Should We Retrofit Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems?


Should We Retrofit Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems?


In terms of design it is easier to design sustainable urban drainage systems at the start of the development process, however there are existing neighbourhoods that could benefit from the construction of sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS). What I would like to look at is how we could retrofit those existing neighbourhoods with sustainable urban drainage systems.


With climate change apparently taking more of an effect and there are going to be more extreme weather scenarios, areas that are susceptible to surface flooding. This has become apparent in times of heavy rainfall most recently, for example a few years ago there was a period of heavy rainfall in the north east of England. There was chaos on the roads and travel infrastructure, but in the housing estates there was extensive damage. The housing estates were not seen to be flood risks, but because of the intense heavy rainfall they fell victim to surface flooding. As a result, there needs to be consideration into retrofitting existing neighbourhoods with sustainable urban drainage systems to reduce the risk of this type of flooding.


Using academic literature, Macdonald and Jones (2006) use Glasgow as a case study and highlight that the increases in precipitation and the poor quality drainage has led to flooding in areas. They address the use of retrofit sustainable urban drainage and indicate that it has been a beneficial tool to reducing flooding. However, what they also make apparent is the maintenance of the SUDS, this can be an issue for land owners (Macdonald and Jones, 2006), however if it is adapted by the local authority or the highways agency, this many not be an issue. Supporting this belief is the literature by Scholz, Morgan and Pitcher (2005). They use a similar case study in Glasgow and support the idea that retrofit SUDS can help relieve the pressure on the current drainage systems (Scholz, Morgan and Pitcher, 2005).


To wrap up, in my opinion SUDS should be at the forefront of design but also it needs to be addressed on a retrofitting basis as well. As predictions state, we are due to get heavier and more frequent downpours, therefore there needs to be confidence in the drainage techniques in place, and the advantages SUDS bring can resolve this issue.




1) Macdonald, N. and Jones, P., 2006. The inclusion of sustainable drainage systems in flood management in the post-industrial city: A case study of Glasgow. Scottish Geographical Journal, 122(3), pp. 233-246.

2) Scholz, M., Morgan, R. and Pitcher, R., 2005. Stormwater resources development and management in Glasgow: two case studies. International Journal of Environmental Studies, 62(3), pp. 263-282.


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One thought on “Should We Retrofit Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems?

  1. Hi Matt, you raise an important issue, which is a big problem in my city when the flood season come. Some areas can avoid by improving the sewage system, however, areas have high heritage value such as The Old Quarter is very difficult to engage with. Surface drainage solution or sustainable urban drainage systems is very suitable to apply in this situation.
    The approach of sustainable stormwater drainage suds is slow, not fast break, to avoid large concentration of rainfall in a short time. Drain section will be difficult to meet if high rainfall, but water still costly sewer overflows, flooded roads, flooding the house. So to hold stormwater, combining different measures in a uniform, so that the flow is concentrated slowly. Use conditioner on area lakes collection and transmission of rainwater to water retention is a common practice. Besides, what we learn from Landscape Urbanism and three scenario of Nantes is we can use itself surface area of the city, enhancing the natural seepage of rainwater into the ground through the green grass, while improving landscape and microclimate conditioning.

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