Drainage law 'opportunity for designers'

National standards on sustainable urban drainage that could become law under the Flood and Water Management Bill will have a major impact on landscape architecture.

Landscape architects are at the heart of developments for sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS), said BRE Innovation Park masterplanner Peter Wilder. He added that, if made law next year, the standards will bring major opportunities.

"Landscape architects are the body of people most able to change things, yet the ones least asked to," said Wilder, who is director of Macfarlane Wilder. "More spending and infrastructure are not going to work. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel in the realisation that this constant cycle of investment in (sewer) infrastructure can't continue and we need to look at land as a resource for managing water."

Wilder was speaking at a conference organised by Watermatic at the Tower of London last week. Water from Sky to Sewer also featured Middlesex University's professor of water economics Colin Green, Max Fordham Consulting Engineers partner Bill Watts and London Sustainability Exchange chief executive Samantha Heath.

"SUDS are not about infrastructure, they are about de-infrastructuring (sic) our surface water management," added Wilder.

"The future of water management doesn't lie in building, but in landscape."

A guidance document on the standards is expected to be published next year. "(The guidance) will give us something to refer to and it will be a mandatory document for developers and local authorities (if the flood and water management bill becomes law)," Wilder said.

SUDS will be critical in high-density urban areas where there is further demand for housing and could also save developers money, Wilder argued, citing green roofs, rainwater harvesting, swales and attenuation lagoons.

"But government legislation doesn't teach people how to think," he warned. "We are looking to the industry to push this and to drive local authorities and developers to look for the best - not the cheapest - solution."

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