Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems

The use of natural elements can completely transform a space, and should be intrinsic to your design. Picture yourself in your favourite space. Why is it your favourite? Is it the natural sunlight that comes through your window at dawn? Or do you love the fresh air from your houseplants? In architecture, natural elements like light, space and air can be controlled through design.

But what about the natural elements that are out of our control? Well, we need to utilise them in sustainable ways rather than work against them.

Rainwater and surface water are examples of natural elements that require sustainable management that go beyond the design. This is where the process of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) has been introduced. SUDS collect, store and clean surface water before it goes back into the environment. This is achieved by techniques that imitate a natural drainage system. It is most commonly used in urban areas where natural infiltration is affected by sealed surfaces, which can cause flash flooding and other problems.

The team at Rees Architects designed a concept that illustrates how SUDS can be used on an agricultural farm site in Essex, located about 50 miles outside of London. Click on the diagram above for a closer look at this process.

The design concept for the farm builds on the historical heritage and linkage to the agricultural roots of the site. The design takes into account and borrows what already exists in the neighbouring area, like the existing landscape and footprints for new dwellings. Beyond the linkage to the existing landscape, the architects implemented the SUDS process to depict how rainwater can enhance the functionality of the farm.

When rainwater falls on the site, it is collected and pumped into a water tank. This rainwater is collected from the roofs and other hard surfaces – like roads, footpaths and patios. Once the water is collected in the tank, it is filtered to remove as much debris as possible. The filtered water is then used on-site for water, plantation and within a new pond. The creation of a new pond creates a biodiversity for existing and potentially new wildlife.  This saves the existing water that would normally be pumped away (to the river or sea) and reduces amount of clean water to be used for watering plants and landscaping. The benefits and new opportunities of harvesting rainwater through the way of SUDS can truly transform a space.

 In simple terms, think of the entire process as the recycling of water to improve the quality of life!

Written By: Alyssa Rossi