That’s right. You now have to regard all aspects of water – rainwater, surface water, sustainable urban drainage, sewage, grey water, recycling water, and so on – as a sustainable resource. Avoid possible pitfalls in the design of your building now..

Even in the UK, water shortages are becoming an increasing problem. Globally, it is reckoned that shortage of water could soon become a greater threat to international security than shortage of oil. Consequently the way in which we handle and process water is an important building consideration.


Rainwater now has to be treated as a potential asset. Rainwater harvesting from all solid surfaces – driveways and yards as well as rooftops – is a consideration earning points under the Code for Sustainable Homes. In doing so one has to consider how best to keep the harvesting rainwater clean and debris free. For this, leaf screens are available to sit on the top of gutters and gratings.

Surface Water Drainage

Hard surfaces should be perforated to allow rainwater and snow melt to soak through into the ground below. Depending on the size of the scheme, but particularly if you have a site which slopes leading to surface water run-off, Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) may be appropriate, as recommended by, for example, the CIRIA initiative.


Nowadays, domestic sewage needs to be considered under two different categories; greywater and foul water, e.g. from WC’s. There are a number of systems for capturing and reusing greywater, for instance for flushing toilets. Foul water effluent is most commonly disposed of by connecting directly into the public sewer, but may also be handled via dumb wells and septic tanks, or these days more probably via small anaerobic private sewage treatment plants. Although not yet widely available, there is also the possibility for capturing methane gas from the sewage treatment and using this in some form of on-site renewable energy scheme. However for this quite large volumes of organic matter would need to be being processed.

Whether or not you wish to go for a particular Code for Sustainable Homes level, it makes good sense, as well is good practice, to address all these water issues as part of your project at an early stage. Not to do so could be storing up future problems, or at least difficulties, for occupiers in later years. Showing that you have addressed these requirements will assist both your planning and building regulation approvals.


Construction Issues

Handling most of the issues discussed above will generally require excavation for supply lines, drain runs and tanks, etc. Exactly when you construct these is a matter for programming with the rest of the works. However, it may be advisable to leave these until after the main structural works have been completed.

Excavating for water related and other utility works in areas underneath scaffolding, or where site equipment (dumpers, tele-handlers, cranes, etc.) may be likely to sink into backfilled trenches, causing danger to people and damage to installation, e.g. fracturing drainpipes

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