In view of the Ecobuild 2013 in London, the world’s biggest event for sustainable design, construction and the built environment, Italoeuropeo have decided to give space to companies that will be part of the Ecobuild 2013, and we start with the Steff Wright, the Chairman of the Gusto Group whose Freerain rainwater harvesting company are founder-members of the UK Rainwater Harvesting Association
protecting a scarce resource …
The EC has announced the launch of a new initiative to protect a scarce natural resource, through its “2012 Blueprint to safeguard Europe’s water”
The main aim of EC water policy is to ensure that throughout the EU a sufficient quantity of good quality water is available to meet people’s needs, and the needs of the environment.
Translating the Blueprint through to EU-wide legislation, as part of an overarching EC water policy, is planned for completion by 2015, and will encompass the results of four ongoing assessments; these will cover:
National river basin management plans
A review of EU policy on water scarcity and drought
The vulnerability of water resources to climate change
And a gap-analysis on existing EU freshwater policies
The results of these four reviews, together with other EU studies, will provide knowledge to help better implementation of EU policy.
This will bring a new dimension to the Design and Planning processes, with Developers and Adoption Boards needing to pre-agree infrastructure proposals and the associated adoption fee. This will place a premium on designing systems that are straightforward to maintain.
systems integration …
One way to achieve this will be to remove as much surface water from the flood-risk equation as possible, by harvesting it for re-use to meet the mains-water consumption requirements of new developments.
The rainwater harvesting (RWH) element of systems combined in this way have their own in-built maintenance cycle, and help to address water quality issues by including initial filtration. Although it is early to be certain, these elements of an integrated surface water management/RWH system might therefore not need to be adopted, thus saving a great deal of cost and complexity.
They also reduce the capacity required of other downstream “amenity” elements of the infrastructure, such as balancing ponds and swales, in the process reducing land-take and costs.
the UK perspective …
Unsurprisingly, the UK will have its own special interest in this initiative, having recently experienced one of the wettest years on record. With flood alerts regularly leading the daily news, the need to ensure that new developments do not add to the problem needs little arguing.
Perhaps more easily overlooked is an underlying position, shared with much of Europe, showing water supplies to be generally under stress, particularly in England south of the Humber estuary. Worryingly, these stresses will increase substantially as demand for water grows due to population growth.
Changing rainfall patterns are also predicted to increase flood risk, control of which in part involves getting temporary excess water out to sea as quickly as possible; having done so, it is lost as a supply resource, exacerbating water shortages.
new drivers …
UK legislation covering these issues came into force two years ago with the passing of the “2010 Flood & Water Management Act”. This reinforced the need for new developments to be, at worst, flood-risk neutral. It also brought into play broader challenges for developers such as water-quality issues, environmental impact, and the amenity value of surface water features.
The 2010 Act also legislates for the introduction of new “SuDS Adoption Boards”, the role of which will be to take ongoing responsibility for the maintenance and effectiveness of the surface water management infrastructure on new developments.
a double benefit …
Helping to manage flood risks in this way provides a substantial second benefit through its impact on mains water consumption.
The harvested rainwater can be used as a replacement for mains water used for applications such as toilet-flushing, clothes washing machines and by outside taps. In dwellings these applications account for around 50% of all consumption.
In other building, where the above applications may account for a much higher percentage of overall consumption, the mains water savings can rise to in excess of 90% in any building that shares the characteristics of a large roof, and a high demand for non-potable water.
Harvesting rainwater, in the course of managing the surface water to avoid increasing flood risks on new developments, also helps to meet the mains water consumption requirements of sustainable construction, as reflected in the Code for Sustainable Homes and BREEAM.