Blue Green Lab

A Living Lab for Sustainable Drainage

When it rains heavily, water runs off hard surfaces, such as buildings, roads and pavements, and into drainage and sewer systems, which are sometimes not large enough to cope with this additional influx. 

a leafy walkway by the side of our accommodation

Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) slow the water flow to reduce the flow volumes and flow rates of the water going into the drains. As well as managing flood risk, SuDS also help reduce pollutants in the water, enhance biodiversity and increase wellbeing.

The University of Hull uses Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) on its low-lying campus to monitor and manage surface water caused by rainfall. The scheme includes SuDS features, sewers, soil and groundwater and campus-wide weather data. The components range from historic features from the 1960/70s to modern rain gardens, raised planters and extensive development-level integrated SuDS management trains involving swales, basins and pervious surfaces with controlled sewer discharge.

The components manage and monitor surface water during heavy rainfall and provide amenity and biodiversity year-round. The sensors array records data every 5-15 minutes from SuDS assets, boreholes, soil and weather stations, providing a real time hydrological picture of the campus. A publicly available dashboard will share live information and communicate the benefits of SuDS to wider audiences.

overhead campus map showing the locations of the blue green lab sensors

Research and Knowledge Exchange

Raw data will be streamed for University students and researchers to analyse, improving understanding of how SuDS control water flow rate and filter pollutants, as well as the correlation between weather, infiltration, groundwater/aquifer status and conductivity. The scheme is measuring flow, depth, conductivity, soil moisture, weather, rainfall, temperature and air quality.

The University SuDS scheme will help to inform stakeholders about regional water-related issues from a data perspective and give insight into water movement from rainfall through the surface and eventually into the groundwater. As a high-profile regional demonstrator and exemplar, the scheme aims to increase uptake of SuDS schemes and engage developers to understand how and where to implement effective and compliant SuDS as well as to begin to innovate novel SuDS solutions for surface water management.

The scheme accords with the University’s sustainability goals and with wider community aspirations in Hull around climate resilience and Living with Water. Our approach to using the scheme as a tool for engaging with and educating small businesses and to increase opportunities for SMEs to become involved for knowledge exchange has been impactful and innovative. The University is working closely with partners such as Hull City Council and Yorkshire Water to ensure that the scheme meets the needs of key stakeholders. The scheme has also provided support to a number of regional SMEs, has featured in university education outreach programmes as a walking tour, been used as a Nature-Based Solutions CPD case study, and added engaging content into postgraduate programmes.

Funded by the University of Hull, our Blue Green Lab will provide data and insight over a prolonged period, enabling our researchers and partner organisations to review the impacts of weather, biological factors, sedimentation and maintenance programmes on SuDS performance.

grassy areas on campus

Future Impact

Our Sustainable Drainage Systems are core to the University’s Sustainability strategy. The monitoring outputs are informing decision-making around future campus master-planning and forthcoming infrastructure initiatives. There is a plan in place to incorporate an extendable and transferable digital walking trail that will take users around the SuDS locations. It will inform users about how SuDS work, why we use blue-green infrastructure and the scientific principles behind their function, as well as providing opportunities for visitors to feedback on how they interact with blue-green infrastructure and how it makes them feel.

The ongoing monitoring will provide valuable insight into water scarcity, aquifer conditions and soil moisture and health, with the potential to inform future citizen science projects regarding biodiversity. Data from the project can also be integrated into the inputs used for analysing campus sustainability and net-zero targets. In future, we plan to incorporate water use within buildings into the scheme, including connecting data from water meters and grey water provision to inform and optimise total campus water management.

grassy areas at westfield court


“The project is demonstrating ways to create more space for accessible nature in our urban environments, whilst capturing meaningful evidence for decision makers to replicate these changes elsewhere.”

Matthew Millington, Local Nature Partnership Development Officer

“Working with this project has helped us better understand how to apply LoRaWAN sensors for flood damage mitigation. Our collaboration with Hull University has given us much-needed access to academic knowledge and network to develop our solution and the market.”

Gerbren Haaksma, Andel Ltd

“The trees and plants help slow the water down and the flowers are good for the bees.”

11-year-old campus visitor


Technical Information

You may compare the live weather feed (above) with the data being collected through SuDSLab UK here.