Water Management Within Design

17:46 Tuesday 11th February 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[C]HRIS MANN: The Met Office has calculated this to be the third wettest January since 1776. Goodness me! And yet more rain is forecast. The risk to homes and property has not yet gone away. One of the concerns being raised here in Cambridgeshire is whether future housing developments around the county will further increase the risk of flooding. Let’s bring in Robert Barker now. Hello Robert.
ROBERT BARKER: Hi there Chris.
CHRIS MANN: The Director of Baca Architecture. You’re designing projects with water management very much in mind. I don’t need to ask you about the debate on that really of course, because you’re an architect. You could find your way around I’m sure.
ROBERT BARKER: I’m comfortable with that one. Absolutely.
CHRIS MANN: Good. You got planning permission for a development in Norfolk that’s pretty novel. Tell us about it.

ROBERT BARKER: Well yes. One of the things that we really try to focus on is working with water in design. We’re both architects and master planners, and we just recently got consent for a very large scheme in Norwich, on the eastern edge as it goes from the city to the Broads, for almost 700 homes, where actually the whole development is designed to work with water. And what I mean by that is that we actually create an additional space for water to flow during a flood, to actually try and reduce risk from other sites elsewhere.
CHRIS MANN: Is this groundwater?
ROBERT BARKER: This is actually river water in particular. It’s on the River Wensum, and on the River Yare. But what’s really interesting about this is that the opportunity that new development can actually reduce flood risk. And so whilst you mention that there’s a lot of concern that development may increase it, if it’s done responsibly, hopefully in the same way that we’re doing, we call the LifE Concept, which is about working with water, then we can actually reduce risk for other people. And what’s amazing about this is that it creates a really landscape rich development. So we get lots of planting, lots of green areas, space between buildings where the water can actually flow, but not into the homes. We keep it away from homes.
CHRIS MANN: Let me just take a stab on this. This isn’t cheap housing, is it? (LAUGHS)
ROBERT BARKER: No no. This is all cost-effective.
ROBERT BARKER: Absolutely. Because what’s very clever about this is we are working with landscape. So we’re working with the natural topography. It’s almost like we’re sculpting the ground.
CHRIS MANN: But all we hear all the time is that it’s the land that’s expensive. And that’s why in these new developments they jam the houses together. And very often they don’t have water features or whatever. There’s no room even to park your cars.
ROBERT BARKER: Well there always should be space for water in any new development. They should certainly be trying to promote things like green rooves and swales and things. In fact we’ve just done a new development down in South London which has got many of these features and green walls, and they make them attractive buildings. They’re not expensive. It just needs to be thought about right from the outset.
CHRIS MANN: Robert, thank you so much for joining us. Rob Barker there, Director of Baca Architecture.