Darren Crane, National Sales Manager – Buying Groups and Independent Merchants at ACO Water Management, outlines some of the key water management considerations for merchants to be aware of in the year ahead.
Last year was a difficult time for the construction industry, and many are predicting that 2021 could prove to be crucial for the sector. With a raft of challenges and emerging technologies to keep abreast of, merchants are set to play a critical role in ensuring their customers have access to the latest information and products.
Indeed, one of the key issues confronting UK construction is related to the effective management of surface water where it must mitigate the effects of increasingly unpredictable weather, while adapting to the latest trends and adhering to legislative developments.
As the landscape that developers and contractors must navigate continues to change, merchants will become more important than ever as a hub of information. Tasked with staying up-to-date and offering expert advice to their customers, it is the role of the merchant to be a fountain of knowledge on everything drainage.
Perhaps the biggest buzzword across construction is sustainability. It’s something that has been growing in importance for water management for several years now, particularly in light of the rising number of storm-level events.
This is especially critical when it comes to new builds. To highlight the extent of the challenge, over the last decade there have been 85,000 houses built on land that has been designated at the highest risk of flooding — that amounts to one in ten of all new homes.
SuDS (Sustainable Drainage Systems) play a vital role in sustainable flood risk management, by mimicking natural processes to control the volume of surface water. Regulations surrounding SuDS vary between regions across the UK, and while they are not yet mandatory for developments in England, they are an increasingly common sight across construction sites.
Incorporating SuDS during the design stage of a project is the best way to ensure effective water management on-site, and this requires understanding of the key elements. Alongside the relevant products, merchants should familiarise themselves with the four pillars of the SuDS philosophy — water quality, water quantity, amenity, and biodiversity.
The final pillar is an emerging trend in its own right, with a number of high-profile campaigns demonstrating the focus on biodiversity. Former Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP’s call for greater protection for hedgehogs (take a look at https://professionalbuildersmerchant.co.uk/news/aco-offers-support-for-project-biodiversity/), for example, is indicative of the responsibility of developers to minimise their impact on the surrounding environment.
Similarly, the much-discussed Environment Bill is also set to write environmental practices into UK law for the first time, further emphasising the need for merchants and their customers to keep abreast of the latest technological advancements. ACO Water Management’s wildlife portfolio includes a range of guidance systems, refuges, and nest boxes to help meet biodiversity targets across infrastructure projects and new housing developments.
A defining feature of the first UK lockdown was the significant increase in home improvements, especially work that enhanced outdoor spaces. Indeed, a survey carried out by Money.co.uk of more than 1,000 UK homeowners showed 76% of respondents spent money on home improvements, averaging £4,000 per project.
This shows no signs of slowing down, with many predicting that outside space will increasingly become a determining factor in the housing market for years to come. It follows, therefore, that merchants need to pay close attention to the design trends dominating landscaping projects.
And this is where drainage products that offer a sleek aesthetic finish become even more relevant. Discretion is often a top priority when it comes to water management solutions, with homeowners valuing systems that deliver high hydraulic performance without detracting from the overall look of a garden.
An example of this is ACO’s HexDrain Brickslot, used in a number of award-winning projects by Langlea Garden Design and Construction. In projects such as Line (pictured) and Pocket Oasis, the understated HexDrain Brickslot is used to “quietly manage water flow without drawing the eye”. With landscapers and housebuilders increasingly tasked with finding aesthetically-pleasing solutions, merchants can expect to face more frequent requests for these types of products.
The invaluable role of the merchant
The diverse nature of a merchant’s customer base means that they are invariably masters of many trades. Whether it is expert advice or providing the most appropriate products for a given situation, merchants are a priceless asset to their customers. With 2021 set to be a defining year for the construction industry, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the key water management trends and challenges.
Sample video – An Introduction to channel drainage: