Managing water in a wetter world

Michael White, business development director of Alumasc Water Management Solutions, says climate change, increased urbanisation and more extreme weather is causing problems for our built environment. Incorporating high capacity steel rainwater systems into our buildings is an effective and affordable way to deal with water.

Extreme weather patterns mean having to deal with more intense and more frequent rainfall. The Met Office records that some parts of the UK receive more than four metres of rainfall a year. Last month, flood alerts were issued in Scotland following Storm Abigail. High winds and lightning strikes left more than 20,000 homes without power as gusts of up to 84mph battered the country.

There have been nine high profile floods in the UK since the late 90’s, and it’s an escalating problem.

Autumn 2000 was the wettest autumn on record across the UK. Ten thousand homes and businesses were flooded across 700 locations.

Seven years later widespread flooding hit Tewkesbury in the South of England, causing severe damage to over 55,000 properties. Over 180,000 homeowners claimed on their insurance, 140,000 properties in Gloucestershire had no water supply, and 13 people lost their lives. Estimated costs in damage reached £3.2 billion.

Then came the Somerset floods in 2014. High winds and persistent rainfall caused major flooding in the South West of England, resulting in many weather-related problems across the whole of the UK. Over 6,000 buildings were damaged. Many roads were underwater which had a significant impact on transport infrastructure.

This year, flash flooding in the UK resulted in 165,000 insurance claims, together amounting to more than £3 billion. Over five million properties in England are at risk of flooding from coastal, river and surface water.

Flooding isn’t a recent problem, and it isn’t confined to a few parts of the UK. But increased rainfall, more super storms and rising sea levels mean the problem is only going to get worse. By 2080, Government estimates the cost of flooding to the UK economy and businesses will reach up to £12 billion a year.

Where will all our water go?

We need to think carefully about what, where and how we build, so we are prepared for the amount of water our built environment has to deal with. Integrating a suitable and sustainable rainwater management system at the design stage will help protect our buildings, people and environment.

At the point of rain hitting a building, we need to be thinking: how is this water going to be managed? Are we prepared for the amount of rain our buildings will experience during their lifetime? Do we have suitable systems in our building to handle extreme weather and intense rainfall?

These are questions specifiers and housebuilders will have to consider when selecting rainwater systems materials.

Steel alternative

Steel rainwater systems are lightweight but robust. They’re a cost effective, long life, eco-friendly alternative to plastic guttering. There is no risk of shrinking or colour fading. Steel is a popular choice for local authority and social housing properties. It’s often available in higher capacity guttering that can accommodate heavy downpours, and provides the maximum level of protection against water damage.

Key features of steel include quality, durability, longevity and strength. Steel offers a smart, stylish and contemporary finish. It’s quick and easy to install and requires very low maintenance, which is ideal for social housing where some of the biggest maintenance costs are associated with labour.

Steel is suitable for traditional and modern buildings, in new build and refurbished developments. It comes in a wide range of colours and its cool looks and smooth modern finish ensure that it’s aesthetically suitable for each project.

Steel rainwater systems are also designed to perform in extreme temperatures, resisting thermal expansion and contraction and ensuring minimal movement, so the systems are long lasting and don’t crack over time.

Taking water management seriously

Our buildings are having to deal with more intense and concentrated rainfall. In extreme storms, roofs, gutters, downpipes and drains can become overwhelmed.

We need to install specialist engineered products into our buildings, like robust and durable rainwater systems that manage water. A steel rainwater system helps protect our buildings by capturing rainfall, controlling and channelling it effectively and safely back into the water course.

We are heading for a wetter world, so it’s important we apply joined up thinking across all levels of the supply chain and start to take water management more seriously, at every stage, from rain to drain.