Global Street Design Guide

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Global Street Design Guide

Implementation and Materials


Quality materials and construction practices that account for the local context will increase the lifespan and usability of the street.

Construction Quality

Well-constructed streets with strong foundations are more durable and can adapt and react to geologic, hydrologic, and seismic effects. When devising construction techniques and schedules be sure to account for ground water, soil compaction, land subsidence, earthquakes, and other subsurface conditions, as well as extreme temperatures, extreme rainfall, snowfall, wind, and humidity. Regardless of the quality of materials chosen, poor installation will compromise their lifespan and usability. It is important to note material requirements such as sufficient curing time for concrete, proper compaction for sand and gravel, proper mixing of mortar, and secure sealing of pipe joints, especially in underground conditions.

Material Durability

Select materials for durability and minimal maintenance requirements. Balance the cost of a better material with that of maintenance. If labor costs are high, it is often better to spend more on the material. Consider the costs of long-term maintenance when selecting materials.1

Material Availability and Sustainability

As a public good, the construction of streets can set a benchmark for sustainable materials and lifecycle costs.2 Source materials locally to minimize shipping and replacement costs, and to lower environmental impacts. Reuse materials such as crushed concrete from demolished buildings or roads instead of sending them to landfills. Consider locally sourced aggregate and recycled materials as alternatives to cement in order to reduce emissions during the construction and maintenance.3

Utilize landscaping and permeable paving as much as possible, especially in parking spaces, wider sidewalks, utility strips, medians, and curb extensions. Permeable paving can infiltrate as much as 70%–80% of annual rainfall and can have a lifespan of 20–30 years before requiring significant maintenance. Employ and adopt local knowledge of materials, construction techniques, labor availability, climate, and street use. Using local materials may require some experimentation to adjust for quality and environmental variations, but this testing builds and expands upon knowledge of local materials and supports local economic resources.4


Maintain streets regularly to increase the usable lifespan of a road while decreasing service interruptions, resurfacing costs, and environmental impacts.5 Proactively maintaining a road is cheaper than letting chronic issues develop to the point of road failure. Ensure continual maintenance of a street and its furnishings by formal or informal agreements with public or private partners. Facilitate access for regular maintenance
and upgrades by locating and consolidating utilities in a section of the street that would be accessible with minimal disruption to users.

Impacts of Construction Process

Street construction projects disrupt the community with noise, smells, vibration, dust, and blocked sidewalks. Construction can force detours for travelers and deliveries. To minimize impacts during implementation:

  • Schedule construction on weekdays or weekends, depending upon the context, to minimize disruption to users. Avoid nights and holidays.
  • Maintain access to properties at all times.
  • Secure adjacent structures and make repairs quickly.
  • Protect trees and natural features.
  • Maintain traffic flow as much as possible. However, closing a street might accelerate the overall construction process.
  • Keep neighbors informed of the construction schedule and provide overall project updates. Use websites, social media, flyers, and hotlines. For larger projects, consider establishing a project information kiosk.

Build for Most Vulnerable Users First

Prioritize vulnerable users before motorists. People walking and cycling benefit more from paved and accessible streets, as motorized vehicles are better able to traverse poor terrain.


1. Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories, New Road Construction Concepts: Toward Reliable, Green, Safe, Smart, And Human Infrastructure (Brussels: FEHRL,2008)

2. Mike Pinard, “Alternative Materials and Pavement Design Low-Volume Sealed Roads” (Paper presented at the SSATP International Workshop, Bamako, January 2006).

3. University of Maryland, “Permeable Pavement Fact Sheet” (Fact Sheet, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, 2011)

4. C. Michau and M.T. Seager, “The Use of Precast Concrete Blocks for the Construction of Strip Roads in Third World Countries” Concor Technicrete,

5. Susan, Kocher et al., “Rural Roads: A Construction and Maintenance Guide,” accessed June 7, 2016,
Delhi Development Authority, “Street Design Guidelines for Equitable Distribution of Road Space (New Delhi: DDA, 2010), accessed June 7, 2016,
Ria Sulinda Hutabarat Lo, “Walkability Planning in Jakarta” (PhD diss., University of Califronia, Berkeley 2011), accessed June 7, 2016,

Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.


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