Focus on SuDS and sustainability innovation

min read time
2023-11-08 11:07:20

Martin Lambley, Senior Product Manager for Urban Climate Resilience at Wavin, talks to Phil Alsop of Water Magazine to discuss Wavin’s major focus on sustainability throughout the water cycle, with SuDs, greywater and rainwater harvesting solutions front and centre. He also explains how sustainability drives all aspects of the company’s activities, from local, energy-optimised manufacturing, green logistics and an electric vehicle fleet, through to technology solutions made from recycled materials and designed to be recycled at end of life.

What’s new at Wavin UK?

AquaCell is Wavin’s modular attenuation tank system for stormwater management and this year we have launched a new production line. The UK has been a strong market for 20+ years for AquaCell. Our newest generation, AquaCell NG was developed in our technology and innovation department near the Poland/Holland border and is manufactured in our newly upgraded production line in our UK Chippenham factory. It’s a global product and manufacture in Chippenham will help support the current manufacture in Poland and Netherlands.

The new production line represents a 10 million dollar investment in manufacturing in the UK with two brand new state of the art injection moulding machines and two brand new tools. . Wavin is also now looking at additional manufacturing sites, 1 in LATAM and possibly another in Europe to support European demand.

What’s new with the latest generation of AquaCell?

  • They are designed to stack on site and in transportation.
  • A truck can now carry 1200 new AquaCell NG units with over 300 cubic metres of storage compared to 390 units previously which equates to 72 cubic metres of storage
  • Environmental benefits – require ¼ of trucks on road resulting in ¼ of CO2 emissions
  • Less deliveries to site
  • Reduced storage footprint on site
  • Modular design is much quicker and easier to install- clips are all integrated into the product design so itslides drops and clips into place

What is Wavin’s role in promoting SuDs as a way of addressing a really important issue?

I think as a responsible material manufacturer and supplier in this market for many years, we have a voice in the industry. People recognise AquaCell and know what it does. I don’t think we should be afraid to use that voice. As Wavin, we have been trying to do that for a number of years with our ‘Future of drainage campaign’ which went out to the market and asked how they saw surface water changing in the future. We learnt a lot from that and that there was clearly a need and a want for it to change.

Wavin does a lot of work itself but is also very active with trade organisations like the British Plastics Federation (BPF), working together as an industry to promote best practice. For instance, it was the BPF that first came together and said that we need a design code for these tanks. There were a lot of cheap tanks on the market that weren’t up to the job. We came together with BPF and CIRIA to provide a design guide. We wanted to broaden the knowledge and make sure that engineers understood that there was a design guide.

How is Wavin working towards sustainability?

  • Electric trains are used to move our products as far as Scotland
  • Where legislation and regulation allows, 100% recycled 100% recyclable materials are used in our products. In the UK, all of our surface water products are now 100% recycled either polyethylene or polyproplene. As an organization, we want to be able to collect our products at the end of the construction process or lifetime of the project and bring them back into the loop by recycling them again.
  • We have done a lot of work on energy consumption across our sites in the UK. We now use 100% renewable energy across the 2 major sites in Doncaster and Chippenham. This included switching to a renewable energy supplier, putting PV across larger roofs and putting in low energy lighting that turns itself on and off. We did some calculations and found that we had made a carbon footprint reduction of 8,000 tonnes per annum. That’s equivalent to 5000 round trips from London to New York.
  • As part of Orbia, we are also working towards zero waste to landfill by 2025
  • We are switching all of our company cars to an EV fleet.
  • We are working really hard at a global level as Orbia, at a local level as Wavin and at an individual level on our different sites to really make sure we lessen our footprint on the planet.

What are environmental product declarations (EPDS’s) and why did Wavin think it was important to make this commitment?

We are very conscious that most of the products that we make are made from plastic and that plastic has a bad reputation environmentally. But plastic is also a really important material and many of the everyday plastic products that we couldn’t cope without get taken for granted. Most of the products that we make at Wavin are going to go into the ground and be used for many years. We are not in the same market as single use plastic bottles etc.

EPDs are a comprehensive, standardised report that details the environmental impact of a product. It gives a way of putting a standardised measure to it. We undertake a life cycle assessment using a standardised method looking right through from the raw material to the transport, the manufacture, the application and then the end of use. So it looks at the recycling potential as well. It can be used by the client and specifiers to quantify the environmental impact of that product.

The bulk of the products that we manufacture now have an EPD available for them. It is likely that EPDs will become part of the measurement of a project in the future. In Holland for instance, for big centrally funded government projects, the ability to supply environmental metrics is assessed and weighted in addition to the cost.

How active is Wavin in encouraging circular water management?

Construction has a reputation to of always looking for the cheapest. All of the big construction companies have the same sort of targets that we have as a manufacturer. Schedule 3 is part of the Flood and Water Management Act that will make SuDS a requirement on all developments over 100m2, this was pushed back by government because of housebuilding lobby groups. But this has now changed and developers now want to include SuDs. It actually makes the estates a nicer place to live and people want to buy there. So, they are starting to drive the conversation and become quite demanding, asking for this information about the environment and what we can do to help them.

In the UK, we have formed a new business segment called Urban Climate Resilience, the aim of this team is to get out and to work with clients and their architects and engineers at the design stage to look at the drawings to make recommendations such as adding a blue green roof, tree pits, rain gardens etc and to work with them and educate them. I think the market is coming round to understanding the benefits of lesser environmental impact, greater sustainable drainage, greater sustainability. We are starting to see greater sustainability, building regulations are driving it in terms of how we build the house, Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Act 2010 will come in next year which will further drive this towards sustainable drainage but lots of developments are starting to implement it anyway.

What are the other products in the portfoilio that are helping to address sustainability?

There is a high focus on innovation at Wavin. Some of that is changing applications of existing products. Some of that is innovating new products. People in the industry talking about controlling the flow from roof to river. Wavin’s products have touch points all along this journey. Starting at the roof, we have the PolderRoof. There is a dyke around the roof to store the water in a layer underneath. It can be controlled with valves depending on weather forecasts. If the weather forecast says there is going to be lots of rain, the valves open and slowly release the water to create the capacity to store that rain. When it is full, the water can be used to irrigate the green roof or local landscape. I think we will move towards a circular system where stored water can also be used for grey water for use inside the building such as flushing toilets. There is no need to use potable water for flushing toilets, filtered rain-water would be fine for all of those types of applications. Smart controls can also be added to underground tanks. Historically water has been seen as a waste product that you need to remove from your site as quickly as possible. But I think we need to change that. Where we have water scarcity in the South East in the summer, water can be used as a valuable resource.

We are trying to mimic what happens in the natural environment in the urban environment. So, we have systems that clean the water. We have systems that hold the water allowing evapo transpiration. When you combine all of these things to create a system instead of just a tank to hold the water before you get rid of it, that’s how SuDs has evolved. SuDs is not new but now people are really starting to understand what it has to offer.

Do you think we are working well enough to make the progress that is needed but does it need a helping hand from government?

I think it needs a push from government. Schedule 3 is going to be a big deal and what we have all been waiting for probably since 2003 when the Flood and Water management Act came about. We have seen real change in the way developments happen in Cardiff where Schedule 3 was implemented last year. There is a lot more to it than just SuDS, water reuse and water harvesting and recycling has still not really got traction and if that was built into building or planning regulations, it would then drive the innovation that would deliver these much more joined up solutions. I think all of the components are out there but they are juts not joined up yet and I think that is also a good simile for what is happening at regulatory level. All of the components are out there they are just not joined up. I am not quite sure how that happens. There is a lot been done by trade bodies and water companies trade bodies. But I think it needs government regulation, but it is not just the government, but I think everyone needs to be behind it. I don’t think it is a terrible situation, we are close but it all just needs knitting together.

Do you think it will require some sort of mind focusing event?

I hope not but the only time flooding makes the front page is when its happening. When the floods recede, the news slides from the front page to page 4 or 5 then disappears. The inevitable fact is that as we come into the winter, there will be some floods and I think this will keep the focus on it.

Urban Climate Resilience at Wavin

Wavin’s urban climate resilience solutions are helping our built environments to withstand the challenges of climate change. Our forward-thinking solutions provide a holistic approach to managing stormwater, reducing urban heat, supporting nature and enhancing livability for sustainable and future-proof built environments.

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