Gearing up for step change in water management

  • 16 May 2016

GUEST BLOG: Steve Durdant-Hollamby, MD of Alumasc Water Management Solutions (AWMS), on what the building industry needs to do about climate change, extreme weather and flooding.

The Government and Environment Agency must be relieved that water and wild weather have dropped out of UK headlines.

And regardless of the outcome for Brexit, they’ll be back. If the rate of change is not increasing, the effects of climate change are piling up. Worldwide, water, wild weather and climate change are hogging the news.

Droughts, crop failures and malnutrition in southern Africa. Drought and flooding in California. Fires in Indonesia’s rainforest. Crop failures in the Philippines. They’re aggravated by an El Niño event, the result of increased sea temperatures. It’s one of the most intense in history.

The first three months of this year broke temperature records as the warmest ever measured. Forecasts suggest 2016 may be the hottest year on record, beating the 2015 and 2014’s records.

Spring began an early melt of land ice on Greenland, and an improved computed model that includes the observed collapse of ice cliffs projects much faster ice loss in Antarctica.

A recent paper by renowned climate scientist James Hansen predicted a massive rise in sea level. Now, Rob DeConto, University of Massachusetts-Amherst is publishing a paper which forecasts catastrophic Antarctic melting and supports Hansen’s forecast. “Floating ice shelves around Antarctica will soon be exposed to above zero summer-air temperatures speeding their melt,” DeConto explains. “Once these shelves are gone, the huge ice cliffs that remain will start to collapse.”

If countries meet their Paris agreement pledges, global sea levels could rise one metre by 2100. If emissions keep climbing, levels could increase more than two metres.

Our understanding of the causes and effects of climate change are improving rapidly. The focus now is on establishing what will happen, where and when so we can prepare for it.

So, with more violent storms, heavy rains dropping more in a day then previously fell in a year, and extensive flooding, what should we be doing?

Fullscreen capture 16052016 165601First, we should not make the problem worse. That means building in the right places in the right way. To improve the housing shortage, the new Housing & Planning Bill currently in consultation could potentially fast-track thousands of new homes through planning, without adequate environmental impact assessment or consideration of sustainable surface water management.

We should make sensible provision for upstream water management and pay more than lip service to flood defences, so when the rains come they don’t overwhelm towns, bridges, roads, rail and other infrastructure in their way.

Buildings and the surrounding hard standing should be designed with the capacity and resilience to cope with this additional rainwater, and we should balance the mix of soft and engineered sustainable drainage to achieve practical solutions at any scale. Overall it requires joined-up solutions and integrated thinking from rain to drain.

We’ll have to learn to manage for too little, as well as too much water. A warmer, wetter, more volatile UK will experience drought too.

The climate is not just changing, it’s going through a step change. So we need to gear up for a step change too.

Making the transition to a resilient built environment with resilient buildings, so we can live in a more turbulent wetter climate, depends on supply chains working together, and working with people across and outside the industry.

Think water. Think integrated water management solutions.


Leave a Reply

Latest news

Newton Waterproofing

The Newton Waterproofing App – Now on Desktop!

The free Newton Waterproofing App has undergone a major update, including moving to a Google software development kit and adding a host of new features.

Posted in Articles, Building Industry News, Building Products & Structures, Building Services, Damp & Waterproofing, Facility Management & Building Services, Information Technology, Innovations & New Products

BBI Services

BBI Services: The problem with plan-do-review

Marc Roberts, Chief Operations Officer at BBI Services, tackles the topic of how to implement workable strategies for improving productivity and efficiency.

Posted in Articles, Building Industry News, Building Services, Facility Management & Building Services, Site Preparation


Recofloor 2022 Awards Event kicks off in April

Recofloor’s 2022 rugby-themed awards event – the first in-person occasion for three years – kicks off in April at the renowned Twickenham Stadium.

Posted in Articles, Awards, Building Industry Events, Building Industry News, Building Products & Structures, Building Services, Exhibitions and Conferences, Facility Management & Building Services, Floors, Site Preparation, Sustainability & Energy Efficiency, Waste Management & Recycling


DCW 2021: Picture and video highlights of last year's show

Digital Construction Week was delighted to finally have the chance to welcome thousands of visitors to the show once again, between 24 – 25 November 2021.

Posted in Articles, BIM, Infrastructure & CAD Software, Building Industry Events, Building Industry News, Building Products & Structures, Exhibitions and Conferences, Information Technology, Innovations & New Products, Seminars, Video of the Week