In the latest Talking Architecture and Design podcast, we sit down to discuss why an onshore supply chain is essential, and leaving drainage considerations till last is a poor choice.

Commercial and residential design are separate but joined. Regulated both differently and to different degrees, in many cases solutions that are suitable for one aren’t suitable for the other. But from that void comes an interesting relationship of synergy and mutual ideation. Intelligent manufacturers keenly identify the solutions that work in either context, and figure out how they can be adapted for use in the other.

A great case in point is drainage. As a public health and safety protection (or risk, in certain circumstances), commercial drainage is strictly regulated and built into many projects by design. Solutions are generally designed to move larger amounts of surface or stormwater more quickly, while ensuring accessibility for people of all mobility levels. “If you think of, say, a large retail shopping centre or retail district, they have to control the ingress of water into the building when you've got large open pedestrian access areas,” says Troy Creighton, CEO of Australian drain manufacturer and innovator, Stormtech. “So for many years, you’d see an entry mat into the foyer of an office or retail area. These entry mats are basically a recessed mat, and the purpose of those is that people's wet umbrellas, and wet feet have a period of transition from the wet exterior to the dry interior, and reduce slip hazard in the process.”

“Now,” continues Troy, “more places have threshold drains - so level drains that run along the width of the doorway, to replace or assist those mats.” Threshold drains are an innovation conceived by Stormtech about 30 years ago, for use in the residential context. These linear drains are rebated into the floor to provide level access between the interior and exterior - or, in different adaptation, along the edge of a shower recess in place of a hob. They were designed for accessibility, functionality, and aesthetic - and it’s those characteristics that have seen them become a mainstay in commercial development.

But just as commercial and residential design inform each other, so too does design around different parts of the world - a process that can be serendipitous at times. “We put info up on our website about our channel drainage solutions in the mid 90s, and that was taken up overseas, interestingly, more rapidly than it was in Australia,” says Troy. “So it was a kind of reverse education, we were unintentionally educating specifiers, and consultants overseas, and we ended up supplying a large number of projects in the Middle East. This worked well because there's a bit of a synergy between the Middle East and Australia: we’re both very dry, and water is precious.”

As precious as water is, it’s essential that it’s properly managed in order to protect the longevity of construction - and we’re talking both commercial and residential, here. “There's a very old saying, that water is the universal solvent. Give it enough time, it'll dissolve anything. So it’s interesting that many construction projects still consider waterproofing to be the primary means of keeping water out of the interior of the building,” says Troy. “It’s not. It’s about capturing and redirecting that water as efficiently as possible, and this is where Stormtech have traditionally lived, we capture that water redirected as it's needed.

“Our gratings are typically a GPT gross pollutant trap. Leaves and debris is typically held at the surface, and sediment and so on can flush through to an inspection opening or a clear out. These are critical building elements that are often overlooked, and I've lamented many times with colleagues - why do people leave the drainage consideration till last? Are you guys nuts? You're making a rod for your own back. But in turn, that has helped us with innovation. It's driven us to come up with solutions to solve these sorts of problems. And typically, the solutions are fairly simple.”

And innovate they have. Not just in the types of products Stormtech produces, or how they’re used, but right throughout their process and operations, with a laser-like focus on sustainability. “Our drains are made with two materials: PVC and stainless steel,” says Troy. “Even though it’s a plastic, which is inherently problematic, PVC is still fit for purpose after 80 years. So it has an incredible lifespan. Any PVC offcut gets reground and turned into new Stormtech products. Roughly a 10th of a percent of our PVC - which is cutting dust - ends up in landfills. Our waste is maybe 10 kilos a year of PVC, while stainless steel - because obviously it’s a valuable recycling material - goes into new stainless steel.”

So, from the perspective of a company with innovation and sustainability in its DNA, what technologies can we expect to see more of in the future? “There will be a rapid rise in waste energy recovery systems,” says Troy. “That could mean either recovering the energy from the movement of water in a reservoir situation, it could be as cooling energy using water as a coolant, or it could be a heat energy - by taking heat from water and using it somewhere else. Particularly with waste heat recovery systems, that energy saving can be around a genuine 30% decrease in energy use, which is obviously pretty amazing.” 

Listen to the full podcast here.

This podcast is brought to you in association with Stormtech, proud sponsors of the Commercial Series of podcasts.  For more information on Stormtech please go to: