JUNE 13, 2023 — The parking lots at the new, 204-acre Classen-Steubing Ranch Park differ from most conventional lots.
Four types of permeable parking lots were installed at the site as part of the research led by Marcio Giacomoni and Tom Papagiannakis, professors in the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design’s civil and environmental engineering department.
All four lots use permeable materials that allow precipitation to percolate through rather than run off of the lots. The professors are studying how well these different pavements—permeable asphalt, plastic grid pavers, permeable concrete and permeable interlocking concrete pavers— improve water quality.
“The location was a natural choice,” said Papagiannakis. “It sits above the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. In essence, it’s a UTSA open water quality lab.”
The Edwards Aquifer is the major water source for the residents of South Central Texas. Funded by the City of San Antonio’s 2015 Edwards Aquifer Protection Program Proposition 1 Venue Tax and administered by the San Antonio River Authority, the project also aims to reduce storm water runoff and mitigate surface temperatures in recharge zones—leveraging sustainable solutions for water.
Researchers will evaluate collected rainwater for suspended solids, heavy metals, bacteria and metals emitted from vehicles. Solar-powered boxes sit at the edge of each lot to measure the outflow of water that will be analyzed in the lab.
The team has already collected data to study the water quality before the park was developed and how the water fared during construction. They’ll compare the two datasets alongside new water samples infiltrated through the permeable surface lots to measure how the materials help mitigate pollution.
“Another goal is to enhance public perception of sustainable solutions for stormwater management. We thought it would align really well, having these parking lots at a park so that the community learns about sustainable stormwater management,” Giacomoni said.
While the main datasets focus on evaluating water quality, researchers will also study the cooling effects of the permeable lots and how they treat stormwater runoff and offset flash floods.
Data will also be integrated into the academic curriculum, Giacomoni pointed out, giving UTSA students insight into how to incorporate sustainability into infrastructure.
The four permeable materials used for the parking lot allow precipitation to percolate through rather than run off of the lots.
Jose Brasil is one of the graduate students contributing to the project.
“Being involved with projects on sustainability enhances our understanding of the real world. It creates this sense that we can be more sustainable in the future while maintaining the structures and functionality that we have today,” Brasil said.
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