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SuDS make sense

Winter is coming, and so is the updated SuDS manual. To say it’s an update is a tad misleading, it’s pretty much a rewrite. Much has changed since the last Manual was produced in 2007; knowledge, experience (and mercifully) delivery have improved both in terms of quantity and for the most part quality.

The SuDS Manual will be launched in the next week or so (free to download) from both susdrain and the CIRIA website. With considerably more information, several new sections, 300+ images and dozens of case studies we haven’t been able to reduce the page count. However, with full colour and a reader navigation system based on readers’ needs it is easier to use.

So what’s changed? At its core the SuDS manual recognises SuDS is an opportunity and should (wherever possible) deliver multiple benefits for schemes. Surface water runoff is not really a problem, it’s a resource, this complements CIRIA’s BeST (Benefits of SuDS tool) project. The manual also asserts the notion that with effective and early engagement of the right team SuDS can be delivered on any site, often cost effectively delivering more than just local flood risk management. 

The new Manual suggests that SuDS isn’t just for engineers, it’s also a design process with landscape architects and urban designers playing an important role (as do communities in retrofit situations). The best schemes are likely to be those that have engineers and landscape architects working side-by-side with an appreciation of what the different disciplines can provide to get the best out of a site.

The SuDS triangle has evolved into meeting four design objectives where surface water runoff is managed for water quantity, water quality, amenity and biodiversity benefits. These “four pillars” of SuDS design is presented with more clarity including information on specific design criteria that should be achieved on a scheme wherever possible. 

We also have a number of new sections reflecting the interaction of SuDS with spatial planning and the design of our places and spaces. There are sections on the SuDS design process, delivering SuDS for urban environments as well as highways and roads. For the SuDS sceptic, there’s also a section on delivering SuDS in challenging circumstances with the aspiration of debunking common (and often frustrating) SuDS myths. We’ve included one or two additional SuDS components and the information presented in the individual component chapters has been significantly improved with knowledge and expertise gained worldwide since the last Manual was produced.

Like other CIRIA projects the manual is collaboratively developed (with a larger project steering group than usual) and funded with contributions from the public and private sector. The authorship is an interdisciplinary team of engineers, SuDS practitioners and landscape architects. The authors (HR Wallingford, EPG, Illman Young, Grant Associates and Ecofutures) have produced guidance that will remain the UK’s one stop-shop on the planning, design, construction and maintenance of SuDS for some time to come.

For the future, CIRIA is tackling other challenges around the construction of SuDS and is also looking to support planners in their role of driving the delivery of SuDS. We’re also going to support the evaluation of SuDS with the provision of training and a process to support the assessment of SuDS plans and designs.

We obviously believe that #SuDSmakesense and hope that the SuDS manual, and other initiatives like BeST and susdrain provide you and others with the confidence to create great schemes.

Paul Shaffer, Associate, CIRIA