Targetting schools for SuDS projects can have two clear advantages. Firstly, there are large expanses of impermeable surfaces on school sites - huge roof areas and large tarmac spaces – from which to capture run off. In addition to this, schools are the hub of the community and, as such, provide a unique opportunity to garner widespread support for SuDS both within schools and beyond. The only drawback is that schools are busy sites and it can be difficult to integrate SuDS with the needs of the school.
In this project, an Education and Community Outreach Officer was appointed to liaise with the schools. The remit for this post was to gather input from the schools to ensure installed features reflected their needs and to exploit the opportunities for raising SuDS awareness with staff, the student population and the wider community. A wide range of activities were undertaken.
- Staff were given the chance to input their ideas through staff surveys, staff meetings and interactive mood boards
- A range of sessions were delivered with pupils including assemblies, lessons, design input sessions, planting days and special projects (such as a SuDS animation project) to help them engage with their SuDS and give them a chance to contribute directly to them
- The wider community was engaged at events such as school fairs and local festivals to raise awareness and garner widespread support for the project
Involving stakeholders in this way ensures the school will feel a sense of ownership and pride towards their SuDS so that they will be valued for years to come.
Based on the input we received, ten SuDS planters were designed, six have been installed and the rest are due for completion in April 2021. Designing this many planters has provided the opportunity to trial different designs to reflect the needs and interests of individual schools. These designs include interactive mini-beast planters, bees and butterfly planters, planters to create a sensory garden area and planters with benches in a school picnic area. Designs also include creative solutions to connect the planters to existing drainage.
Different storage methods were also trialled to maximise the potential for attenuating runoff during heavy rainfall events. Some planters include a gravel base layer for storage and others have a geocellular storage layer. Monitoring equipment has been added to one of each type of planter to provide data on the effectiveness of the different designs.
Working with several schools and delivering on sites with different opportunities and barriers has been invaluable in developing a methodology that can be applied to a range of sites in the future.