ACO: the issue of sustainable landscaping

ACO: the issue of sustainable landscaping

ACO Water Management explores the issue of sustainable landscaping.

When it comes to landscaping projects, sustainability is becoming an increasingly important factor. Incorporating Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) is key to delivering on this, and building professionals need to ensure they familiarise themselves with the ever-evolving regulations.

Here, Oliver Collins, Product Marketing Manager – Building + Landscape at ACO Water Management, takes a look at some of the key issues when it comes to sustainability, including the latest SuDS recommendations from DEFRA.

Within the last few years, sustainability has become a core part of virtually any building project. This is particularly true of landscaping, where there is a big focus on how water sustainability needs to be considered early on in a project. In part, this is due to increasingly unpredictable weather, which has the dual effect of increasing storm-level events (and therefore heavy rainfall), but also lengthening drought spells.

In fact, there are even warnings that some areas of the UK could soon run out of water unless urgent action is taken. As such, building professionals are tasked with ensuring that alongside meeting their customers’ aesthetic and practical requirements for projects, they also pay attention to the key issue of water sustainability.

SuDS recommendations

SuDS principals offer a framework for providing water management in an environmentally friendly way. They outline some of the central pillars of water sustainability, and the latest recommendations by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have identified the following as key standards when designing water management systems:

  • Runoff destinations
  • Everyday rainfall
  • Extreme rainfall
  • Water quality
  • Amenity
  • Biodiversity

While it is recommended that all six of these standards are addressed, one of the most important consideration for builders is destination runoff. Particularly in the context of water sustainability, it plays a crucial role in maximising the utility of rainwater.

Essentially, runoff destination is the location water that falls on a site ultimately flows to. Regulations stipulate that it becomes the responsibility of the property owner, with suitable measures taken to control this. For building professionals, this means careful design to ensure compliance.

Where feasible, DEFRA propose the following steps should be used, in order of priority:

  1. Using surface water runoff as a resource for non-potable uses, such as rainwater harvesting.
  2. Opportunities should also be maximised across the site to infiltrate runoff into the ground.
  3. Any remaining runoff should then be discharged to a surface water or above ground drainage system.

If this is not possible in the context of a particular project, then runoff should be discharged to a piped surface water drainage system. In very limited circumstances, where none of the above is available, runoff should be taken to a combined sewer (once permission has been granted).

With droughts likely to become more common, keeping water on site, through actions such as rainwater harvesting, will help to minimise their impact.

Using sustainable materials

Another way to ensure landscaping projects are completed in a more sustainable way is to opt for products that minimise their impact on the environment. The latest water management technology means this can be achieved without negatively impacting performance, allowing projects to deliver on customer demands, while adhering to environmental principles.

In fact, this is a key philosophy of ACO Water Management, which became the first construction products manufacturer to join the CO2nstructZero Business Champions initiative. New product development was a significant factor in achieving this accolade, which is something that those focused on increasing the sustainability credentials a project should consider.

For example, the use of geometric science has enabled the reduction of concrete haunching, which is saving 11kg of CO2 per linear metre installed of ACO MonoDrain. Similarly, the development of ACO’s StormBrixx product, a stackable stormwater attenuation solution, is reducing transport to site by 75 per cent compared to other similar products.

ACO has also developed a new polymer concrete – Vienite – that incorporates a substantial percentage of recycled material, maintaining equal performance characteristics as traditional polymer concrete. Equally, the popular ground stabilisation product, GravelGuard, has been updated to include a Grey Eco version, which is made from 100 per cent recycled polypropene.

Closing thoughts

The products outlined above highlight how small specification decisions can contribute to an overall reduction in environmental impact. This applies to all projects, whether it’s large-scale or indeed a residential garden, and careful selection of materials can serve as a quick-win for building professionals.

At the same time, water sustainability is an issue that needs to be specifically addressed in landscaping projects. Adhering to the latest SuDS principles and recommendations will go a long way to ensuring gardens look great, as well as minimising the impact on the surrounding area.

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