SUDS LID WSUD Urban Drainage Systems and landscape architecture

The bioretention facility at LID feature at Harrison Crossing Shopping Center in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

The bioretention facility at LID feature at Harrison Crossing Shopping Center in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

SUDS Sustainable Urban Drainage is a UK term, equivalent to  LID Low Impact Development is the US  and WSUD Water Sensitive Urban Design in Australia.

SUDS, LID, WSUD have come a long way since I first came across the idea, about 20 years ago (see Chapter 9 River engineering, channelization and floods). But it is a pity that it remains dominated by engineering concepts. Of course the  engineering is important, but the idea also has poetic and visual aspects which are rarely explored, except by Herbert Dreiseitl’s Waterscapes practice. Have a look at the Flickr groups on Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems and SUDS. The designs are very worthy but, except for the traditional ‘craft’ examples, they lack design inspiration. Most of the ideas hover between wartime economy furniture and a boy scout aesthetic. Then look at the CIRIA website’s treatment of SUDS. Only a whiff of wildlife saves the ugly concrete detailing from prison architecture. The illustrations from America’s Low Impact Development Center are better without coming anywhere near the Dreiseitl standard. If sustainable landscape architecture is to have the glorious future it deserves, it must be beautiful as well as useful.

(Image of The bioretention facility at LID feature at Harrison Crossing Shopping Center in Spotsylvania County, Virginia courtesy fredericksburg)

9 thoughts on “SUDS LID WSUD Urban Drainage Systems and landscape architecture

  1. Christine

    America’s Low Impact Development Centre site has links through to the great streets initiative. [ ] Unfortuneately, the site on ‘What makes a Great Street?’ [in New York] specifies a one size fits all formula, as if all streets were the same everywhere!

    Even in New York there are a variety of street types….and all cities are themselves inherently different with their own rythm and culture. As Richard Roger says;

    “…when I go to Japan
I don’t become Japanese any more than when I go to New York do I become a New Yorker. Tokyo and New York, to just take two examples, are different. 
The regulations are different.
I try to absorb, as we all architects, what’s happening in that area, what the scale, the grade, what the forms of the buildings are, the morphology of the buildings are and that gives me food for thought, food for design.”

    [ ]

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    None of Europe’s medieval streets could have been built under current legislation. They mostly exemplified SUDS principles when they were built – but now they have been sealed in the interests of ‘modernization’.
    It is equally wrong for England to have a National Curriculum for schools. Scotland is much wiser: it has no National Curriculum.

  3. Robert Holden

    Dear fellow inhabitants of planet earth,

    Of course SUDS is one means whereby landscape architects and engineers can ameliorate the effects of climate change, given one characteristic of climate change is a greater intensity of storms.

    I recommend two websites:

    1 that of the Environmental Protection Agency

    2 that of the Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management in respect of their National Water Plan

    and in Dutch


    Robert Holden

  4. Justin

    I have always thought of a SUDS project as based on ground level (swales, filtration strips etc.), but in a vastly urbanised built up area would green roofs act in a similar way to reduce run off? Almost like elevated retention ponds?

  5. Christine

    Robert, If you are fortuneate enough to be expecting more water due to climate change, perhaps it could be sold to countries which are expecting water deficients due to climate change!

  6. Tom Turner Post author

    Maybe the people of South Australia are going to have to move themselves and their cities to North Australia (and ditto for Americans moving into Canada).


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