What are the advantages and disadvantages of permeable surfaces?

Everything you need to know before choosing a surface for a driveway or footpath

contact usWhat are the advantages and disadvantages of permeable surfaces?

If you’re looking to build a home, update a school, or improve infrastructure around your farm, it pays to know all the options available to you. When it comes to permeable footpaths, driveways, and pavements, there are many advantages to installing a specially designed material over a traditional solution. There are also several disadvantages to this technology that need to be discussed.


Permeable Surfaces Australia is the nation’s biggest proponent of sustainable construction and design through the use of permeable surfaces. Whether it’s a permeable footpath for your garden, or a pervious parking lot for an entire complex, we have all the information you need to make the right choice. If you're a manufacturer get listed today.


First, let’s take a look at the advantages that permeable surfaces offer homes, businesses, and agricultural settings - to name but a few of the varied applications available to customers.

The advantages of permeable surfaces

The advantages of permeable and pervious surfaces are varied, and go far beyond the simple cost saving measures that the technology is famed for.

Biodegradation

Permeable pavements are an effective tool against pollutants that often find their way into stormwater systems. 

These pollutants include:

  • Oil slick and engine grease from cars on the road and parked in driveways
  • Soap and detergent from car and home washing
  • Pesticides, chloride, and other harmful chemicals
  • Mud, sediment, sand, and other organic elements 
  • Other foreign bacteria


Impervious surfaces carry all of these, and more, into stormwater systems where they can overburden wastewater treatment facilities. Without the use of permeable surfaces, local water systems can receive so much pollution on an annual basis, that they are rendered unusable for swimming and fishing. 

Water supply

The water table exists beneath the ground, and is the main source of water replenishment for above-ground water systems during droughts. It’s also an essential source of drinking water for towns and cities all over Australia. It is an incredibly important resource, and must be protected at all costs.

Pervious and permeable surfaces deliver water into the ground and directly back to the water table. Other traditional solutions often just send water to stormwater systems, and then the ocean, leaving the local groundwater under replenished.

Urban heat

The urban heat island effect is a noticeable and detrimental consequence of traditional paving methods. Throughout the day, paved and tarmac surfaces retain heat from the sun, sometimes reaching upwards of 60 degrees Celsius. 

This creates a heat island in urban locations - a phenomenon where the local area is much hotter than it should be. This leads to a range of adverse effects for the environment and the community:

  • Higher daytime temperatures and longer cooling times at night
  • Increase in heat related illnesses like cramps, exhaustion, and heat stroke
  • Increased energy consumption through cooling
  • Higher greenhouse gas emissions
  • Serious risks to animals, plants, and other elements of the environment by raising temperatures


Thanks to their intelligent design, permeable solutions are great at dispersing urban heat. Specifically, they can cut down on thermal pollution by ensuring water takes a long time to trickle through and cool down before it enters the environment.

Flood reduction

Less water into stormwater systems means less chance of flooding. When water is returned to the water table directly, it does not have to go through the usual channels, and takes the burden off stormwater management systems in home, commercial locations, and in the community, that have not been designed to handle a heavy amount of rainfall.

Plant and tree growth

Water from permeable surfaces can be directed straight to garden beds, tree plantations, and entire ecosystems. The filtered water provided by pervious and porous surfaces is the perfect replenishment for organic material, especially in Australia, where watering restrictions are rife in summer.

The disadvantages of permeable surfaces

There are not many disadvantages to permeable surfaces, and most of them pale in comparison to the pros mentioned above. But in interest of fairness, we should mention them:

  • Initial installation can be slightly more expensive than traditional methods
  • Maintenance requirements are different, and may require some evaluation
  • They cannot hold heavy vehicles for long periods of time, making them unsuitable for airports and highways


If you’d like to know more about the pros and cons of specific permeable surfaces, check out our products. For more information, get in touch with our friendly teams.


Information Centre

What is Water Sensitive Urban Design?

What is Water Sensitive Urban Design?

A way of integrating the water cycle with the built environment for good planning.

Permeable Paving Solutions and insights from Adbri Masonry

Permeable Paving Solutions and insights from Adbri Masonry

Adbri Masonory provides solutions that tackle important water sensitive urban design issues.

What is a permeable walkway?

What is a permeable walkway?

How porous footpaths are transforming walking infrastructure