Using Sustainable Drainage Systems to add Value to Development Projects

Using Sustainable Drainage features calls on developers, designers and planners to adopt a new way of thinking, and that can cause some level of resistance.

However, Sustainable Drainage is not very far removed from existing civil engineering principles, when you seriously consider it. What does civil engineering do? It provides answers to problems. In this case, the problem of what to do with excess water. Traditionally, drainage engineers have turned to ‘grey engineering’ solutions, employing gravity to transport water via underground pipes to attenuation tanks or possibly a watercourse. The hard engineering used is pipes and tanks.

Green engineering or Green Infrastructure (GI) provides alternative solutions to the same problem. It channels excess water away from properties or land to a place where it can be stored harmlessly until it moves on naturally. That’s the keyword: Naturally.  Sustainability means replacing pipes and tanks with structures that mimic nature. It may take a little more thought to design a system that includes swales, rain gardens and tree pits. But that is what turns boring drainage design into something more rewarding; something that adds to the value of new development for potential purchasers – if it’s done right, of course.

HydroPlanter Raingarden SuDS

The pressure on land for both new developments and in built-up areas is such that reducing the footprint of a SuDS/LID (Low impact development) scheme is a major factor in the design and delivery of SuDS. Components that intercept stormwater and slow the flow before it reaches a final attenuation or infiltration point, reduces the amount of land required for the scheme. This increases the return on the developer’s investment in the land and, given that well-designed SuDS offer additional benefits of amenity and biodiversity, properties protected by SuDS can attract a higher premium. Indeed, some housebuilders have advertised the use of SuDS as a selling point.

Deciding which SuDS features to employ and how to combine them to create an effective solution is where engineers can complement their engineering problem-solving skills with a creative angle. The engineer’s drive to build a workable, successful solution is satisfied by using a hydraulic model to provide the reassurances with the regulator demands. At the design stage, the hydraulic model demonstrates the effects that different SuDS features might have on a given site, especially at times of peak flow. It also allows the engineer to model different approaches and ‘pioneer’ alternative, creative solutions.

SuDS Tree Pit Buildout – Overstone Road, Hammersmith & Fulham

Drainage engineers who rise to the challenge and become good at SuDS design, prove their worth to developers time and again. We find that engineers who embrace GI develop a more creative approach to solving problems, often becoming SuDS champions, and earn themselves valuable competitive advantage into the bargain.

Scaling SuDS Schemes – from microSuDS to Major Projects

SuDS systems can work on practically any scale; from plot-level components like rainwater harvesting and green roofs to very large schemes that include a number of SuDS systems working together. The impressive scheme in the Grangetown area of Cardiff is an excellent example and one that GreenBlue Urban is proud to have played a part in.

What options are available? Well, not all SuDS interventions have to be major. Small scale features are possible with systems like GreenBlue Urban’s HydroPlanter. This is a bioretention rain garden system that captures and cleans stormwater and provides amenity and biodiversity to new and existing spaces. The modular nature of the system means that it can be used on a single plot as a ‘microSuDs’ or combined to provide effective flood mitigation on highways or retrofitted into urban environments.

ArborFlow Installation – Bletchley, Brunel Roundabout

The value of microSuDs close to the source of the rainwater means that there is less of an impact if there should be an issue. When the capacity of a single water harvester is exceeded, there is much less risk of harm than, say, a large bioretention pond overflowing. What’s more, combining microSuDS with other SuDs structures greatly reduces the volume of water that needs to be attenuated.

So it’s a win-win for any developer who takes a creative approach proposed by a drainage engineer who ‘gets SuDs’.

Putting nature at the core of your drainage design strategy is key to adding value to development projects. The solutions shouldn’t be restricted to holes in the ground. Trees play an important role in addressing flood risk. Look out for the next blog to understand how trees and tree pit systems such as ArborFlow add to your SuDS success.


Our latest webinar – to be hosted live on 25th March 2022 will include speakers from a number of successful councils including, Leicester City, Gloucestershire County, Suffolk County and Verdant Fields, a Consultancy firm designing the SuDS implementation of Mansfield – Be a shame to miss!