Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Ask the Expert: Molly Sedlacek of ORCA, on Permeable Hardscaping

Search

Ask the Expert: Molly Sedlacek of ORCA, on Permeable Hardscaping

July 26, 2023

One of the main insights I walked away with after co-authoring Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home: A Sourcebook for Stylish, Eco-Conscious Living is that, more times than not, the answer to undoing some of the damage brought on by climate change is to go natural. That’s the case for paint, for insulation, for furniture, for landscaping—and for hardscaping, too.

Recently, I reached out to Molly Sedlacek, principal at landscape design studio ORCA, for her thoughts on better, more planet-friendly hardscaping options for outdoor spaces. Frustrated with the products on the market, she designed her own eco-conscious, minimalist line of pavers that are both modern and earthy.

Here’s what she had to say. (Hint: think permeable and, yes, natural materials.)

Photography courtesy of ORCA.

A mix of wood, aged terra-cotta, and pea gravel for this ORCA-designed urban garden in San Francisco.
Above: A mix of wood, aged terra-cotta, and pea gravel for this ORCA-designed urban garden in San Francisco.

Q: Why is permeability so important to a landscape?

A: With the changing temperatures of our earth’s climate, materials that breathe are going to become more important as seasons get more extreme. A surface that allows water to flow is better for the earth, soil organisms, and plants. A permeable surface is also smart for pathways and the perimeter of structures as it allows for better drainage.

Molly loves “the transition of chunk cypress to clay pavers&#8\2\2\1; in this Outer Sunset garden. I love the two textures touching and their harmony.” The clay pavers are by ORCA and made in Sacramento. “We love using them as a sandset surface option with swept decomposed granite in-between for a very relaxed permeable surface.”
Above: Molly loves “the transition of chunk cypress to clay pavers” in this Outer Sunset garden. I love the two textures touching and their harmony.” The clay pavers are by ORCA and made in Sacramento. “We love using them as a sandset surface option with swept decomposed granite in-between for a very relaxed permeable surface.”

Q: If a client were to ask for concrete flooring, what would you say to dissuade them?

A: Interesting enough, we don’t often get clients asking for concrete flooring. It’s typically the opposite—a request to remove old concrete or to use a material that is more natural. With a global desire to design and build gardens that are more drought-tolerant, homeowners are removing concrete to make more permeable square footage such as paver patios, gravel, and decomposed granite pathways.

If a client does happen to request concrete, I would encourage them to consider a material that has higher permeability and allows water to flow through it such as a brick or stone paver set on sand-set aggregate. Natural materials patina beautifully and allow for shifts in the land, versus concrete’s uniform surface and tendency to crack. My motto is: If it doesn’t age gracefully, it probably isn’t the right material.

Rounded pea gravel in contrast and harmony with clay pavers. See Landscape Designer Visit: A San Francisco Backyard Where ‘Surf Life Meets Ancient Rituals’ for more of this ORCA project.
Above: Rounded pea gravel in contrast and harmony with clay pavers. See Landscape Designer Visit: A San Francisco Backyard Where ‘Surf Life Meets Ancient Rituals’ for more of this ORCA project.

Q: Was there an “aha” moment when you realized that you were anti-concrete?

A: Yes, and it was actually a driving factor for starting ORCA. Before starting ORCA, I kept seeing images of modern garden designs with big, uniform, evenly spaced concrete pavers going through plants and creating outdoor spaces for people to gather on. It looked very foreign to me as I grew up in a garden that was composed of materials found in proximity and surfaces formed by nature.

ORCA was born from the desire to bring childlike wonder into urban backyards. A garden, to me, is intended to reflect the natural landscape that surrounds it, or perhaps channel a garden we once visited that left an impression on us. The garden and the materials in it should evoke deeper feelings that reconnect us to the earth. Large concrete areas are the antithesis of natural landscapes.

&#8\2\20;It once was typical to pour a large concrete porch or driveway—but now, there are more options readily available and designs that use creative horizontal surfaces in an outdoor setting,&#8\2\2\1; says Molly.
Above: “It once was typical to pour a large concrete porch or driveway—but now, there are more options readily available and designs that use creative horizontal surfaces in an outdoor setting,” says Molly.

Q: How are pavers more permeable than a concrete slab?

A: When pavers are installed using compacted gravel and sand, without a concrete substrate, they are indeed more permeable than a concrete slab. A concrete slab is essentially creating a large surface area that prohibits water from passing through it.It is typically sloped to a drain or a direction for water run-off. Well installed pavers on the other hand allow water to pass through the joints and replenish the earth’s aquifers.

Above: ORCA’s Clay Paver in Copal. Their clay pavers are locally sourced in California.

Q: What makes ORCA’s permeable pavers different from others on the market?

A: Many of the  pavers available today do not reflect the natural materials ORCA strives for in our garden designs. The use of faux finishes and pigments, sharp modern edges, and some product lines being produced overseas makes many of the current paver material’s carbon footprint very high. We feel this ultimately has given pavers a bad reputation. Paver choices for many consumers are also very limited in size, colors, and finishes.

Our mission is to bring poetry to a forgotten construction material. ORCA’s pavers are composed of local clay, recycled materials, and aggregate sourced in proximity to the factory, and are made in California and Ohio. We want these materials to connect back to the plant material. Our pavers are intended to become one with the flora and land around them.

Thin Clay Pavers in Char make up the raised beds.
Above: Thin Clay Pavers in Char make up the raised beds.

Q: What are other ways to be water-wise in the garden?

A: 1) Choose native and drought resilient plants. Native plantings require less water and are naturally climate appropriate. 2) Build healthy soil by adding compost and organic matter regularly for good tilth, water retention, and drainage. 3) Install drip irrigation. This is the most effective way to control water usage as the irrigation targets plant roots and has the least amount of evaporation. 4) Trade out lawns for native ground covers.  Conserving water doesn’t mean you have to change out your garden to rock. There are really wonderful natives that thrive in low water conditions and sprawl across the landscape to provide a verdant, textural surface. Some groundcovers we like include native mow-free grasses, Leymus triticoides lagunita, and Sedum pachyclados. 5) Install mulch to retain moisture. Mulch reduces the soil’s exposure to wind and sun which reduces water loss through evaporation. The insulating quality of mulch helps to keep the soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

See also:

(Visited 8,027 times, 1 visits today)
You need to login or register to view and manage your bookmarks.

Frequently asked questions

What are Orca Permeable Pavers?

Orca Permeable Pavers are a type of paving material designed to allow water to seep through rather than running off. They are made from a combination of concrete and aggregate materials.

What are the benefits of Orca Permeable Pavers?

Orca Permeable Pavers offer several benefits. They help to prevent water runoff, reduce stormwater pollution, recharge groundwater, and mitigate flooding. They also help to reduce heat island effect and improve the overall aesthetics of outdoor spaces.

How do Orca Permeable Pavers work?

Orca Permeable Pavers have small gaps between them which allow water to infiltrate into the ground below. The pavers are set on a layer of permeable bedding material and filled with porous jointing material, allowing water to flow through the entire system.

Are Orca Permeable Pavers suitable for all types of projects?

Orca Permeable Pavers can be used for a wide range of projects, including driveways, patios, walkways, and parking lots. They are most commonly used in areas where stormwater management and environmental concerns are important.

Are Orca Permeable Pavers durable?

Yes, Orca Permeable Pavers are designed to be durable and long-lasting. They are made from high-quality materials that can withstand heavy loads and resist cracking. However, proper installation and maintenance are crucial to ensure their longevity.

How do I install Orca Permeable Pavers?

The installation of Orca Permeable Pavers typically involves preparing the site by excavating the area, installing a sub-base layer, compacting it, and then laying the pavers on top. The gaps between the pavers are filled with permeable jointing material.

Can I install Orca Permeable Pavers myself?

While it is possible to install Orca Permeable Pavers yourself, it is recommended to hire a professional contractor experienced in permeable paving installation. Proper installation techniques are crucial to ensure the pavers function effectively.

How do I maintain Orca Permeable Pavers?

Regular maintenance of Orca Permeable Pavers involves cleaning the surface to remove debris and periodically inspecting the joints for any clogging. It may also be necessary to reapply jointing material over time.

Where can I buy Orca Permeable Pavers?

Orca Permeable Pavers can be purchased from various suppliers and manufacturers specializing in permeable paving materials. It is recommended to research and contact local suppliers or consult with a professional contractor for specific product recommendations.

Are Orca Permeable Pavers expensive?

The cost of Orca Permeable Pavers can vary depending on factors such as size, type, and quantity needed for the project. While they may be slightly more expensive upfront compared to traditional pavers, the long-term benefits and eco-friendly features make them a worthwhile investment.

Product summary  

Pavers & Edging

Clay Paver

$10.00 USD from OR.CA Design LLC

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

v5.0