More than half of new urban residential developments are planned as infill in Australia's major cities. This provides an unprecedented opportunity to use innovative design and technology to address urban water challenges such as flooding, reduced water security and related infrastructure and urban heat island issues. However, infill can have positive or negative water impacts, depending on architectural design and on-site water servicing technologies implemented. In this study we asked, “What influence does residential infill development have on the local urban water cycle?” and “What roles do architectural design and technologies play?” To answer these questions, a set of 196 design-technology configurations were developed by combining 28 architectural designs and 7 on-site water-servicing technology options. The configurations represent three cases: (i) existing (EX) or before infill, (ii) business-as-usual development (BAU), and (iii) alternative development (ALT). Using the Site-scale Urban Water Mass Balance Assessment (SUWMBA) model and a set of water performance indicators, the impact of configurations on the urban water cycle was quantified. The results showed BAU, on average, increases population density, stormwater discharge, and imported water by 98%, 44% and 85%, and decreases evapotranspiration and infiltration by 53% and 34%, compared to the EX conditions. More population density (141%) with lower impacts on the urban water cycle (21% and 64% increase for stormwater discharge and imported water, and 29% and 17% reduction in evapotranspiration and infiltration) can be achieved by appropriate integration of ALT designs and technologies. Architectural design has a greater influence on urban water flows than the implementation of on-site water servicing technologies. The results have a great implication for sustainable urban water management for managing the risks associated with pluvial flooding, water insecurity, and urban heat. It also highlights the underutilised role of architects and urban planners to address urban water issues.


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Last updated: 7th Mar 2022