Feeling the heat: how can we mitigate the impact of climatic change?

Housing Mon, Sep 25, 2023 1:01 PM

So far this year, we’ve seen some of the most extreme weather conditions ever in the UK, with the hottest June on record shortly followed by the wettest July in some areas. When it comes to our water infrastructure this has meant an incredible amount of strain, and, as this type of weather appears to be becoming the norm, the need for robust water management in urban areas has now reached a critical point.

Here, Martin Lambley, Product Manager for Urban Climate Resilience at Wavin, explains how our urban water management needs to face up to threats posed by worsening climatic conditions, and explores how innovative solutions can help alleviate some of the issues.

As the increasing threat of flooding poses a significant risk to the UK’s infrastructure, it is now critical that the construction industry can guarantee the safety and protection of property of both a residential and commercial nature.

Photo: Wavin’s Aquacell NG

A combination of more extreme weather paired with inadequate, out-of-date water management systems paints a worrying picture for the future of the country’s infrastructure – particularly as flooding continues to worsen in many areas.

Mimicking the natural water cycle

In recent years, revised understandings of the water cycle have thankfully informed the development of a new era of management solutions – sustainable drainage systems (SuDS). This type of system aims to accurately mirror the natural water cycle, largely by controlling the rate at which excess rainwater is released back into the earth. Doing this at a controlled rate ensures that potentially dry, parched earth from previous drought and reduced rainfall doesn’t become overwhelmed with excess water, consequently helping to mitigate flooding.

When considering the benefits that can come from mirroring the natural water cycle, it becomes clear to see why SuDS are becoming a popular choice across both new developments and retrofit projects. With the introduction of Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010upcoming in 2024, policymakers are similarly recognising the value of SuDS and their potential in protecting and strengthening the UK’s built environment from the unpredictable impacts of water-based climatic changes.

Photo: Wavin’s Aquacell NG attenuation tanks

Wider benefits

Beyond their ability to protect infrastructure and end-users from rising flood risks, there are also various installation advantages for construction professionals on site with SuDS. In the past, flood defenses and water management systems have tended to be cumbersome to install, making them unsuitable for projects that may be constrained by either time or space.

Today, the new generation of water management solutions have been designed with ease of installation in mind. Many new SuDS products, like Wavin’s Aquacell NG attenuation tanks, have been designed to make installations easier and more efficient, with recent research indicating that the ergonomic design makes installation up to three times faster. Also, thanks to their more compact design, less room has to be taken up on-site for storage before installation.

The bottom line

As the UK’s built environment continues to feel the pressure of climate change, the construction industry can no longer be complacent with the flood defenses that are included in projects. Newly developed SuDS are perhaps some of the best available management solutions that the sector has against the rising flood risks, with their potential benefits being recognisable even from the outset - during initial installation.

Ultimately though, the onus is now on developers, architects, and specifiers to ensure that future water management systems are up to facing the challenges ahead. The UK’s built environment and crucially, the people within it, need to be adequately protected.

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