Formpave brochure review
Formpave have never really been the sort of company to produce an annual catalogue, and the recent changes of ownership, from Formpave to Hanson to Heidelberg, don't seem to have altered that thinking at all. New catalogues, brochures or whatever you want to call them tend to be issued when there's significant new product line or a significant development in technology.
A significant change in ownership didn't seem to cause them to rush into updating all their existing literature and it's only now, 12 months or so after the first change of ownership, that a handful of new literature is being distributed. Over recent months, development director Steve Spikes has devotedly and patiently kept me updated with the revamped publications, and I should apologise for this review being delayed, which is due solely to my busier-than-usual late summer.
So, there are three brochures to consider: the “residential” catalogue, which focuses on driveway and patio standard materials, and two SUDS brochures, the first of which considers the Aquaflow permeable pavement system while the second examines one aspect of this much further, namely water harvesting. They've been released one-at-a-time over the summer and should be readily available from your local stockists, or from Hanson Formpave (as they now refer to themselves) directly.
We'll start with the residential offering, a comparatively slim volume when considered against some of the tomes turned out by other national paving manufacturers, but thickness does not necessarily equate to quality. Hanson Formpave have not filled pages with buzzwords and lifestyle statements; this is a catalogue that combines simple text explanations with well-chosen photographs and the essential colour, size and pack quantity information. No filler, no fluff, no waffle: just the necessities.
There are five basic products on parade, and each offers something stylistically different. Chartres is a distressed 3-size modular block in five multi-colour options. The distinctive secondary processing technique used to distress the blocks ensures that only the arrisses are nobbled while the surface is lightly harassed to give a worn appearance.
The Clifton range features what are termed “setts” and “cobbles”, blocks of different sizes that are available in three multi-colours and two textures, the distressed “Olden” styling used with Chartres, and a bush-hammered finish that is much more worn in appearance. Royal Forest is the standard 200x100x80/60mm rectangular paver that is renamed as “Home Plus” in its 50mm format. Eight colours (4 mono and 4 multi) should just about cover most, if not all, requirements. The EcoGranite range (as it is now named) features two block options. The three colour options available in the Royal Deeside range has helped it become incredibly popular since its launch a few years back, while the sparkly sliver tones of the Cornish range are unmistakeable, be they in the original “Cornish” colour or the yellowy-buff “Tintagel” option. To complete the package, there's a comprehensive selection of kerbs and edgings, along with a very useful 12-piece circle centre set for those clients wanting a more decorative layout.
As already stated, this is a lightweight offering, running to just 18 pages including front and rear cover, but that's 18 pages of good photos and informative text. The full-page photographs are, without exception, superb illustrations of the pavings in all their glory and more than compensate for the small 3D swatches of colour. There's no "How to…" section, but that's not necessarly a bad thing, as some brochures from other manufacturers offer "How to…" information that is just plain wrong. If I had to find something to criticise, then it would be the quality of installation shown in some of the photos. What should be a stunning courtyard image is marred by having umpteen instances of continuous perpend joints, and the Clifton circle pic is let down by joints wide enough to snap an ankle.
While it's fully accepted that Formpave Hanson are not responsible for the laying, I worry that showing images of this nature can give less competent contractors or DIYers the idea that such practices are acceptable. In these days of corporate veracity, would photoshopping (now recognised as a valid verb) be acceptable? However, these images are intended to show the colour, texture and styling of the products, and how they fit in with typical environments, and they do that remarkably well, with minimal requirement for explanatory text.
There are two main users of catalogues such as this: customers looking for suitable products for their projects, and contractors using it as a reference guide to products and as a sales tool for customers. Both markets should be satisfied with this brochure, as it addresses all of their basic needs. Customers are presented with attractive images and a reasonable number of design ideas, while contractors have colour options, sizes, and pack quantity information in a readily digestible format. Can you ask for more than that?
Turning now to the SUDS stuff, again, these are slim but comprehensive volumes. In fact, I've seen publications weighing in a 4 or 5 times the size of these booklets that don't carry half as much useful information. The first brochure considers the Aquaflow range of products (Aquaflow, Aquasett and Aquaslab), and rather than just show the products decorated with a few photographic examples, there's a fairly in-depth examination of the whole permeable pavement structure. I'm just wondering if “in-depth examination” does justice to the degree of detail to which Formpave extend themselves in this brochure. It is, without doubt, the most comprehensive and well-designed explanation of the mysterious ways of permeable paving that I've seen from a British manufacturer (or any other nationality, for that matter!) It is the standards by which all other permeable paving brochures should be measured.
Compellingly lucid two- and three-dimensional drawings present the sometimes baffling build-up for permeable paving in a simple and straightforward manner that anyone could understand. You want to know what different types of permeable systems are available? They're in here. What grading envelope for the sub-base aggregate? It's in here. Traffic deformation data, removal of heavy metals, geothermal heat transfer? It's all in here: there's stuff in here that you haven't even dreamed of yet, and all presented in language you can understand with drawings that make sense. Whereas the standard paving brochure used full-page photographs to show how attractive a block paved surface can be, here they are used to emphasise just how “normal” can be the appearance of a permeable surface. For the uninitiated, there's nothing scary or jaw-droppingly different about permeable block pavements. The look and the traffickability is just as you'd expect from a standard block pavement, but with added green credentials.
The water-harvesting brochure is the thinnest of the lot, stretching itself to a paltry four pages plus front and back cover, and this is more of a “How To…” than the previous offerings. However, I suspect this has been put out to address a very specific single application of permeable paving technology and one that's attracting a lot of attention in the drier eastern and south-eastern counties of Lower Britain. When viewed as such, it's a competent offering, and I can only assume that there are good marketing reasons for having it separate from the main SUDS brochure. There's a single cross-section drawing, but better-than-average laying technique advice; good guidance on colours and finishes, but not much in the way of guidance on pumps (which seem to be supplied by a separate company).
While the content of this anorexic digest is of a very good standard, does it justify a standalone brochure? The format complements the style of its two bigger brothers, and as part of the set, it's very welcome, but I'm not wholly convinced of its value when considered in isolation. It needs the support of the main Aquaflow SUDS brochure to put it into context.
A few weeks a regular in The Brew Cabin started a discussion about the future of block paving and whether it had a future in the face of all the cheap imports and improved cast in-situ techniques. This, permeable paving and rainwater harvesting, is the future of modular block paving. Use the contact links below to get your guide to tomorrow's paving technology today!