Celebrating SuDS – the susdrain SuDS AWARDS 2020


August's blog has been written by Dr Brian D'Arcy, who attended the online Susdrain Awards 2020. Here, he provides us with some reflections on the event, the award winners and a challenge for 2021!

Two SGIF members were recognised in an excellent and inspiring webinar event – The susdrain celebration of SuDS was held on 16th July 2020 by CIRIA.  Organisers Paul Shaffer and Louise Walker did an excellent job and they and those behind the scenes are to be congratulated, as well as the successful nominated people and projects.

Personally, it was an honour to be short-listed as a SUDS Champion, but far more impressive were the people directly involved in implementation and construction of developments and retrofit schemes.  How far we have come from the early days in mid 1990s when the international diffuse pollution and BMPs video Nature’s Way introduced the idea of multi-purpose landscape measures which could benefit wildlife and amenity at the same time as managing stormwater runoff, showcasing examples in USA, Sweden and France.  The video was launched in Scotland in June 1996, as the first SEPA-wide event, with international speakers too.  The momentum generated In the UK was led by the environment agencies and a handful of interested (and expert) academics such as Chris Pratt at Coventry University.

What a contrast now, 25 years later, where our champions are mainstream leading engineers in local authorities and water companies, flood risk managers, and local community environmental activists; progress indeed. 

Nick Bowen (current SGIF Chair), of RaeburnFarquharBowen Landscape Architects, won the New Large Scale Developments category, winning with the Bertha Park housing development near Perth, an inspirational interdisciplinary project which impressed the judges and won in the face of good competition from other projects.

There were several categories and a bunch of winners.  Taking a long view of the SUDS journey, another big change was the prominence of the large consulting firms, now champions for the technology and responsible for creative multiple benefits schemes such as those of Arup (whose Scottish branches are SGIF members) in Sheffield and Cardiff (Highly Commended and outright Winner respectively), and AECOM with their school project in Northern Ireland.  South of the Border, the water utilities were important partners too, co-funding and supporting innovative SUDS schemes from NW England down to London and across into Wales. 

The establishment of genuine partnerships in the successful projects was a welcome characteristic – always a key to success.  Community engagement was similarly prominent in successful schemes, whether in the Highly Commended Albion Close (Lincs.) housing retrofit and Crescent Garden (Haringey) projects, or the Winning and inspirational Greener Grangemouth retrofit scheme in Cardiff.

In marked contrast to the susdrain award winners, last year 220,000 new homes were delivered by the English housing market – the highest in all but one of the last 31 years and many more are planned  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/number-of-new-homes-built-soars-to-an-11-year-high  What kind of green-blue infrastructure will they have… will this type of event inspire the big housebuilders to join the party?  That’s another story however (and a lot to be said too). 

The need for enthusiastic, positive team-working people to engage with all the opportunities presented by SUDS technology, to learn and work with the aspirations so wonderfully realised elsewhere, to create not denigrate,  to listen and learn, has never been greater.  Congratulations to all our winners; let’s have more Scottish contenders next year!