SUDS resources and publications for designers


Designing sustainable drainage systems, whether urban or rural, requires a flexible approach. As with most construction projects, there is no formula. Rather, it is down to the skill and creativity of the designer to come up with a solution to each problem.

As landscape architect Sam Shaw of Ian White Associates advised me: “there is no one definite way to do a sustainable drainage system, as the design will depend on site location, the capacity of the scheme overall, ground conditions and other site-specific factors. There are a range of solutions, from fully urbanised below-ground storage to open, purely rural designs”.

Rice Park (oblique aerial)


In England and Wales, the requirement for sustainable drainage systems is now part of byelaws and other legislation – in particular, the Building Regulations Part H, which requires that where practical surface water drainage from any building development be drained, preferably to a soakaway or infiltration system. If this is not possible then the next preferred option is to drain to a watercourse, with connection to a sewer as the last choice.

The proposed Flood & Water Management Act may even mean that the final option, connection to a sewer, is no longer available.

In Scotland, under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2005, new developments with surface water drainage systems discharging to the water environment should incorporate SUDS.

Design guidance

The Environment Agency, and up north, The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, both have explanatory and introductory information on the design and theory of sustainable drainage.

SEPA’s SUDS leaflet (PDF download) provides some useful DOs and DON’Ts at an overview level.

CIRIA publications include an interim code of practice for SUDS. Further publications allow the specifier to get in-depth information related to specific types of SUDS designs, from The SUDS Manual and a site handbook for the construction of SUDS, to more detailed guides such as documents on Designing for exceedance, Sustainable water management in schools, and Source control using constructed pervious surfaces – all available on CIRIA’s publications page.

Woonerf in Malmo

Controlling pollution

Reducing pollution is a key part of sustainable drainage. Contaminated surface water, such as water from a road or hardstanding, needs to be treated at source, and if discharging to a body of running water will need two stages of treatment.

As an example, Ian White & Associates designed a car park in Dollar, Scotland, which featured gravel-filled parking bays for the first stage of treatment, followed by a swale (filter through grasses) for the second stage.

There is no single product for treatment of fuel-contaminated surface water, although fuel interceptors, as part of piped drainage systems, are available.

Swales are a graded, engineered feature that appear as a straight, shallow, open channel. They are planted with vegetation that is tolerant to flooding and resistant to erosion.

Flood risk management

Managing the residual flood risk, as well as reducing the total volume of surface water run-off discharged, is another important aspect.

Plastic infiltration tanks are often used to store stormwater to prevent flooding or overloading the sewers. Guidance published by CIRIA can be found in the Structural design of modular geocellular drainage tanks publication.

SEL source control systems for stormwater infiltration

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2 Responses to “SUDS resources and publications for designers”

  1. Everything You Need To Know About Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems « Keytec Says:

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  2. Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems: Everything You Need To Know « Keytec Says:

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