How innovative sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) can help cities keep their heads above water

How innovative sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) can help cities keep their heads above water

Martin Lambley, Product Manager for Urban Climate Resilience, North West Europe, UK & Ireland at Wavin examines how innovative Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) can improve urban resilience and help our cities weather the climate storm

Urban environments in the UK continue to expand and their water infrastructure is becoming increasingly inconsistent with weather patterns that are becoming increasingly extreme. At least eight European countries had their hottest January day on record and parts of southern England had their warmest New Year’s Eve on record. So it is clear that the winter weather is changing. In the UK, that means milder, wetter winters – and cities and towns are already struggling.

Our cities and communities are expanding rapidly as population-driven urbanization creates larger communities. This rapid expansion brings with it a number of urban planning challenges, both in terms of providing the required volume of drinking water and rain management. Heavier torrential rains are becoming more frequent and when these are combined with the type of harsh landscaping associated with urban locations, there is immense pressure on our aging drainage and sewage systems.

Across Britain, much of the water infrastructure dates from the Victorian era, when towns were only a fraction of their current size. However, as the impact of climate change comes into sharper focus, it is clear that these systems are simply no longer fit for purpose and cannot withstand the extreme rainfall events that are becoming a regular feature of Britain’s winters. It is time to take a more sustainable and forward-thinking approach to stormwater management across our built environment.

Resilient through design

One of the challenges of urbanization is that it transforms permeable natural surfaces – useful for safely returning stormwater to the environment – into impermeable ones that leave it with nowhere. Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) help mitigate these impacts and have become an integral part of the local environment. Today they are a crucial element of an urban water cycle, which is based on getting excess water out of the city as quickly as possible.

Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) work best when artificial underground systems are coupled with natural solutions at the surface to support, rather than hinder, the natural water cycle. Dampening tanks are an important man-made solution that store water after heavy rainfall and release it at a controlled rate to minimize the risk of flash flooding. In combination with natural elements such as ponds, seeps and hollows, they provide a holistic approach to water management. This is absolutely critical to improving the resilience of urban drainage systems.

Good in a small space

One of the barriers for developers wanting to embrace SuDS is getting them to work in the communities where they are most needed. Space is often at a premium, and lack of space on site and tricky access regulations pose major challenges. These issues can be acute for projects in densely populated urban areas.

For this reason, the latest technology has been developed for tight urban spaces and easy installation. The stackable design allows units to be stored in a quarter of the space of the previous generation, meaning more space on site and significantly reducing the number of deliveries.

Safety is also an important consideration in more cramped locations and many of the latest systems use intuitive installation systems such as B. Push-Fit technology to ensure as few people as possible are in the tank at one time.

Not just a dream

For Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) to give a real boost to urban resilience, they need to be an achievable goal for developers and planners. For manufacturers, this means considering where the holistic approach fits into a complex development without derailing it or causing significant delays. As with any other decision during the design and construction process, project managers will look beyond the benefits of sustainable drainage to where it fits into the broader considerations of the building.

One way to do this is to use a service that encompasses stormwater management as a whole, rather than focusing on individual products. End-to-end support also removes the need for decision makers to be experts on the solutions before they go live – our role as manufacturers is to be ready to advise which systems are right for which projects, and make sure they are reinstalled correctly.

Broader implementation of SuDS is critical to building urban environments that can withstand the effects of the climate emergency, but this requires developers, civil engineers and site managers to take the initiative and manufacturers to provide the necessary tools. A resilient future is built on an innovative, integrated infrastructure that encompasses comprehensive water management solutions.

Martin Lambley

Product manager for urban climate resilience

North West Europe, UK & Ireland Wavin

Phone: +44 (0)1709 856300





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