Increase in urbanisation leads to flash flooding

Urbanisation is a worldwide phenomenon, which makes it imperative for both national and local governments to fully invest in disaster risk reduction to enable a more efficient adaptation to climate variability and to be fully prepared for the consequences. A recent report by The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) stated that last year the world witnessed record rainfall and Manila, Philippines was amongst the worst affected with at least 50 per cent of Metro Manila flooded in August 2012.

The Making Cities Resilient Campaign led by UNISDR has helped to raise the profile of resilience and disaster risk reduction among local governments and local communities worldwide. So far to date, 1050 cities have signed up to the initiative but, surprisingly, none are from the UK. This raises the question of why we are not involved with such initiatives. Is acting introspectively really the best course of action for us?

Image courtesy of BBC Weather

The article underlines the concern that flood costs are rising with many insurance companies increasing their premiums as a result. The recent flooding in Japan and China, which caused more than 150 deaths in less than one month, has already cost more than £1billion. Over the past 18 months alone, destructive floods have occurred in Pakistan, Australia, Brazil, Japan, The Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the United States. In addition to the city floods, here in the UK we have seen the impact of flood devastation across many parts of England and Wales including Somerset and Devon along with large parts of the North East and North Wales. We are clearly seeing that the combination of urban sprawl and the change in our climate is having major disastrous consequences.

In the report Margareta Wahlström, who heads the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) is quoted as saying, “As the urban sprawl of rapid urbanisation expands outwards and upwards, it provides ready opportunities for hazards such as floods, storms and earthquakes to wreak havoc. Half the world’s population now lives in urban areas, and that figure is estimated to rise 70% by 2050.” This forecasted rise will mean a figure of over six billion people living in our cities by 2050, exasperating the risk of flooding during heavy rainfall events if we do not adapt how we develop these areas.

The combined evidence should be more than enough to urge governments and communities alike to develop and implement new systems to protect populations from floods. In the UK much has been done towards delivering our own approach with Sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS). Such schemes can make a great contribution to reducing the risks of urban flooding and their need has been well documented in The Flood and Water Management Act 2010. The long overdue implementation of these regulations will go some way in ensuring the government’s commitment to rebuild infrastructure and control flooding – but we need to make sure we do this properly if we want a truly sustainable system to protect us from flooding in the future.


ACO StormBrixx makes Awards Finals Again!

We are delighted here at ACO. StormBrixx has once again been shortlisted for an award – this time for the highly prestigious Environment and Energy Awards in the category for Innovative Water Product/Service. The winner will be announced at a ceremony on 16th April but whatever the outcome, the fact that StormBrixx has been shortlisted again affirms the innovative solution this system offers in surface water management, especially in a year where the awards organiser states there has been a high quality of entries and judging has been tough.

The StormBrixx surface water infiltration and storage system was designed to address specific industry issues and has been integrated as part of a sustainable urban drainage scheme (SuDS) in all construction environments. The system is packed full of features based on detailed understanding of the historical problems the construction industry were battling with. It has full 3D access for inspection and maintenance, which is a requirement for primary adoption by Local Authorities. A stackable design reduces storage and transportation costs and, importantly, the carbon footprint of using the system. Cell brickbonding and crossbonding offer unrivalled strength and stability while maintaining easy installation and flexibility to minimise excavation requirements.

StormBrixx is already an award-winning product with the British Construction Industry (BCI) Awards for Product Design Innovation. The industry recognition of its clever design and successful application in numerous projects confirm it is the very special product we were aiming for. Its success has proven that it is something that brings value engineering, delivers real benefit and solves many challenging issues for successful, sustainable surface water management today and for the future.

What happens when the ground is full?

With the second highest rainfall on record in a year which started with drought, 2012 has certainly bought a lot of comment about changing weather patterns and the challenges we face in dealing with the increase in flooding we have been experiencing. The BBC recently reported on how the ground is completely saturated with water and has nowhere else to go underground. The feature also comments on how the groundwater levels have risen faster than any other time since records began in the 1830s, leaving us in unknown territory as to how the groundwater will respond.

Forecasting our weather has always been a topic of much discussion and it has been particularly difficult to predict over the past few months. Milder air holds more moisture and has the propensity to produce much more intense rainfall. When the ground is already full, however, water simply runs along the surface – causing the excessive flooding we have been seeing. The big concern is that these sorts of conditions become the norm and we see these events occurring more frequently year on year. So what can we do for the future?

The requirement for sustainable drainage schemes (SuDS) provision in Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 is scheduled to be enforced in 2014. Where we have continued to urbanise our landscape, issues arise with fast water runoff through conventional piped drainage which overwhelms the sewer capacity – a situation we have seen all too much of during the past 12 months. SuDS require that drainage mimics runoff from the site in its natural state using techniques such as retention and infiltration along with linear channel drainage to provide an effective conveyance mechanism to transfer surface water. The aim is to reduce the rate of rainwater runoff and therefore reduce the risk of flooding.

A SuD needs to be an adaptable and flexible solution to suit individual site requirements. Combining ‘hard’ (or engineered) and ‘soft’ (or natural) components to best effect will certainly help to counter the effects of urbanisation. However in an environment where any system is struggling to cope with volume, will the forthcoming legislation really be effective in delivering all it seeks to? Can it really deliver Quantity management, Quality Management and Quality amenity?

Secretary of State confirms 2014 SuDS implementation

After a summer of rain, the heavy rainfall in November brought yet more misery with extensive flooding throughout the country. Yet another example of what seems to be a long-term change in our weather patterns and highlighting the urgent need to adapt our drainage systems to ensure we can handle such events in the future.

The devastation caused by the recent floods prompted a letter, dated 28 November 2012, from the Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs Committee to the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson in which Anne McIntosh MP (Thirsk and Malton, Conservative) requested a timescale for commencement of the additional SuDS provision still outstanding from the 2010 Flood and Water Management Act. In a subsequent parliamentary debate (6th December), Miss McIntosh called for adoption of sustainable drainage (SuDS) regulations as a “matter of urgency”.

Response from Mr Paterson confirmed the intention to bring the SuDS regulations into force in 2014. The complexities of introducing this legislation mean it is sensible to ensure it is done correctly. We are pleased to see this commitment and that the government are standing firm to take the time needed to ensure that when SuDS does come into force, its provision is appropriate, workable and correct for the needs of all it impacts.

Commencement of SuDS Schedule 3

Defra has announced that commencement of the provisions for Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act for sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) will not begin in April 2013.

M40 services, using SuDS

This decision is based on their reiterated intent to work with stakeholders to address issues raised from the consultation on the proposals to implement the SuDS requirements for new and redeveloped sites in England and Wales, which was held earlier this year.

At a recent meeting of ADEPT they supported the collaborative approach including involvement of Local Authorities. The delay to the implementation of proposals also provides an adequate lead-in before the requirements of the schedule come into force.

ACO StormBrixx featured in CPIA 2012

The Construction Products Association represents the UK’s manufacturers and suppliers of construction products, components and fittings. The innovative design of the ACO StormBrixx geocellular stormwater management system has led to its selection for inclusion in the organisation’s Innovation & Achievement (CPIA) 2012/13 publication. The catalogue showcases the latest innovations from construction product manufacturers across a number of categories. ACO StormBrixx is included within the ‘Improvements in Site Efficiency’ section for its reduced transportation and handling needs, easy assembly and fast installation along with design features that ensure easy maintenance and strength for a reliable, long-term solution.

CPIA highlights new products and processes that have been designed to give the construction products industry a sustainable future. The publication has been running for eight years and is well established as a popular and important showcase for this market area.

The patented StormBrixx design is the first to resolve the real issues faced by customers with handling, installation, strength, longevity and maintenance of underground stormwater tanks. The stackable, modular system brings flexibility in application and installation while significantly reducing storage and transportation costs. Requiring 75% less space in transit than traditional solutions, StormBrixx further delivers a substantial reduction in carbon footprint. Available as a complete, standalone solution or as an integral part of a wider sustainable drainage scheme (SuDS), the system uniquely uses brick-bonding and cross-bonding for unrivalled stability and strength with easy and reliable on-site assembly.

Underground water management solutions need to be viable as effective, long term, manageable systems. Suitable for all types of construction environment, ACO StormBrixx has an open-sided design for practical cleaning and true 3D access for inspection once installed. This ensures it meets the primary adoption needs of Local Authorities while the strong brick-bonding and cross-bonding design still retains the structural integrity of the installation. A facility that enables the system to completely drain down further ensures water storage volume remains maximised while silt can be easily removed from a lower sump in the system.

Commenting on the inclusion of StormBrixx within this important publication, Richard Hill, Managing Director at ACO, said, “We are delighted ACO StormBrixx was included within the 2012/13 issue of CPIA. The design of this product has truly tackled the issues faced by the construction industry in using underground stormwater storage and infiltration tanks. The system is a key part of our SuDS offering and reflects our commitment to develop optimum solutions to benefit the industry and the environment.”

ACO StormBrixx Wins Design Innovation Award

We are still pinching ourselves. StormBrixx, our sustainable storm water management solution, has won the Product Design Innovation award at the British Construction Industry Awards 2012!

StormBrixx, which can be applied in every construction environment, was described as “future focused” by ACO’s Managing Director Richard Hill. The recognition received at this event highlights the superb work that all the ACO team has put towards the development of this ingenious SuDS solution.

ACO StormBrixx

ACO StormBrixx is an advanced, market-leading SuDS system designed to store water more effectively. As part of our new stormwater attenuation and infiltration solution, ACO StormBrixx breaks new ground. An intelligent, stackable design simplifies delivery and installation, while minimising carbon footprint. What’s more, inspection and maintenance is made quick and easy thanks to a host of smart design features, which reduce running costs and prolong system life.

The judges highlighted the innovative nature of the product, which is made from recycled materials, saying that it has “truly reinvented an existing product type. StormBrixx meets clients’ needs and provides a solution that otherwise might have been overlooked.”

The event, which takes place every year, pulled in 900 people from across the country to celebrate the elite minds in the British construction industry.

Even RT Hon Michael Fallon, Minister of State for business, was in attendance to watch our skilled product development team collect their prize at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, on Wednesday 10th October.

Celebrations were also in order for the BCIAs, who marked 25 years of awarding the best minds in the UK construction sector, making them the longest standing accolade in the industry.