They had her at a half million beer bottles.
Even before she'd seen the brown sparkle of the Yellowstone Art Museum's crushed glass parking lot, Executive Director Robyn Peterson knew she was going to like it. The high-tech lot, the only one of its kind in the northwestern states, not only drinks up to four inches of rainwater in half an hour, but also filters out oil and other parking lot waste before releasing the moisture into the ground.
When she heard the 5,700 square feet of crushed glass and glue kept 501,600 beer bottles out of the landfill, she knew the museum was meeting its sustainable building goal.
"We're trying to incorporate a number of green building features into our facility," Peterson said. "We're trying to draw a parallel between artistic preservation and preserving the environment when feasible."
Just northeast of is main building of at North 27th Street and Fourth Avenue, the museum is transforming a shuttered car parts warehouse into an art storage building open for public tours. Peterson envisions an 11,000-square-foot building where people can view uncrated exhibits as they acclimate, watch an artist in residence work, and generally get a peak behind the curtain of Montana's premier art museum.
The parking lot, made of Filterpave, differs from others made of glass because of its asphalt hardness. Pulverized glass chips, the size of split peas, are mixed into porridge with a mostly natural binder to make Filterpave. The cold mix is then dumped into a formed area, screeded like concrete and eventually finished with a trowel.
Joe Kaul, the patent holder for filter pave, said the product is incredibly porous, which addresses drainage challenges posed by conventional parking lots.
Water is a big problem for the paved world. Cities once ran storm water through their public sewer systems, but treating rainwater as sewage proved expensive and pushed already taxed sewage plants to capacity. So, local governments put the burden of treating rainwater onto property owners, who now face the costs of drywells, or grass-lined holding pools, called swales. Depending on the size of a road or parking lot, the size of the swale to treat storm water can be larger than a basketball court.
Kaul said his product, developed with Wisconsin-based Geosystems and chemical company BASF, tackles two environmental problems by using recycled glass and handling storm water. Communities are often hard pressed to find useful ways to use recycled glass.
The glass in the Yellowstone Art Museum's parking lot was shipped from Wisconsin in 3,000 pound bags. Clyde Bennett, of Roscoe Steel, which plans to add Filterpave to its product lineup, said it would be better to use local glass. But the glass has to be washed and crushed to specification.
Roscoe might turn to Livingston for glass in the future, which would reduce material costs and cut back on shipping pollution. Currently, the finished product costs about $15 a square foot, Bennett said.
For a year, Livingston has turned recycled glass into fine sand after getting a $100,000 state grant for a pulverizer. The city uses the glass for landscaping and plans to line its utility trenches with the product, said Sandy Wulf, assistant public works director. It receives glass from Yellowstone National Park, and recyclers from Bozeman, Billings and Livingston. Wulf said the city is looking for glass from other communities.