Recycling in the landscape – reused concrete, affectionately known as urbanite.

One recent customer actually encouraged me to start a blog so we could document the sustainable landscape installation in their yard. Here you go!
Here is a project inspired by Terra Nova’s work.

We like Urbanite as an option for these reasons:

1) It’s a free material.
2) It’s recycled, so we capture all the embodied energy in the original concrete.
3) There’s no mining involved.
4) It’s versatile.
5) It lasts.

Finding urbanite

finding-urbanite.jpg

Tons of urbanite available!

tons-available.jpg

Before

urbanite-9.jpg

During

urbanite-3.jpg

urbanite-5.jpg

urbanite-6.jpg

After

urbanite-7.jpg

After staining with Iron Sulphate

urbanite-8.jpg

44 Comments

  • Susan Wyche says:

    Hi Ken,

    I love the process sequence for the urbanite patio. And the finished product is beautiful. I think the raised beds are also lovely. Nice job, and thanks for sharing!

    Susan Wyche

  • Deatra says:

    Dear Terra Nova,
    I’m in the beginning stages of taking a concrete slab and transforming it into a series of patios and walkways in our yard. My question is this: should I put down a weed barrier fabric as the first layer before putting down the next layer?Also, if we stain the concrete, can we do that after it’s already been put down?
    Thanks! Your work is beautiful!
    DC

  • ingrid martin says:

    Is the patio sealed? If so, with what?

    Thanks!

  • Robin says:

    I have a question about cleaning the urbanite before staining. Can you enlighten me? I love what you have done by the way. i hope to recreate it in my scape.
    Thanks,
    Robin

  • Amy says:

    Can you point me to resources about staining with Iron Sulphate? How to do it? Where to find it? Thanks! I was inspire to make my own patio like this from your post. I posted on my blog about it today.

  • Rebecca says:

    I recently had to remove concrete and desire to use it in landscaping projects in my yard. However I am new at this type of work and need help. Could you please give me instructions on how to cut and shape it. I also need to know how to stain it with Iron Sulphate. Does the basic Lowe’s store carry the Iron Sulphate or where can I get it? I LOVE what you did with this; it meets my values of helping the environment while being frugal with my resources and it’s BEAUTIFUL!

  • I want to share a project I did reusing broken concrete…
    This links directly to the Landscape Architecture page of my site that shows the construction of stormwater control structures made out of reused concrete. Most is done with reused sidewalks but also used were a demolished foundation, and a “site ruin” that was cut into and planted with willows for stormwater uptake.
    http://www.tobiahhorton.com/pb/wp_af26a166/wp_af26a166.html?0.03734856841826689
    more photos at:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/16188315@N08/sets/72157603194009082/

  • Alice says:

    Great pictures! We are building a wall and want to re-use. Where should I look for used concrete?

  • israel glick says:

    I have done standard masonry work for the last 4 years. I prefer dry lay technique to mixing portland , when possible. I really like this iron sulfate stain . I currently have a project to rip out a 30 ft. long 34 inch high retaining wall made of pressure treated lumber. I thought of replacing it with a dry lay urbanite look . What size pieces are preferable, and how do I go about doing the iron sulfate stain? Can I do the stain just on the exterior sides when the wall is complete , or must I do it in advance?

  • Amy Brain says:

    Hey, The patio looks great!
    I am also interested in staining the concrete with Iron Sulphate.
    How did you do it? Where do you get it? Thanks

  • Scott Jones says:

    Hi, I followed your post on craigslist to here. beautiful work. I replied to you “Free” post regarding the urbanite. I would love to use it to build the retaining wall infront of my house. Do you have any information on how I might find this type of “urbanite” in my own area?

    The work you did is absolutely beautiful.

    Scott

  • chris barber says:

    hi,
    my small town in colorado is about to redo a huge amount of our sidewalks. i am looking for interested people in the country who need this material. i am on town council and if i get some response then i can make the argument to palletize and ship the newly made urbanite to private citizens for a fraction of the cost of flagstone.

    scott where are you and have you found any urbanite??

    please contact me at picaflor@centurytel.net if interested, thanks

  • My Blog says:

    I found your site by a random google search, good stuff! keep up the good job!

  • Nancy Rude says:

    Do you do work in the Sunnyvale area, or could you point me to someone you know who might work with my condo association (small, only 12 units, but lots of peripheral, water-guzzling landscape)to plan out and install hardscape?? Thanks, Nancy

  • inc says:

    How did you test the concrete /urbanite for toxins (dangerous chemicals) to ensure that they were not present or would not leach into the soil?

  • hello
    i am writing a book about urban homesteading, due soon to the publisher. we liked your photo of the urbanite pavers and wanted to use it in our book in our section about waste re-use. would you be willing to share it with us? we would need a high resolution version and any caption and/or attribution information you would want so you would feel well-represented.
    we’d appreciate to hear from you soon!

    thanks so much
    Rachel Kaplan
    K. Ruby Blume
    Bay Area homesteaders/authors

  • Dianne Luiz says:

    Thank you very much for the article and for creating a attractive site. I have been searching for savvy info on gardening and will put this information to use. I have found it hard to find good ideas, as there are so many sites with garbage posts. Certainly keep the good stuff coming!

  • Leik says:

    this is so good, thanks for usefull article, i like this…

  • I really liked your blog. Will read on…

  • suzanne says:

    I have been wanting to do this exact thing with the tons of concrete we’ve got in enormous piles on our property! But every time i’ve run the idea past ANYONE–even those experienced in paving & cement work–they just give this look like i’m a complete moron and they just don’t want to come out & say it! THANK YOU for your wonderful & inspiring confirmation of my long-held suspicions! [Now all need are a few burly guys to make it so!]

  • J D says:

    Very Cool and Great idea. I have been trying to figure out what to do with a 50 year old tennis court down on my farm in GA that is concrete and the Oak and Pecan roots are starting to break it up for me. I have a gully I was going to fill but can’t get my Bobcat down there without taking out tons of trees. I have been planning some wall and need to correct a few erosion problems so you have re-started my creative juices. Been putting this off but now I am ready to start fixing some problem areas with on big problem area that will become a fantastic garden spot.

  • T. T. Feild says:

    Nice job on this forum. I have been searching for a gardening webpage to follow. BTW, I found you on Bing.

  • Isla Pergola says:

    What a great idea. I had no idea that urbanite could look that good. My husband prefers the look prior to the staining with Iron Sulphate, but I have to say that my preference is the paving after.

  • AR says:

    Looks soo beautiful!! I love it!! I have concrete from a slab we had to remove. Could you pease tell me how to do it? It looks that we need to put gravel under the concrete, but after that what do you sugest? soil or sand? Thank you very much for your advise.

  • Pedro says:

    Save the planete, you guys doing excelent work teaching us how to use recycling materials for landscape, thank you. I have to questions, #1 the iron sulphate can create another color or only rust color? #2 can you send me more ideas of recycling materials can be use for landscape.
    Thank you very much.

  • Rebecca says:

    I have aggregate concrete patio with lots of stones in it that we need to take up. I’ve been trying to figure out how to reuse this concrete in our new landscaping but since it has stones in it, I’m not sure how we could do this. Our yard isn’t that big and we don’t like the bumpy texture now of the concrete so I’d like to find something different than using it as pavers. Any ideas?

  • Wow..It was really nice work. I really impressed to see your work. If you can publish more articles regarding landscaping and also various pergolas designs then It would much appreciated.

    I will be waiting for more articles soon.

  • Tim says:

    very interested , would like to have delivered.

  • Diane says:

    This looks great. I landscaped my front yard and now the water bill is outrageous. I need to do something that looks good without having to water the area. I can’t see your answer to “Tim – #39” if you deliver. Well, do you?

  • lauren harp says:

    Would love to hear how/where to get iron sulphate- i just broke up a sidewalk and want to reuse. Also, after leveling the dirt, what goes on top and then after laying concrete, do you put sand? Does this hold up long? Thanks!!!

  • Anna Isabel says:

    Hi:

    Would love to hear how/where to get urbanite pavers. I have a Huge backyard and also a front yard that I would like to decorate without harming the planet

    Ahank you!

    Anna

  • […] looking for ideas for raised bed designs, I stumbled across this awesome article on building with urbanite.   How cool is that?  Very.   Do you know why?  When we moved into the house and started […]

  • LanceThruster says:

    I have a project that I’m certain using urbanite would work out very well for. I’m curious about one modification I was considering. What would be the downside of not laying the gravel subsurface? I have a sloped acre in the high desert and at the bottom of the dirt road (hard bedrock actually) leading to the lower “flats,” I need to paved a surface with urbanite so I do not require 4wd there. it’s fairly soft and sandy soil with some native grass growing there (foxtails mostly) so there is already a certain amount of drainage there. The purpose of using urbanite aside from economy and its unique looks/properties is to allow runoff to percolate back into the soil. The neighbor poured driveways on his property that act like substantial spillway. If I don’t lay down a grave bed first, can’t I just do it after the fact by removing those that sink/settle and shim them with gravel then?

  • Ken Foster says:

    Lance you may e-mail me at ken@terranovalandscaping.com and I wlll respond.

  • Rebecca says:

    Any thoughts about using aggregate concrete patio for retaining walls? Is there something different to consider than when using regular concrete?

  • Deborah Schlenker says:

    After getting this idea, and people thinking I’m crazy I found your blog.Yeah!!! Love it!! My problem is I can’t seem to find any used concrete. I am in Southern CA. Can you suggest how I can obtain some.

  • Linda Roberts says:

    We live in a farming community that used to have concrete ditches for irrigating fields everywhere. They are being removed and replaced with crop circle sprinklers. Because the broken concrete is stacked on farms everywhere. We have used it for lining our driveway, patio areas, walls, etc. We call it Dexter granite because we live in Dexter, New Mexico. Love the raised beds using it.

  • I feel rather privileged to have come across your website and look forward to more awesome posts here!

  • I have my paths of recycled concrete already laid, but I can’t find iron sulphate anywhere in Southern California. Where did you buy it and how do you apply it? With a paint-brush or is it in liquid form? I love working with the broken concrete, but the staining is just what I’ve been looking for to make it more interesting. Your site is awesome….THANKS!!!!!

  • Morey says:

    Using recyclable material to create something beautiful, I love it! The end result came out very well. Pretty much like enlarged tiles which I personally think look perfect for any back yard.

  • Jade Brunet says:

    I appreciate this information about recycling in the landscape. Re-used concrete is a great idea when it comes to landscaping because it is free material and saves energy. It is also appealing to the eye. Something to consider would be to hire a professional to haul in the concrete with proper equipment.

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