, the winery has three vineyards: State Line Vineyard and Riverbend Vineyard located in Yountville, and Hirondelle Vineyard nestled in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley.

In addition to creating delectable wines, Clos du Val seeks to create lasting connections—“between our customers, our vineyards, our wines, our people and our history.”  There’s no better place to forge such connections than over a tasting at the Hirondelle House.

One of the three outdoor terraces at Hirondelle House.
Image property of⁠—and courtesy of⁠—Clos du Val Winery.

Opened in 2018, the Hirondelle House is a remarkably beautiful and contemporary tasting room.  Its design allows visitors to connect with the “estate vineyards, the historic winery and legendary wines.”  For those wanting to enjoy their wine al fresco, Clos du Val offers the Hirondelle House Members’ Terraces.  These three terraces have ample seating to accommodate small and large groups, a fire pit, and shade-providing trees.  When additional shade is needed, outdoor umbrellas are available.

These umbrellas are attached to rolling bases with very small wheels.  When the terraces were being constructed, Clos du Val quickly realized it was difficult to roll these umbrellas across the decomposed granite originally installed as the paving surface.  Despite having a stabilizer mixed in, the decomposed granite simply wasn’t sturdy enough; the stabilizer also failed to allow water to permeate, causing water to bead on the surface.

To easily correct these issues, a switch to GraniteCrete was suggested by Tom Price of Price Landscape Surfaces.  As a firm and ADA-compliant paving material, GraniteCrete has proven to be an excellent surface that is “working perfectly.”

A Quick Guide to LEED Certification

Since its creation in 1998, LEED has grown in popularity.  Many people have heard the term.  So, what is it exactly? Here’s a quick guide.

The LEED award on the outside of the MEarth building next to Carmel Middle School.  GraniteCrete paving material was used to create the patio in front of the building.

What is LEED?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a globally-recognized building certification system sponsored by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).  It “provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings.”

How does LEED certification work?

The LEED certification program looks at building design and construction, as well as environmental factors such as responsible land use.  Points are awarded based on areas such as energy efficiency, water usage, air quality, and choice of building materials.

There are four levels of LEED certification, based on the total points earned:

How are points earned?

When a project is being developed, those involved in the process can choose relevant LEED certification credits to earn points.  The points system starts broad and funnels down to specific details:

  • Rating Systems categorize the building project
  • Credit Categories target systems in the building
  • Credits are the actual strategies to improve the building
  • Points are earned when a strategy is correctly implemented

The more points that are earned, the more sustainable the building is and the higher the certification.

How can LEED influence architects and contractors?

From the very beginning, those involved in the development and building process should carefully consider the design and building materials involved.  Some areas to consider are:

  • Use of regional and renewable materials
  • Construction waste management
  • Indoor air quality during construction

What are key benefits to certification?

Buildings with LEED certification have a host of benefits.  These buildings are designed to be resource-efficient, energy-efficient, and cost-effective.  They also support the local economy, have a greater resale value, and represent a commitment to sustainability.  A company involved in creating a LEED-certified building establishes itself as a company striving to shape the world into a greener place.

How can GraniteCrete contribute to a building’s LEED certification?

When GraniteCrete is used for walkways, patios, and small parking lots on a building project, it can contribute to earning points under the following LEED credits:

Sustainable Sites

Materials & Resources

  • Credit: Construction and Demolition Waste Management
  • Credit: Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction
  • Credit: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Environmental Product Declarations

What are Provision C.3 Requirements, and How Can GraniteCrete Help?

Our thriving communities increase the number of buildings, roadways, and sidewalks – as well as concerns about stormwater management. The pressure is increasing for builders to choose low-impact development solutions, and many communities are implementing solutions that comply with Provision C.3 requirements.

What is Provision C.3?

Provision C.3 is a requirement for new building developments (and redevelopments) to meet stormwater design compliance requirements.  Among others, requirements that must be met include:

  • Minimize impermeability and reduce runoff
  • Control runoff rates and durations, if required
  • Provide for operation and maintenance of stormwater facilities

It also requires that, when possible, permeable surfaces should be used instead of traditional paving solutions so runoff can filter through to the underlying soil.  Runoff can carry pollutants that reduce water quality and negatively affect the beneficial uses of our waters.  Provision C.3 requirements seek to protect our water sources from these issues.

Getting Started

When planning new developments or redevelopments, a stormwater control plan must be created that illustrates how the project will implement stormwater controls into the project’s design and landscaping.  The plan should also show the size and location of both permeable and impermeable surfaces, proposed stormwater facilities, and detailed information of how runoff will flow from the impermeable surfaces to the stormwater facilities.

It is recommended by Provision C.3 that to comply with these requirements, landscape architects look toward Low Impact Development (LID).  LID is an approach that seeks to control stormwater at the source and mimic the development site’s natural hydrology; it encourages architects to implement designs that will capture stormwater runoff and use it for local landscape irrigation and groundwater recharge.  This can be done in a variety of ways, including the use of rain gardens, native plants, and by installing permeable pavement.

A Natural Paving Solution

An excellent permeable pavement solution that is often overlooked is permanent decomposed granite that does not contain a resin or polymer base, such as GraniteCrete.

GraniteCrete meets Provision C.3 requirements as a stand-alone product.  It is a permanent, permeable, and environmentally-friendly paving solution.  It contains no polymers or resins, meaning it will not cause any unnatural substances to leach into the soil or groundwater over time.  It also has the durability and near-strength of traditional paving materials like concrete.

Not only is it an ideal paving solution to meet Provision C.3 requirements but best of all, GraniteCrete contributes two LEED credits when it comes to stormwater design:

  • Credit 6.1 – Stormwater Design – Quantity Control (1 point) GraniteCrete helps decrease the amount of stormwater runoff on a site
  • Credit 6.2 – Stormwater Design – Quality Control (1 point) GraniteCrete helps reduce water pollution by increasing on-site filtration.

Are you interested in using GraniteCrete on your next project? Contact us to get started!

Permeable Paving and Stormwater Management

As California moves into the heart of winter and experiences the increased rainfall that accompanies it, the importance of using a permeable solution for paved surfaces becomes increasingly apparent.

Traditional, impermeable surfaces⁠—such as concrete or asphalt⁠—have played a huge role in the decline of watershed integrity in urban and urbanizing areas.  These surfaces can affect water quality, affect streamflow, and even increase the likelihood of flooding by causing:

  • Higher discharges
  • More bank erosion
  • Increased sediment transportation
  • Increased pollutant loads to streams
  • Reduced groundwater recharge

Thankfully, alternative paving solutions exist that combat these issues.  Permeable pavement has a high porosity that allows rainfall to pass through it to the ground below, and comes with both environmental and financial benefits.

Benefits of Permeable Paving

Environmental benefits include:

  • Reduces storm water runoff rate and volume
  • Reduces water pollution by trapping pollutants in the pavement
  • Replenishes groundwater, which can in turn be used by plants surrounding the pavement
  • Reduces surface temperatures since permeable pavement doesn’t produce a “heat island”

Financial benefits include:

Additional Benefits

The benefits of permeable pavement are undeniable.  One study found that after one year’s use of four permeable pavement areas there was no measurable surface runoff from these areas. After returning to the site after an additional five years, all four permeable pavement systems showed no major signs of wear or clogging. Virtually all rainwater continued to infiltrate through every permeable pavement system, with little or no surface runoff.

Permeable Paving Options

A popular paving option is decomposed granite.  However, there are a few different types of decomposed granite solutions out there.  It’s important to know the differences between each, so one can choose the right option for the right environment.

Loose, decomposed granite is the least-expensive option, as it’s simply loose granite with no binders or additives.  While it has excellent drainage and the initial cost is low, loose granite can be costly to maintain since it’s affected by erosion and often needs to be filled in as it’s washed away or otherwise scattered from the initial installation site.  During wet periods, it is prone to becoming mushy and muddy, and can easily be tracked into homes, which may damage hardwood flooring.

Stabilized decomposed granite is comprised of a stabilizer mixed in with the granite aggregates.  There are a few different stabilizer options.

A stabilizer that is often used is a product made in India, called Psyllium husk Powder.  Once spread and compacted, it is similar in appearance to loose decomposed granite.  Over time, however, this product fails and replacing it can become costly since the stabilizer and the decomposed granite have to be mixed prior to being delivered to the installation site.

Another commonly used stabilizer is resin.  When mixed with decomposed granite, this stabilizer creates a firm surface that’s stronger than loose decomposed granite.  The primary downsides to decomposed granite stabilized with resin is that it discolors over time—meaning it lacks aesthetic appeal—and it is also not permeable.  The lack of permeability is a major issue, particularly if one is trying to meet the Provision C.3 requirements.  We will go into more depth about the Stormwater provision C.3 requirements in our February newsletter.

Decomposed granite can also be stabilized with a polymer base.  While this can be appealing to those looking for an option similar to loose decomposed granite, it fails in time allowing the decomposed granite to be tracked away from the installation location and into buildings.  The major downsides to this option is that it is not permeable, fails over time, has no color options, and has temperature requirements for installation that can delay or impact installation times.

Light Vehicular Traffic Installation
This cross-section shows GraniteCrete™ on a lift of Class II permeable base rock.

Decomposed granite stabilized with GraniteCrete Admixture has the look and feel of a crushed organic surface, with multiple surface finish options: loose, smooth, and coarse. It requires little to no maintenance, does not fail over time, and has excellent erosion control.  It is also permeable, allowing water to easily pass through; since it does not contain any oils, resins, polymers, or enzymes, it will not cause water pollution.

GraniteCrete has been approved and accepted as a 100% permeable product by Monterey County.  As noted by the County in their determination: “This determination exceeds the minimum 40% pervious surface requirement established by Monterey County and has been confirmed by an independent testing laboratory. The important fact in determining GraniteCrete™ as a permeable surface is that the entire surface of the product infiltrates water. It provides 100% ‘pass through’ regardless of whether it is used as a 3″ lift for pedestrian traffic or a 4” lift for commercial and light vehicular applications.”

In many ways, GraniteCrete is the superior decomposed granite paving option.  Interested in learning more about how GraniteCrete™ can improve your next landscaping project?  Contact a representative.  We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.