21 Feb 2012
Is transferring software around the world the key to advancing Water Sensitive Urban Design ? (WSUD) or should we understand the context of the place in which we want to develop WSUD first?
It is very easy to get carried away with the bells and whistles of software but what really works is when we first establish a fundamental understanding of a place and then use software as part of an integrated design approach (if it is appropriate). Just because something worked in one country or city, it does not mean it is readily transferable. I favour developing software with designers to ensure it addresses the key issues as an aid to integrated design rather than a black box.
At the last two NEAS (National Environment Advisory Service) conferences for the Environment Agency of England and Wales there have been presentations on ‘Integrated Design’ by myself (in 2010) and the President of CIWEM, David Wilkes (in 2011). Our approach at Arup is very much about integrating architectural thinking with engineering thinking and software is very much an enabling tool in that process, as is visual representation using sketches, photomontage and 3D modelling. Issues such as ‘context’ and ‘sense of place’ are fundamental. The potential for developing Green Infrastructure within an integrated design approach is very exciting as it enables catchment solutions to be developed which can be promoted through multiple end-user benefits eg recreation and amenity, water, energy, ecology, natural resources.
There are good examples of this thinking eg The City of New York now have a Green Infrastructure Plan to reduce surface water loading on the sewers and hence reduce sewer pumping whilst also greening the city. Welsh Water are now looking at retro-fitting SUDS which will help to ensure more effective catchment solutions as well as leading the way on thinking in this space