Research partnership paves over potholes

An orange and white marker with a yellow reflector on top sits in a large pothole. There is a second, smaller dent in the pavement nearby.

Research partnership paves over potholes

A sustainable alternative to asphalt is set to hit the market thanks to college-business collaboration
April 14, 2015

Potholes are the bane of every driver’s commute. They also cost Canadian municipalities a pretty penny in maintenance. The City of Ottawa alone spends $6 million a year fixing these asphalt obstacles. This is why Fractal Tectonics Ltd., an Ottawa-based small business, is working with staff and students at Algonquin College’s Construction Research Centre to test an alternative concrete paving slab system that could save cities, drivers and insurance companies billions a year in road and car repairs.

Asphalt makes up more than 90 percent of the Canadian market for roads, but it isn’t an ideal material, especially in cold-weather environments. Water seeps into porous roads, then freezes and expands. Warm weather melts the ice, which makes the asphalt just below the surface break up and collapse. Passing cars make the asphalt cave in which creates the pothole.  

When Ross Bradsen wanted a more sustainable, permeable and easily fixable cottage driveway, he partnered with José Aguilera — at the time a Master’s student in structural engineering at Queen’s University — to found Fractal Tectonics and develop Fractal Slabs™, high-performance modular concrete paving slabs that hinge together. The square or triangular slabs are easy to install, easy to replace and therefore less costly. Most importantly, the narrow gaps between them allow water to seep into the ground, avoiding freeze-thaw problems.

Since 2013, Fractal Tectonics has been working closely with Algonquin researchers to further develop and test its product, and it will be undertaking a pilot project this spring at a new green development by Ottawa builder, Windmill Developments.