SUDS: The Natural Way To Beat Floods

At Greenbelt, we’re very proud of our innovative Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (or SUDS for short). These are in place on more than 100 of our new home developments right across the UK.

SUDS are systems of interconnected swales, ponds and basins that are linked by planted zones of specialised foliage.

They are designed to intercept excess rain water, while still pleasing the eye and entirely minimising the kind of damage to the landscape associated with traditional piped systems.

In fact, so natural looking are our SUDS, many people mistake them for natural water features and greenery, rather than efficiently engineered green structures.

A degree of natural filtration takes place while the water is retained in the system, with some pollutants being removed in the vegetation.

All of this means the water leaving our SUDS is cleaner than when it arrived.

Because of their open-faced nature, our SUDS are uniquely capable of intercepting excess water at source, catching rainwater in the system even as it falls.

Not only are the wide-faced ponds and basins (set into the ground with efficient sloping verges to direct water) more attractive than old-fashioned piped systems, but their distinct shape also makes them capable of retaining far more water.

Our SUDS are even capable of releasing the water back into the wider local watercourse network at a controlled rate, meaning that minimal strain is placed on local rivers during times of potential flood risk.

“SUDS are very sound systems that offer excellent flood attenuation,” says Neil Berwick, who assists Greenbelt with SUDS as part of a service agreement with Abertay University.

“They are an alternative to piped systems that provide many key benefits, including reduced risk of flooding and treatment of runoff from hard surfaces.”

Neil adds: “SUDS are very sound systems that offer excellent flood attenuation. Some people don’t even realise they’re engineered structures. They just think they’re looking at an ordinary pond.”

The eco-friendly design of our SUDS means they can offer the best of both worlds to residents on our new home developments.

The systems are great at efficiently intercepting rainfall and excess groundwater, but their natural composition is still attractive to look at and even serve as valuable habitats for a wide range of animals.

Greenbelt makes special provision for SUDS as animal habitats in our rolling maintenance programmes, with both the SUDS themselves and the enclosing grassed verges receiving special attention not only from our contractors but also our Regional Operations Managers on their monthly site inspections.

We perform specific maintenance on the SUDS in order to keep the system running at its very best, while ensuring it is available as an attractive animal habitat all year round.

This means cutting the verges only at opportune seasonal moments so that local wildlife can thrive.

Our SUDS provide such wonderful biodiversity-rich green and blue spaces that our North Hamilton site (which features our single largest example of SUDS, nestled among 27 hectares of open space and adjacent developments) is even home to the Gadwall duck, an Amber-status species with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

You might say that nature takes to our SUDS like a duck to water!