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December 15, 2018   
Overview of Hardscape Products  November 28, 2006

In the past, the landscape product industry has based its offerings on plant installation and their subsequent maintenance. Along with the installation of trees, shrubs and ground cover plantings, occasionally came a need for a bed edging or a retaining wall structure. What was originally an occasional “non-green” requirement for landscaping has now grown into a multi-million dollar industry.

Enter today’s world of “hardscaping.” Hardscape, which scope of work was once typically handled by stone masons, has now become the normal trade for today’s full package landscape professional. Indeed, as the trend continues, we now see landscape specialists taking the next step into hardscape specialization – doing exclusively just retaining walls, paving elements and water features.

Generation One

Two major elements of the hardscape offering are segmental retaining walls and pave stones made of concrete. As any product is introduced, used and evaluated, a predictable product life philosophy emerges. Segmental concrete retaining walls and pavers are no exception. While these products have not reached a “commodity” status, there has been a categorical evolution of product types. The original wall products were basically one size fits all.
The paver products consist primarily of rectangles, squares and various interlocking shapes.

In some circles these original products have earned a title of “Generation One” category products. These products have and continue to serve the industry with the majority of sales and customer satisfaction.

Generation Two

As with any product proliferation, the evolutionary process continues and now a “Generation Two” category product has materialized. These products consist of Generation One products with a new twist as well as expanded product multiple piece counts and increased dimensional scales.

The primary divergence has been the introduction of the tumbling process. Tumbling is an additional manufacturing process that “antiques” the product appearance by distressing the surface and edges. The architectural finish emulates the old world character that designers, contractors and end users alike have been fabricating into their landscape already. The newer Generation Two also offers an expansion of shapes, colors and textures not seen before in the previous product lines.

This overall Generation Two product progression fastens the use of concrete segmental walls and pave stones use in future landscape design packages. It as well further substantiates that concrete product manufacturing will continue to effectively provide the landscape industry with new and innovative products to take to market.

Different Dimensions

Concrete segmental retaining wall shapes consisted primarily in a six or eight inch vertical height, eighteen inches in horizontal dimension and have been twelve to twenty four inches in depth. They have been manufactured with a split either in a convex or straight manner. Overall, the facing of the product was and is an assembly of identical shapes in appearance. These Generation One “single” shape products have been and currently are the mainstay of concrete segmental retaining wall structures due to the ease-of-installation of pinless/mortarless systems and low-maintenance factor.

As with the entrance of Generation Two segmental retaining walls come into view, there are many stirring changes to note. The most notable difference is the introduction of multiple sizes – both in vertical and horizontal dimension.

What was once a fascia of consistently sized units is now a combination of horizontal and vertical units that modulate together. This departure from a uniform sizing bestows an entirely new look and feel for concrete segmental retaining walls.

When you add the tumbled appearance, another aspect of design capability for the landscape designer, the contractor and end user comes to life. The introduction of new stone color blends along with the increased variety of shapes delivers a more aesthetically pleasing and natural stone look. These new systems are attractive and affordable structures for both residential and commercial applications.

Paving Design Criteria

Concrete paving stones in the traditional sense have been the classic four by eight inch rectangular shape which still continues to be the bastion of design and use. However, the combination of rectangular and square shapes has been digging deeply into four by eight’s previous dominance as never before. Both of these original shaped Generation One products have been modified with radius corners, embossed surfaces and shouldered edges.

These products have been and continue to be the lion’s share of concrete paver product utilization. These products have been included in a host of fantastic looking pavements in projects all over the world. And there is no doubt they will continue to be used now and in future projects successfully.
These products have demonstrated a proven history of performance used in all kind of applications – sidewalks, courtyard, plazas and driveways.

Available in a wide variety of colors, they can suit any landscape setting. Similar to the concrete segmental retaining wall generation transformation, the Generation Two concrete pavers’ addition of the tumbled process and added multiple shapes to the paving stone product lines, there is a now a fresh new array of products to serve the designers and end users appetite.

New multiple piece systems are capable of being installed in a variety of patterns. This provides the landscape team with more flexibility in meeting the design intent. Squares and rectangles sizes up one square foot in these multiple piece systems are now present. This larger scale component augments pleasing patterns and adds additional features to the finished look of the improvement.

Enhanced coloration manufacturing equipment now makes it possible to have three to four colors within a manufactured layer of product. This color capability makes the installed “blending” product more variegated in appearance. Molded surface textures from embossed to cleft appearances have been established. It is now possible to get the natural looking pavement in a variety of accommodating colors and patterns.

An additional new trend of pave stone products that fit into the Generation One and Two philosophies are the permeable or porous concrete pavers.
Originally turf block products – open cellular grids – have been successfully used for slope surface stabilization, overflow parking and even fire lane pavements. The products are capable of providing a pavement and a greenbelt solution for various site work treatments. Although they are somewhat limited in use due to the fact they are not intended for high traffic applications.

As a result, the introduction and use of permeable paver systems – paving units with small geometric surface voids – are fast becoming a component of stormwater control best management practices.

Now it is not only possible to mitigate stormwater run off quantity but also the also product’s water infiltration, according to research, reduces the amount of pollutant load previously in the raw stormwater.

These pave stone systems (an engineered pavement section) can provide a high traffic pavement, reduce stormwater runoff and improve stormwater quality. With ongoing governmental regulation and environmental concerns abounding, there is without question a diversity of landscaping applications for these products.

Manufactured concrete products continue to play a vital role in the landscape industry. With the ability to mold and color various shapes and sizes, manufacturers currently offer a multiple array of hardscape products for almost every landscaping need. Generation One are no better and no worse than Generation Two products. Someday there may be Generation Three products.

Availability and affordability of all these manufactured concrete materials have secured their position in today’s and tomorrow’s total landscape materials. With continued innovation and applicability of these concrete supplies, there is certain success for their continued use.

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