Adapting to Climate Change Through Resilient Drainage Systems

The increasing effects of climate change are testing the limits of our infrastructure, including drainage systems. Within the built environment sector, it has been a matter of national debate that the country’s drainage networks are facing challenges as the intensity of rainfall increases and a demand for new housing continues to rise.

It’s vital to adapt to the changing situation before us and discover sustainable methods of reducing the pressure on the sewerage network. At the Genuit Group, we are committed to helping the built environment sector achieve these goals and make a difference.

What is happening to our drainage system?

More adverse weather events are beginning to push the boundaries of what conventional drainage and sewerage systems can handle. Increased surface water runoff is contributing to overloaded sewers and more pollutants entering our rivers and streams. Designers are obliged to consider what were considered extreme and unlikely events, as being probable, and with increased impact.

As areas become more populated, urban and residential water management and drainage is going to become more important and is now a key focus for the Government. Studies from the Met Office show that from 2010-2019, summers in the UK were 13% wetter than the period of 1961-1990. Solid evidence that as the effects of climate change have greater impact on society, urgent action needs to be taken to combat these risks at ground level.

If water drains into our water courses, rather than being absorbed by the ground, the likes of river flooding is much more likely. What’s more, surface water flooding is more likely when rainfall sits on the surface rather than running away through the right drainage systems. It’s particularly common in urban areas, where there are more impermeable surfaces like concrete or tarmac.

What are the solutions?

Innovative flood water drainage systems can help to mitigate the effects of climate change, allowing us to adapt and make sustainable changes to the infrastructure of our cities and towns. These systems must be created to better cope with a warmer and wetter world.

Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) can allow rainwater to be absorbed by the ground through features like ponds, rather than flowing into the sewer network. Previously, one of the major obstructions in creating SuDS has been uncertainty around long-term maintenance of the systems, but this is changing.

There are also emerging geocellular systems that can help with water storage and alleviation of localised flooding and surface water management. Geocellular structures are designed to store excess water when there is heavy rainfall and the excessive flowing water cannot immediately drain into sewers or off-site drainage.

Solutions from Polypipe Civils and Green Urbanisation, Permavoid and Plura Innovations have been created to offer sustainable water management and drainage. Permavoid helps to create a circular, nature based solution for sustainable management in metropolitan areas, while solutions from Polypipe Civils and Green Urbanisation offer a range of solutions for different needs, including surface water retention, infiltration, surface water treatment and flow control devices.

The increase in green urbanisation

As the pressures increase on our urban areas, the value of green spaces becomes even more important. Green urbanisation can provide a way of integrating solution to improve air quality, wellbeing and water management for the chance to adapt our cities and mitigate the effects of climate change.

The right green urbanisation solutions can be utilised to better control the flow of water and reduce any excessive surface water, while also sustainably storing necessary water supplies. In time, this allows us to create a more sustainable place to live.

Water is the world’s most valuable resource, with many sources of water having the responsibility of sustaining life. Creating on-site solutions for sustainable water management is just one step in making sure our communities are playing their role in reducing the effects of climate change. To find out more about how Genuit are making this a reality, get in touch.

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The role of the construction sector on Achieving Net Zero Carbon Emissions

In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass a net zero carbon emissions law, with a target to bring all greenhouse emissions to net zero by 2050. The net zero target is one of the most ambitious in the world, and will require balancing emissions with schemes to offset the equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, including planting trees or carbon capture and storage methods.

COP26 aimed to coordinate global parties in order to accelerate action towards reducing these nations’ impact of climate change on the planet.

In the wake of the government announcing its Net Zero strategy and with COP26 complete, the Genuit Group is committed to reaching the government’s carbon reduction target by 2030 and is setting course for achieving net zero carbon emissions in the next thirty years.

The group is one of the largest construction products manufacturers to make the commitment under the Business Ambition 1.5°C campaign.

The Business Ambition 1.5°C initiative is seen as the international gold standard of environmental target setting. It aims to get companies to set carbon emission reduction targets that are in line with the latest scientific guidance. 

It is so important for major UK construction manufacturers to take the lead in transforming the way we build and influence how we live to secure a better future for our environment. Here's why:

The carbon impact of the built environment

The built environment is a major source of carbon emissions, both in its production and the overall building lifecycle. In fact, this industry contributes around 27% of the UK’s total carbon footprint1. Half of this comes from energy used in buildings and infrastructure. What’s more, the way buildings are heated results in around 10% of the nation’s carbon footprint, due to burning fossil fuels for electricity and heat. To achieve the target of net zero emissions, it’s important to change the way buildings are heated and continue to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.

There is a growing recognition that it is more sustainable to refit and repurpose existing buildings and assets than opt for demolition, and if the scale moves towards retrofit over new-build, an increasing volume of carbon will remained captured in place.

Retrofitting will become a much larger sector, with more than 270,000 homes needing to be upgraded in the North of England alone by 2035 to contribute towards UK’s net zero ambition2.

Renewable technologies for heating systems

Heat pumps, both ground, and air source versions, and solar water heating, are just some examples of renewable technologies that can be used to reduce carbon emissions from households. These avenues can provide a way for the built environment to offer low carbon heating solutions.

Heat pumps typically use less fossil fuels than most other systems, working by absorbing heat from a source and transferring it to a fluid. The heat is usually transferred from fluid to water, which is then used to provide heating typically via underfloor heating systems, and hot water.

Solar water heating works by taking advantage of solar panels fitted to the roof. The panels collect the heat from the sun to heat the water in a hot water cylinder. This is a renewable heating system and can provide hot water throughout the year. However, you may still need a boiler or immersion heater to boost the temperature during the winter.

The key to success is in developing the skills base to undertake this work. This means retraining contractors and heating engineers. Despite the daunting scale of the task, demand for learning the skills is high. One scheme – the People Powered Retrofit project in Manchester – is hosting webinars with 1,000 people signing in to find out how they can get to work.

Incentives and support schemes

The Government has proposed a number of schemes to provide financial incentives to switch to low carbon heating solutions. The Green Gas Support Scheme (GGSS) will provide quarterly payments over 15 years, based on the amount of biomethane that is injected into the gas grid. This will help to increase the proportion of green gas in the grid, leading to lower carbon emissions.

Similarly, the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) means many homeowners could claim for biomass boilers, solar water heating and heat pumps. Payments are based on the amount of renewable heat made by the heating system.

The UK Green Building Council (UKBGC) is also bullish about the prospect of achieving net zero. The UKBGC launched the Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap which has modelled the emissions reduction potential for a wide range of future actions. It is encouraging that the calculations demonstrate that achieving net zero is possible, but it will only be delivered through robust policy and regulation.

In terms of finance, the tide is turning with more and more capital being directly linked to sustainability targets and action. Currently more than 100 equity issuers, including Genuit Group, listed on the London Stock Exchange hold the Green Economy Mark. This recognises issuers that generate more than 50% of revenues from green products and services3. This emphasises the direction many businesses are taking, as they aim to change to low carbon business models moving forward.

To find out more about what the Genuit Group is doing to reduce its global impact, get in touch.

1 UK Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap data published in Building magazine (15.10.21)

2Retrofitting: why carbon-reducing renovations are going to be big business published in The Guardian(18.08.21)


The Effects of Air Pollution on the Public’s Health

One of the largest risks to public health is poor air quality. In fact, the health impacts of air pollution have been the catalyst for a major improvement in air quality in the UK, even prior to the pandemic.

Understanding the air pollutants that are present and the effects of short and long-term exposure can help to further drive the importance of delivering clean, healthy air. We take a look at this in more detail, and what can be done to tackle poor air quality.

The presence of air pollutants

Air pollution is a complex combination of particles and gases, which can be both natural and of human origin. The two major components of urban air pollution in particular are particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.

The main sources of particulate matter include the combustion of fuels, tyre and brake wear, fires involving burning vegetation and sea spray particles. Nitrogen dioxide is also produced by combustion processes. Some of the largest sources include diesel emissions from vehicles, power generation and domestic heating.

The presence of these air pollutants are known to have a negative impact on public health, with long term exposure leading to a variety of illnesses. If something isn’t done to tackle air pollution, it could lead to huge consequences for future generations. That is why we set about to develop our Growth Drivers, more of which can be found in our sustainable solutions section of the site.

The importance of air quality in a post-Covid world

The impact of the pandemic has had far-reaching consequences in many aspects of our lives, particularly when it comes to ventilation and clean air. There are now urgent calls for buildings to have improved ventilation, in order to reduce the risk of transmission.

Moving forward it’s clear that more emphasis will be placed on how buildings can ventilate and circulate air, with the idea of getting fresh air from outside and removing used air inside the building.

Effects of air pollutants on human health

Air pollutants generally have a negative effect on the eyes, nose and throat, lungs and respiratory system and the heart. This can cause serious illnesses include respiratory conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. There is emerging evidence that air pollution may also contribute to dementia, low birth weight and Type 2 diabetes.

In terms of hard hitting facts, Public Health England has estimated that long-term exposure to man-made air pollution has an annual effect equivalent to 28,000-36,000 deaths in the UK.

Whilst we rightly try to address the sources of pollution, the construction and built environments sectors have a responsibility to discover new products and systems that can mitigate and adapt to the effects of air pollution, in order to create a healthier and happier world. Developing ventilation and heating systems that can help to produce cleaner air is key in promoting positive health benefits in the long term.

Improving the UK’s air quality

In October 2020, data revealed that 75% of reporting zones across the UK still had illegal levels of air pollution. However, it has also been revealed that even a small reduction in fine particulate air pollution in England could prevent thousands of cases of coronary heart disease, strokes, asthma and lung cancers over an 18-year period.

Reducing fine particulate air pollution can be achieved by switching to greener alternatives for heat and ventilation, reducing harmful exposure inside buildings. Installing systems that provide an efficient filtration system can remove up to 75% of harmful particulate matter, instead delivering cleaner, filtered air into both commercial and domestic buildings.

With that in mind, improving air quality is vital in reducing health impacts, helping people to live longer and healthier lives. Everyone has a role to play, and there are now increasingly accessible solutions that can provide filtration systems for homes, offices and schools. Nuaire, part of the Genuit Group, have been leading the way in this area for decades.

From building design to road traffic management, it’s important that we now begin to design healthier environments within urban areas, creating more greener spaces for us now and for future generations.

To find out more about how Genuit is making this a reality, get in touch.

Statistics taken from the following sources: