Retrofit Vision Must Drive Industry Thinking

Written By: European Sales Director, Hydro International

At the launch of CIRIA’s seminal guidance on Retrofitting for Surface Water Management, I was struck most by what a visionary piece of work this is.

Every speaker seemed infected by the same passion for change, just as much as that passion is evident between almost every line of this ground-breaking 272-page document.

There’s no doubting its robust and scholarly credentials, either.  Some of SuDS ‘leading lights’ including members of our Guest Panel have been involved in authoring the document and have consulted widely with industry to produce it.

The guidance is far more than a ‘how-to’ or engineering guide.  It presents a vision for harnessing surface water management to deliver multiple benefits in our urban communities, making them more ‘pleasant and vibrant’ places to live.

Whilst visionary, the document is also practical in setting out techniques to make change happen, whether in small incremental steps or through more strategic approaches to flood risk management.  It also addresses the Governmental and organisational aspects needed to achieve this, as well as stressing the importance of multi-agency collaboration.

Whilst current regulatory progress focuses on the mandatory use of SuDS in new developments, retrofitting presents by far the greater opportunity for introducing sustainable approaches to flood risk management and improved water quality.

Therefore, the contents of this guidance in my opinion are in many ways a blueprint for all SuDS and in the absence of more clarity and guidance in the National SuDS Standards for England and Wales (See Alex Stephenson’s blog ) should provide a roadmap for change.

The Guidance’s mantra is that ‘no space is useless’, encouraging the use of an innovative range of measures that mimic natural drainage processes.  It’s very welcome to see that the use of a range of measures both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ is accepted as being part of the retrofitting toolbox in a ‘mix and match’ approach and that each site will have different needs.

The Guidance’s 22 case studies provide some excellent examples, including several that use Hydro International’s products as part of a sustainable solution.  A recent car park retrofit at St Ives in Cornwall used Hydro StormBloc® and Hydro StormCell® storage, together with a Hydro-Brake® Flow Control as part of a local retention solution that has solved flooding problems.  Read the full case study .

Other case studies include Waltham Forest in North London which showcases one of the first ever drainage schemes to use vortex flow controls.  Back in 1984, the solution used 9 Hydro-Brake® Flow Controls and was even featured on Tomorrow’s World as an exciting new solution to flood risk. (You can still see the video here).  I hope to revisit the site at Wadley Road in the near future and report back on how it is performing for a future blog.

In future, traditional piped approaches that deal with stormwater as a waste product to be swept away into a combined sewer will be neither acceptable, nor affordable.  Retrofitting surface water management provides more flexible and adaptable approaches that are cheaper to achieve, and deliver multiple benefits to the communities they serve.

The Guidance challenges some negative perceptions of surface water management measures for example in terms of land-take or cost which must not be allowed to dilute the UK’s approach to SuDS in the future.  Instead it promotes innovative and multi-agency thinking which can begin right now to make changes and demonstrate the value it is possible to achieve.

Hydro was proud to make its contribution to this document, both in providing information, and in helping with funding for it.  I would recommend it as essential reading for anyone involved in SuDS design and delivery.

More about the Retrofitting for Surface Water Management


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