Research team at Auburn University testing “green” concrete at arboretum parking lot

AUBURN – A team of four researchers at Auburn University are collaborating on a year-long project that will give the parking lot at Auburn’s Donald E. Davis Arboretum a “green” makeover with pervious concrete.

Pervious concrete is a porous concrete that supports loads while absorbing and filtering stormwater on its way into the soil and is the focus of the Auburn team’s research study on stormwater quality improvement.

The team project was conceived by Michael Hein, professor in the McWhorter School of Building Science and principal investigator; Mark Dougherty, assistant professor of biosystems engineering in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering; Charlene LeBleu, associate professor in the landscape architecture program in the School of Architecture; and Dee Smith, curator of the College of Sciences and Mathematics’ Donald E. Davis Arboretum.

The four had been working independently on various projects using pervious concrete, rain gardens and other green landscape features throughout the arboretum. They joined together to apply for a research grant from the Alabama Water Resources Research Institute to investigate the effectiveness of pervious concrete in capturing and purifying stormwater runoff. The team was awarded the grant and began planning the project in January.

The new parking lot is being designed and built by a team of interdisciplinary students. Biosystems engineering students, along with Dougherty, designed a water distribution and sampling system that will be embedded beneath the pervious concrete. A landscape architecture student under the direction of LeBleu designed green infrastructure, including a rain garden, to hold and distribute stormwater filtered by the paving. Architecture and building science students in Hein’s concrete structures course have planned and will execute the construction.

The initial pervious concrete placement in the parking lot is scheduled for Thursday, April 16 at 1 p.m. if weather permits. For an image of the project, go to http://wireeagle.auburn.edu/multimedia/arboretum_poster.jpg.

Those involved in the construction phase of the project will receive training and certification from the National Ready Mix Concrete Association.

After the pervious concrete is put into place, the research phase will begin. Water quality will be tested periodically through simulated and natural rain events on an older asphalt section as well as the new section of the parking lot. Data will be collected for one year in a side-by-side comparison study and then a report will be submitted for journal publication. Following the study, Hein’s fall 2010 concrete class will work with Auburn University Facilities Management to replace the remaining asphalt with pervious concrete paving.

The Donald E. Davis Arboretum is located at the corner of South College Street and Garden Drive. For more information about the arboretum, go to http://www.auburn.edu/arboretum/ or call (334) 844-5770.

The Alabama Water Resources Research Institute is a university-based interdisciplinary, problem-oriented research and technology center with support from the federal government that enables the program to address broad national needs and relevant industrial technology. For information, go to http://awrri.auburn.edu/index.php.

(Contributed by Carol Nelson.)

Contact: Michael Hein, (334) 844-5380 (heinmic@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (clarach@auburn.edu)