Reducing impervious area

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Unnecessary hardscape can be found all around urban areas from paved but unused traffic and parking lot islands to rarely used overflow parking. Many of the strategies described previously are primarily for the purpose of reducing impervious area on a macro scale. The following strategies provide examples of how to reduce impervious area on a micro or lot level scale. Individually, these reductions in impervious area may seem small but they can add up to substantial decreases in runoff and infrastructure costs.


Reduce street width[edit]

Streets constitute the largest percentage of impervious area and contribute proportionally to the urban runoff. Streets widths are sized for the free flow of traffic and movements of large emergency vehicles. In many cases, such as low density residential, these widths are oversized for the typical function of the street. Amending urban design standards to allow alternative, narrower street widths might be appropriate in some situations. There are a variety of ways to accommodate emergency vehicle movements and traffic flow on narrower streets, including alternative street parking configurations, vehicle pullout space, connected street networks, prohibiting parking near intersections, and reinforced turf or gravel edges.[1]

Reduce building footprints[edit]

Reduce the building footprint by using taller multi-story buildings and taking advantage of opportunities to consolidate services into the same space. A single story design converted to a two- storey structure with the same floor space will eliminate 50% of the building footprint impervious area.

Reduce parking footprints[edit]

Parking footprints can be reduced in several ways. Excess parking not only results in greater stormwater impacts and greater stormwater management costs but also adds unnecessary construction and maintenance costs and uses space that could be used for a revenue generating purpose.

  • Keep the number of parking spaces to the minimum required. Parking ratio requirements are often set to meet the highest hourly parking demand during the peak season. The parking space requirement should instead consider an average parking demand and other factors influencing demand like access to mass transit.
  • Take advantage of opportunities for shared parking. For example, businesses with daytime parking peaks can be paired with evening parking peaks, such as offices and a theatre, or land uses with weekday peak demand can be paired with weekend peak demand land uses, such as a school and church.
  • Reductions in impervious surface can also be found in the geometry of the parking lot. One way aisles when paired with angled parking will require less space than a two way aisle. Other reductions can be found in using unpaved end-of-stall overhangs, setting aside smaller stalls for compact vehicles, and configuring or overlapping common areas like fire lanes, collectors, loading, and drop off areas.
  • More costly approaches to reducing the parking footprint include parking structures or underground parking.

Consider alternative cul-de-sacs[edit]

Using alternatives to the standard 15 metre radius cul-de-sac can further reduce the impervious area required to service each dwelling. Ways to reduce the impervious areas of cul-de-sacs include a landscaped or bioretention centre island, T-shaped turnaround, or by using a loop road instead.

Eliminate unnecessary sidewalks and driveways[edit]

Sidewalks are an essential part of the transportation, recreation, safety, and character of a community. A flexible design standard for sidewalks is recommended to allow for unnecessary sidewalks to be eliminated. Sidewalks that are not needed for pedestrian circulation or connectivity should be removed. Often sidewalks are only necessary on one side of the street. Driveway impervious area can be reduced through the use of shared driveways or alley accessed garages.[2]


  1. United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). 2007. Reducing Stormwater Costs through Low Impact Development (LID) Strategies and Practices. Report No. EPA 841-F-07-006. Washington, D.C.
  2. Center for Watershed Protection (CWP). 1998. Better Site Design: A Handbook for Changing Development Rules in Your Community. Ellicott City, MD.