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Thinking Outside the Box


Four Ideas for Thinking Outside the Box (Culvert)

August 21, 2021

Think reinforced concrete pipe means a boring, gray construction? Not if you incorporate some creativity!

Many cities and municipalities are getting outside the box and using inventive designs to increase the culvert’s functionality or visual appeal. Here are four ways concrete pipe and box culverts enhance the local community with inspired, purposeful designs.

1. Complement the Local Character

Reinforced box culverts serve as ideal pedestrian tunnels. But box culverts can be enhanced to blend with the local landscape and design when a special aesthetic is desired. A case in point is when the Resort Municipality of Whistler in British Columbia, Canada, and developer Mons Holdings contracted the design of a pedestrian crossing that would span two vital Canadian National (CN) rail lines.

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The underpass was needed to provide safe and suitable year-round pedestrian and bicycle passage to home and business owners located north of the rail line to Whistler Village – known for its active and artistic community. The box culverts, manufactured by The Langley Concrete Group, feature murals inside and out, along with landscape boulders that complement the natural landscape. 

2. Deter Graffiti

In Park City, Utah, reinforced box culverts form a pedestrian tunnel underneath a major thoroughfare – Kearns Boulevard – to Treasure Mountain Junior High School. To deter vandalism and graffiti, the culverts manufactured by Oldcastle Infrastructure feature artwork by the local school. With its walls already beautified, potential graffiti artists must find another medium. Note the clever placement of the “bulletin board” mural reminding passers-by not to mark on the tunnel.




3. Protect Marine Life


 In Florida, submerged and partially submerged culverts seem to attract manatees due to the flow of freshwater from the pipes or the access pipes structures provide to another habitat. Because they cannot swim backward, these large marine mammals sometimes become entrapped when entering long or dead-end culverts, leaving them to drown or starve to death.

To prevent manatee access, concrete pipes can be manufactured with grates or other exclusion devices. In the example above, pipe manufacturer County Materials Corporation fitted the concrete pipe with a manatee guard for an outfall in coastal Brevard County. For another application, this same type of grate could also serve as a terrorism deterrent.
*Note: The decision to allow a culvert to remain accessible to manatees depends on many factors that can be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the Florida Wildlife Commission




4. Provide Function and Beauty

ACPA-Blog-Thumbnail-four-ideas-for-thinking-outside-the-box-culvert-part-7-1Precast flared end sections not only connect reinforced concrete pipe to the environment upstream and downstream but can be aesthetically pleasing as well. In California, this flared precast end section features a river rock slope protection.

Multiple colors and tones were used, and the end result creates a sophisticated, natural look in a suburban area.


Incorporating Innovation into Your Design

If you’d like to incorporate an innovative concrete pipe or box culvert treatment in your project’s design, be sure to include it in the project’s specifications. Coordinate with your precast manufacturer and contractor prior to developing a spec to see what options are feasible. Your precast manufacturer can help you specify a design that can be constructed to fit your community’s needs.

To find a pipe manufacturer in your area, visit the American Concrete Pipe Association’s interactive map for suppliers in the United States and Canada.