Pounding the Pavement: Choosing the Best Driveway

What's best for the environment when building a driveway?


Interlocking concrete ECO I Pavers are water permeable.

Photo courtesy EP Henry

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What’s best for a driveway: concrete, gravel, or pavers? It depends on your soil, landscape, and aesthetic sensibilities, say experts Ron Jones and Sara Gutterman of Green Builder, a national development and consulting firm.

Choose porous materials that permit water to seep into the ground, helping with stormwater management. Impervious surfaces require floodwater to be channeled into gutters, curbs, or other conduits, washing pollutants such as pet waste, fertilizers, and pesticides into local waterways. Porous walks and driveways allow runoff to filter into the soil, where it benefits your garden, lawn, and trees.


• Durable, low maintenance, reliable strength
• Cost effective
• Good for high-traffic areas or where people use wheelchairs, walkers, strollers, tricycles.
• There are porous versions made (not suitable for environments where sand may fill surface pores).

• Concrete contains a high level of embodied energy; asphalt contains petroleum products.
• Not very permeable; poor for use in storm- water management.
• Create heat islands ­(especially asphalt)
• Reflect harsh sunlight

PAVERS (brick, blocks, natural stone, paver grids)

• Many beautiful finishes
• Some contain recycled content (ground-up tires, glass, plastic; recycled concrete and asphalt).
• Nonreflective
• Some allow vegetation to grow between pavers. With more solid types, moisture passes through joints between blocks.

• Labor-intensive installation
• Can be damaged by snowplows
• May require a porous ­substrate (sand) if soil is high in clay.

AGGREGATES (gravel, cobbles, wood mulch)

• Aesthetically pleasing; organic, natural feel
• Good permeability; retain excess runoff
• Gravel percolates water into soil, filtering out impurities.
• Doesn’t store excessive heat or reflect harsh sun.

• May require maintenance (smoothing, grading, relocating rocks).
• Gravel pits disrupt natural landforms and create airborne dust.
• Installation costs are less than pavers, but maintenance costs may be more.
• Difficult to keep in place on steep inclines.

To contact Green Builder: (505) 867-0524