Interlocking concrete blocks right after installation in the Morton Civic Center parking lot. Image courtesy of Dan Manis.
In late 2015, the Morton Civic Center public parking lot underwent a complete renovation, which included rebuilding the parking bays and utilizing a variety of stormwater management practices to reduce stormwater runoff into the City's sewers.
The parking lot renovation features a number of sustainable elements, including three types of permeable pavement, rain gardens, and native plants. Each rain garden has an educational sign that explains the benefits and design of a traditional rain garden.
To learn more about stormwater management practices, visit our page about Alternative Stormwater Management.
Permeable pavements provide a solid surface similar to conventional pavements while allowing stormwater to filter through the surface to reach the underlying soils. Permeable pavements result in a significant reduction in stormwater runoff to the sewer system and in a reduction in the amount of water conveyed to the local wastewater treatment plant. Permeable pavements provide additional environmental benefits by cleaning stormwater runoff through natural biological processes while promoting groundwater recharge. The parking lot has three different types of permeable pavement.
Interlocking Concrete Blocks
Interlocking concrete blocks are the most expensive of the three materials used in the project. The concrete blocks were spaced by a machine an equal distance apart from each other, and then the cracks between them were filled with loose rock to allow water to slip through.
Porous Asphalt & Concrete
The porous concrete and porous asphalt are not too different from their traditional counterparts. The largest difference is that the porous materials lack the binding paste that traditional pavements use to keep any water from seeping into the pavement.
Rain Gardens and Native Plants
The Morton Civic Center parking lot also features native plants that will grow in rain gardens around the edges of the parking lot. The gardens are designed to keep as much water as possible in the native soil.
What is a rain garden?
A rain garden is a shallow basin planted with deep-rooted native wildflowers, grasses and shrubs that filter and absorb stormwater runoff and the pollutants it carries. Their extensive root systems filter stormwater runoff by removing nutrients, sediments and pollutants before it enters our groundwater and waterways.
Why plant natives?
In addition to helping prevent erosion and improving water quality, native plants provide essential food and habitat for local wildlife. They provide a valuable food source for birds, butterflies and other insects. “Native” means the plants were here prior to European settlement. They have adapted to local conditions and require very little care once established.
This project was accomplished in collaboration with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD). The MWRD’s Stormwater Management Program provided funding assistance to implement green infrastructure to control stormwater through the use of permeable pavements and rain gardens. Stormwater control is intended to reduce the frequency and magnitude of sewer backup and overflow. The MWRD is the public agency responsible for managing stormwater and collecting and treating wastewater generated by most Cook County municipalities.