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Are we ready for SuDS?


by Netsanet Mebrate, PhD
MicroDrainage Product Owner, Newbury, U.K.

The updated SuDS Manual has now been out for a while, with a complete rewrite of the last manual that was created around 2007. The new manual answers most of the technically challenging questions regarding SuDS (also called Low Impact Development or Water Sensitive Urban Design).

The famous SuDS triangle has now become the SuDS square, encompassing water quantity, water quality, amenity and biodiversity. These four components are all presented with specific design criteria to be attained and identifies the detail needed. This accomplishment is one positive step forward in the long journey towards making SuDS acceptable as a norm for providing drainage on new or redeveloped sites.

Although a significant part of the drainage industry positively recognises SuDS as an opportunity to deliver multiple benefits, the battle to convince some parts of the drainage industry is yet to be won. Most of the resistance originates from groundless myths such as:

  • "SuDS cost more than traditional drainage"
  • "SuDS design is technically challenging"
  • "SuDS require more land than traditional drainage"

Though most of the data we see debunks these myths, a considerable amount of work is still required to convince the entire drainage community. The onus is on all SuDS advocates to preach to the unconverted in order to bring about a paradigm shift on the viability of SuDS as a real and sustainable alternative to traditional drainage.

The beauty of SuDS is not only the accomplishment of a sustainable drainage scheme but in that it will also force drainage to be considered at the forefront of a development. Studies show that considering drainage earlier in the development process can actually increase savings when using sustainable drainage measures. Drainage should not be considered as a problem simply to be mitigated, but rather as a resource that will help to deliver multiple benefits. This is accomplished by the collaborative efforts of engineers, landscape architects and urban designers working in cooperation, drawing upon the skills and experience that each discipline provides to deliver a win-win solution for all stakeholders.

One of the ways to convince the sceptics is the development of cutting edge technological solutions. Being able to create and model a design to deliver a range of SuDS schemes for urban environments as efficiently, robustly, credibly and as quickly as traditional drainage, will remove one of the barriers to achieving universal acceptance of SuDS. Moreover, the development of technology that is acceptable to both designers and approving authorities will be an added advantage.

To that end, MicroDrainage has been able to leverage on the great wealth of knowledge and experience acquired over the last 35 years dealing with traditional drainage design to come up with a technological solution for designing SuDS schemes within the United Kingdom and similar markets. The ability to holistically simulate fully integrated SuDS networks in a similar fashion to designing traditional networks has now been made possible.

Further, newer xpdrainage can help users automatically design sustainable drainage networks in a treatment train approach that makes SuDS/LID/WSUD design much faster and accurate than most traditional methods of design.

Do you fully participate in sustainable drainage design?  If not, what are the hurdles that you face in implementing sustainable practices?

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