Developing the future

Now is the time to improve the way that drainage projects are designed, specified and installed. And collaboration is key to helping the UK cope better with changing weather patterns and new legislation, says Dr Jason Shingleton.

THIS YEAR represents a year of potential, yet significant change to drainage and surface water management practices within the UK. The looming general election could wield the greatest impact on new guidance and legislation such as the Floods and Water Management Bill and the Water Framework Directive (WFD), which are being driven by the current government.

Whilst indications at the moment show there is ongoing support for the full adoption of these latest regulations, close working relationships and collaborative working between designers, contractors and manufacturers is the most effective way to limit the spread of any confusion within the industry.

By making an increased effort now in improving the way drainage projects are designed, specified and installed, we will be much better equipped to cope with ever-changing weather patterns and subsequent developments in legislation in the future.

Project design

A weak supply chain will often expose areas of inefficiency within the businesses involved, and this is often amplified in times of uncertainty. Identifying and improving areas of inefficiency, particularly within the design of a project, is one area that, with the involvement of a robust supply chain, can begin to pay dividends relatively quickly.

The responsibility for this, however, does not sit squarely with the design engineer, consultant or contractor.

Product manufacturers have a significant role to play in helping designers and contractors to utilise the appropriate surface water drainage and sustainable water managements solutions that can save time on site, reduce installation costs or offer increased benefits to the client.

With the market demand for sustainable drainage solutions (SUDS) increasing significantly in recent years in the form of above-ground balancing ponds and swales and below-ground engineered systems such as modular cell systems and large diameter pipes, the industry has had to develop a strong understanding of not only the latest building products and technologies, but also a raft of legislative drivers.


Typically at the forefront of new product development, legislative change and industry trends, manufacturers can offer guidance and advice on the most suitable product for an application.

Utilising this design and technical experience can help to value-engineer an appropriate solution using either standard or bespoke products depending on the requirements of the project. Appropriate product placement is also as important as the product itself and manufacturers can help contractors to reconfigure original design drawings which can value-engineer a specific solution – for example, relocating a below-ground attenuation structure from underneath a trafficked area to a landscaped area, enabling a more cost-effective solution to be specified.

The Floods and Water Management Bill provides a good opportunity to test this methodology. Currently under parliamentary review, the bill looks to pass responsibility for the surface water management and adoption of SUDS schemes to the local authority, which will in turn seek guidance from its engineers and contractors.

Whilst the bill encourages the use of SUDS, it makes little distinction between the suitability of above and below-ground systems, potentially leading to confusion within the market regarding the most appropriate solution for each scheme.

Current legislation such as Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3), which underpins the Government’s strategic housing objectives, particularly in regard to housing densities, can actually conflict with guidance on the use of SUDS.

Balancing ponds and swales require valuable space within a development’s footprint, making it difficult for developers to adopt above-ground solutions.

Experienced manufacturers with diverse product ranges have the knowledge and capability to provide unbiased guidance on the most appropriate solution in terms of above or below-ground solutions, or a combination of the two.

Proactive method

Early involvement of a product manufacturer is key. At the design stage, project constraints can be designed out and this offers a more proactive, rather than reactive method of designing an appropriate solution. This support is not only restricted to the design stages once a contract has been awarded. If involved at the tender stage, manufacturers can offer additional benefits through the use of off-site manufacture and bespoke products that can be designed to suit the site build requirements.

Product manufacturers invest heavily in providing a wide range of information such as product literature, technical specification documents and installation guides to help engineers and contractors. This has to be a two-way process and all parties need to be open to collaborative working with manufacturers. When the barriers to communication are lowered, the relationship can develop to enable all parties to share in best practice.

Dr Jason Shingleton is marketing and development director at Polypipe Civils.

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