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Engineers must step outside comfort zone to get green infrastructure built, experts say

Water and drainage engineers must step out of their comfort zones and form relationships with people outside their sector in order to ensure green and blue infrastructure is understood and built, experts said yesterday.

Speakers and attendees at a Construction Industry Research and Information Association (Ciria) seminar yesterday agreed that cross-sector collaboration was crucial to communicating the need for, and benefits of, green and blue infrastructure — such as sustainable drainage systems (Suds), drainage corridors, and publicly accessible green spaces and bodies of water. “We all need to be wary of silos,” said Sheffield University professor of urban water Richard Ashley. “Everyone in this room has climbed out of their silos and is trying to work together.”

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) green infrastructure strategy group official Jo Withers said professionals working on green infrastructure should seek to widen their range of contacts. “Some of it is getting out of your comfort zone and talking to people you don’t know.” She said the Green Infrastructure Partnership, launched last week, would help to remove silos. “It’s a government-supported partnership, but it’s a partnership of you guys.”

But a Hertfordshire County Council representative told the seminar that government spending cuts were threatening established connections between people working on green infrastructure. He said he previously worked with a partner at quango Natural England on strategic issues around green infrastructure, but budget cuts to the quango meant that connection had been lost.

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