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Michael Bates (Polypipe): “NBS challenge the traditional method of urban water management"

  • Michael Bates (Polypipe): “NBS challenge the traditional method of urban water management"
    Photo: Pablo Cebrián González/Smart Water Magazine

About the entity

Polypipe has an established market position, spanning the residential, commercial, civils and infrastructure, and public non-housing sectors in the UK and selected markets across the globe.

Last December, Michael Bates, Business Development Manager – Water Management Solutions at Polypipe International, gave a presentation in Madrid (Spain) on urban water management in the UK and the application of Nature Based Solutions (NBS) to restore the natural water cycle in urban environments. Today, we caught up with him to learn a little more about PolyPipe and the company’s latest solutions.

Question: Firstly, we would like to know briefly your career path and your current role in Polypipe.

Answer: I am Business Development Manager at Polypipe International, where I lead our approach to sustainable drainage systems and green urbanisation in the European and international marketplace. I am a specialist in the use of roofs and podiums for stormwater management, delivering seminars on innovative water management techniques to municipalities, architects and consulting engineers.

Prior to Polypipe, I was International Sales Consultant at ABG Geosythetics, where I developed the market in Europe for low-carbon geosynthetic drainage systems in lieu of traditional crushed stone.

Q: What is Polypipe’s main business lines and where in the world does it carry out its activities?

A: Polypipe is one of Europe's largest designers and manufacturers of water and climate management systems, delivering engineered solutions that enable a sustainable built environment.

We have an established market position encompassing the residential, commercial, civils and infrastructure and public non-housing sectors in the UK and in markets across the globe. Today we export our products and services to over 60 countries throughout Europe, India, Africa and the Middle East. Through constant innovation and focused research and development, Polypipe is uniquely positioned to offer solutions that help deal with the pressures placed on urban environments and natural resources.

Today we export our products and services to over 60 countries throughout Europe, India, Africa and the Middle East

Q: What are the main challenges for water in today’s urban environments?

A: The impact of a changing climate is increasingly evident in our cities, as flooding, extended periods of drought and excessive heat combine to create a public health emergency. Policymakers have begun to wake up to the scale of the challenge facing our urban environment and the necessity to create resilient cities that adapt to the changing climate.

Central to contemporary thinking is the concept of ‘nature-based solutions’ which harness the benefits of nature in urban environments to address these societal challenges while simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.

Nature-based solutions challenge the traditional ‘collect – transport – release’ method of urban water management which fail to recognise the importance of water and push problems downstream.

Urban environments make extensive use of hard impermeable surfaces which have a practical function but which serve to interrupt the natural water cycle and increase surface water runoff in our cities to as much as 95% of rainfall. Restoring this natural water cycle is essential if we want to repair our relationship with water.

Nature-based solutions challenge the traditional ‘collect – transport – release’ method of urban water management

Q: Could you tell us a more about your Permavoid solution?

A: Permavoid makes space for water by creating a shallow reservoir just beneath the surface finish on rooftops, concrete podiums or made ground using a high-strength modular geocellular raft. The surface finish can be permeable or impermeable, soft or hard landscaped, and can be subject to vehicle loading. The Permavoid system acts to reduce the quantity of water that is transported to the sewer system during storm events thereby reducing the demand placed on existing infrastructure and making a demonstrable contribution to mitigating flooding. Furthermore, the collected rainwater stored in the shallow reservoir can be used for the irrigation of green spaces by utilising integrated capillary cones to provide passive irrigation. The cones transport water up from the reservoir to the plants above using capillary action, with a wicking geotextile then used to distribute water laterally across the whole subsurface area. This reduces and, in some cases, eliminates the need to use potable water for irrigation purposes.

These systems are becoming well established in Northern Europe with planners and designers recognising the potential offered by Permavoid to create pleasing sustainable green spaces with the minimum use of potable water. The potential is perhaps greater in Southern Europe and in hot climates where the problems of high urban temperatures and acute water stress are more severe.

Q: What does Polypipe provide that other companies do not?

A: Through our patented Permavoid system we are able to create green spaces where none existed before, reimagining grey spaces as vibrant meeting places, rooftop gardens and urban parks.

We understand water better than anyone in the industry

As a market leader in the development and manufacture of sustainable water management systems, we understand water better than anyone in the industry. We know that water is a vital resource and not simply a problem to be pushed downstream. Innovation is fundamental to what we do and has influenced the development of our water management systems enabling us to respond positively to the changing climate and the demands of increasing urbanisation.

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