Written by William G Handlos, P.E.
Presto Geosystems is the maker of the GEOBLOCK Grass Pavers® family of rigid vegetated porous pavement products. We’ve been manufacturing porous pavements since 1978 and have been a leader in the industry ever since.
It’s safe to say we were pretty comfortable with our understanding of the differences between our products and our competitors in the market….or so we thought. We knew our products were premium performers offering the best structural modulus (load spreading snowshoe effect), more structural high density polyethylene per square foot than our competitors, load transfer tabs to assure no separation at joints and an industry-leading warranty. Our competitors on the other hand go with much lighter density product design and some offer their products on rolls like carpet or rolls of sod.
We knew a product that comes on a roll was not a very effective load transfer device. After all, the whole point of vegetated porous pavement is to protect the topsoil (and therefore the root system) from damaging compressive forces and to transfer those forces to the layer below the topsoil – preventing rutting and offering a stable riding surface for fire lanes, overflow parking, or occasional use auxiliary access ways. Unlike our rigid products that offer the highest structural strength and turf protection, how could a product that can be rolled out offer a flexural modulus to spread loads and adequately protect turf? But, if the product could be rolled, it was perceived as easier to install.
But here’s where things get interesting. I was challenged by one of the contractors who came back to GEOBLOCK Porous Pavement with tales of frustration – to install the competitive rolled product material myself. He told me that if he had known what a hassle it was to put in the rolled product, he never would have switched. I realized then that my team had spent decades operating in a market in which we had little firsthand experience of our competitors. I knew that this was also the case for my distribution network and needed a tool to relate what we learned to the hundreds of salesmen who interact with those contractor customers every day.
So we picked the rolled product competitor with the highest performance claims and in a side-by-side installation and performance test we had our sales managers perform an installation themselves. It seems so obvious now, but experiencing the real and practical frustrations of installing a rolled vegetated porous product adds a depth of knowledge we didn’t have before. The fact that the competitive product began failing almost immediately is no surprise, but if we had never listened to that contractor and gotten our hands dirty – we wouldn’t be able to relate firsthand, to our customers, the truth about the installation challenges associated with a price based product. It turns out that the installation of the rolled product is not easier and, in fact the product arrives damaged. We discovered other fundamental flaws with the product including poor grass growth and deeprutting upon use.
Watch the video below and see if you can pick out the differentiators that could only be learned through a close contact installation exercise with our competitor.