As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours. And when it pours, streets flood. This causes problems with the infrastructure as well as foot and road traffic. Plus, flash floods wreak havoc on storm drain systems. One company has found a solution in the form of sidewalk tiles that absorb the excess water and funnel it to nearby foliage. This process not only diverts water from the walkways and streets but puts that water to use without the need for it to first travel through the wastewater treatment system and overwhelm sewers.

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Climate Tile is a product of Danish start-up company TREDJE NATUR, catching the attention of municipal decision-makers internationally. Copenhagen just installed the first 165-foot strip of Climate Tiles in an effort to reclaim water and also save the city money. Other cities have shown an interest in the new technology as well.

Related: TREDJE NATUR proposes angled timber housing that meets UN’s sustainability goals

sidewalk tiles with tiny holes for absorbing water

The tiles work by creating a permeable surface, similar to the earth’s crust. Small holes in the tiles allow water to flow underground, diverting into man-made aquifers. The water can remain in storage for later use or be directed into nearby grass, plants and other landscaping.

people sitting outside cafe at tables on top of rainwater-capturing sidewalk tiles

While the initial trial is encouraging, developers are watching and waiting to see the long-term performance of the tiles now that they are installed. With a real-life example to study, researchers are monitoring the tiles for how they manage different weather types throughout the seasons, weight loads, salting, wear, staining and more.

rendering of sidewalk tiles redirecting rainwater to thirsty plants

The pilot project in Copenhagen has set the stage for what is possible with the Climate Tiles, but now the company is focused on finding a way to distribute the product to mass markets around the globe. With millions of miles of sidewalks across the planet, TREDJE NATUR is hoping to encourage other municipalities to incorporate Climate Tiles into urban planning. This is most effectively done during scheduled pipe and plumbing updates to minimize additional roadwork.

storm drain inside sidewalk tiles

Although the tiles offer cost savings in both water consumption and flood damage repair, the overarching goal of the company is to produce a long-term, sustainable solution for ongoing climate adaptations, so the tiles are given an estimated 50-year lifespan.


Via Architectural Digest