Paper Parking (2010)

In one year, the average office worker will use over 12,500 sheets of paper; the equivalent of 1.5 trees. For a small office of 100 people, this adds up to a forest of 150 trees to supply enough paper for one year. Paper costs and related expenses can add up to over $280,000 annually for an office of 100 employees.

Office parks tend to have a large percentage of their land dedicated to parking, most of which goes unused as people tend to park as close as possible to their building, or a building changes occupancy. What if this space could be productive?

“Paper Parking” proposes a system of permeable-paved parking lots planted with switchgrass. Switchgrass is a hardy, warm-season plant which is native to the United States. It is perennial and self-planting, requires little to no maintenance, and can be harvested twice per year. The switchgrass can be used to create paper products for the surrounding office buildings.

Switchgrass has, pound for pound, a higher fibrous content than wood. By cultivating switchgrass on vacant parking lots, office parks could offset their use of tree-sourced paper products; saving millions of trees and dollars each year. The grass wouldn’t grow in frequently used parking spaces closest to the building. If more people begin to cycle to work, or the office building becomes vacant, the switchgrass can expand its coverage. The area could easily be converted to a full parking lot for conventions by harvesting the switchgrass.

Paper Parking has benefits beyond paper production. The permeable paving helps to deal with storm runoff, meaning less area needs to be devoted to runoff ponds. Switchgrass growth would provide game cover and encourage wildlife to live in the area. As awareness of paper use rises, and the use of paper products declines in favor of digital means, the switchgrass can be used to produce bio-degradable plastics or biofuel.

A formerly unproductive area becomes overtaken by a productive landscape according to human interaction.

(G1 year)