How Woods Is Using Infrastructure to Build Resilient, Sustainable Communities

Colin Dryland
Colin Leadership
GM Engineering

Despite a cooling of the housing market in Aotearoa, there is still a great demand – and a great need – for housing supply and the infrastructure required to support it. There is also the unseen demand for infrastructure upgrades in existing neighbourhoods where the infrastructure is undersized, long past the use-by date, or installed back when the different codes and standards had lesser requirements.

How we approach infrastructure design plays a massive role in the successful outcome of development projects – whether in greenfield or brownfield areas – and the liveability of the neighbourhood. That’s why at Woods, we’ve taken a proactive approach to meeting infrastructure demands and building sustainable and resilient communities.  

Building communities, not concrete suburbs 

We’re fortunate enough to work with clients who are just as interested as we are in building real communities. The success of this approach is evidenced in many of the projects we have been involved in. When you build a community from the onset, people want to live there.  

And that’s more important now than ever.  

Good design is critical with the changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan, rezoning many brownfield locations for more intensification. When you are creating density where there wasn’t density before, it can be quite a harsh visual environmental transformation.

However, it is crucial to acknowledge that this intensification can also heighten flood risks. The increase in concrete, expansion of roof areas, and reduction of grassy spaces hinder stormwater infiltration into the ground, causing accelerated runoff that overwhelms outdated and undersized stormwater networks.  

Our multi-disciplined approach to projects enables us to overcome these challenges with innovative infrastructure solutions. Our stormwater infrastructure and urban design specialists work closely together to create future resilient networks and neighbourhoods with a sense of community rather than ‘concrete suburbs’.  

Creating future resilient networks 

Building a resilient, sustainable community, whether new or existing, ensures that it will be protected from flood risks and that the infrastructure can service growth. This is important not just for the people who live there but also for our clients and local councils, as there is often a significant cost in maintaining these stormwater infrastructure assets. 

Since 2013, it has been a requirement to factor climate change into stormwater network designs, which has been the basis of many of our greenfield projects.  

It’s the brownfield developments and super-lot type projects where future resiliency needs to be created the most. We often have to upsize the existing stormwater networks, hold back flows using tanks, and factor in climate change to ensure they can cater for upstream potential development.  

Some of these older networks have capacity in them, but there are issues, around getting the water into the network fast enough. It is common in significant storm events for debris to block flow into stormwater networks from road cesspits.  

The introduction of green infrastructure 

When it comes to greenfield developments, we're putting in brand new, isolated networks, which opens up the possibilities for more innovative, community-enhancing designs. These new stormwater infrastructure networks factor in climate change and use green infrastructure. More importantly, they often discharge into streams surrounding the sites rather than connecting into the existing networks.  

We’ve seen through the recent weather events the infrastructure of new neighbourhoods such as Paerata Rise perform really well. Part of this is because we're using green infrastructure. We’re using large wetlands or devices that hold the water at the bottom of the stormwater catchment so the water doesn’t release into the stream all in one big flush. 

Turning infrastructure into community assets 

When we deploy green infrastructure such as wetlands and dry detention basins, these become community assets instead of simply sitting by the road like rain gardens. People can then ride their bikes along a footpath around the wetlands or use the dry detention basin as a field when it’s not raining.  

The broader amenity and recreational use of these types of assets can add real value to a community and its residents. Stormwater, Infrastructure and Land Development engineers working together bring these features to life. 

Why Woods?

Woods has a wealth of experience in community building. We have been involved in significant development projects such as Long Bay, Millwater, Milldale, and Stonefields. We have a long history of working with Councils to get community-enhancing assets into new communities. 

Woods has a wealth of experience in community building. We have been involved in significant development projects such as Long Bay, Millwater, Milldale, and Stonefields.   

With 53 years in business, our legacy, innovation, and impact in shaping New Zealand’s communities translates to a clear vision of the bigger picture. We know these neighbourhoods are much more deserving of a longer view of what it means to actually live in these areas.   

Many of the Woods team now live in the communities we have created, and it is extremely meaningful to see our extra efforts for clients and their projects benefiting our staff.