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Friday, January 26, 2001

By Stephanie Kendrick



By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Teresa Shun climbs atop Phoebe and Kyle Jordan as the
three play in the driveway of the Jordans' Lanikai home.



Tough turf
keeps its cool

WHEN architect Sylvia Jordan finally got to design her own house, she knew she didn't want a conventional driveway.

"I did not want to see a lot of concrete out in front of our house," said Jordan.

She investigated concrete block systems, where grass grows through the grid, but said the grass didn't seem to grow well in most of the places she saw it used and the concrete grid wound up being the dominant feature.

Jordan decided to go with a product relatively new to Hawaii called Grasspave 2.

The company that makes Grasspave, Colorado-based Invisible Structures Inc., has been making similar products for about 25 years. But Grasspave 2 was introduced in Hawaii just two years ago.

"Grasspave was made for Hawaii because we get sun all year round," said Darryl Oshiro, sales manager at Exacta Sales Inc., the local distributor for Grasspave.

Grasspave consists of a mat made of interlocking plastic rings that lends structural support to the lawn. The rings are filled with growing material, which is then seeded or overlaid with sod.

Maintenance is exactly the same as a regular lawn.

"It's totally grass growing on top of it as opposed to grass trying to grow through something, like the concrete blocks," said Jordan.

Because the grass completely covers the infrastructure of Grasspave, Jordan is not concerned that her two children and their friends regularly play in the driveway.

"That isn't recommended, but kids will be kids," said Oshiro.

Irvin Higashi, a landscape architect with Walters Kimura, has used Grasspave on a few projects and has been pleased with the results.

Resorts, churches and other institutions like to use it in areas like fire lanes and overflow parking that would traditionally be paved, he said.

"They'd rather see grass," said Kimura. "Grass is cooler. Grass is nicer to walk on."

It also offers better drainage, he said.

His firm chose Grasspave for the American Cancer Society headquarters in Nuuanu, which sometimes uses its lawn areas for overflow parking.

Grasspave keeps occasional parking from causing ruts in the grass and compacting its root system, he said. Areas where cars are regularly parked are poor candidates for Grasspave, he said, as the lawn will suffer from a lack of light and water.

Grasspave also is not recommended for grades steeper than 7 percent because vehicles can slip on wet grass.

Clients like Grasspave's invisible infrastructure, said Kimura.

"The concrete block is exposed to the surface. You see the checkerboard," he said.

Also installation is much easier.

Grasspave2, which comes in rolls that vary in width from 1 to 2.5 meters, is an improvement over the old-style ring systems, in which squares of rings had to be locked together, he said.

"All you do is prepare the ground and just lay it out, boom. You can do a driveway pretty quick with this thing," he said.

"The key is you have to follow the manufacturers instructions," said Kimura.

Jordan, who had her driveway installed in July, learned that lesson the hard way.

Exacta Sales recommends sand and an additive called Hydrogrow as the growing medium to use with Grasspave.

Sand has better aeration and is more resistant to compaction than dirt, and it eliminates mud, said Oshiro.

Jordan mixed in some dirt with her sand and after heavy rains, she does get some mud, she said.

Installation costs on Grasspave are 30-40 percent higher than asphalt, said George Oshiro, president of Exacta Sales.

Maintenance costs are less clear. A lawn requires more regular attention than a strip of asphalt, but a study done by Grasspave's manufacturer found that its product was actually 30 percent cheaper to maintain over 20 years than asphalt because it avoids expenses for things like potholes and, in the case of parking lots, restriping.

Most of Exacta Sales customers manage commercial properties, said George Oshiro. He has sold Grasspave to about a dozen residential clients so far, on Oahu and the neighbor islands.

"Some of the customers are those dotcomers, the rich guys," said George.

But interest in the product has grown as its gotten out in a community, said Darryl Oshiro.

"People are starting to install it in their driveways because they say 'hey, that looks neat,' " he said.

"I have so many people come by and say what a difference it's made in the front of our house," said Jordan.

"It's a drivable surface. We're not getting ruts and we go in and out of our garage everyday.

"I love it," she said. "If you're really looking for green, this would be the way to go."



Do It Electric!

Gardening Calendar in Do It Electric!

Stephanie Kendrick's gardening column runs Fridays in Today.
You can write her at the Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802
or email skendrick@starbulletin.com



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