Big data and computational design assists in addressing traditional problems. Urban run-off from impervious surfaces (roads and pavements) is gaining attention, given impacts including increased flooding frequency and deterioration of water quality due to pollutants present.

As existing urban drainage systems were designed for past climate conditions, they might not be suitable for current circumstances or future changes due to the effects of climate change. Rainfall intensities in Denmark are likely to increase by 10%–50% within the next 100 years. In Scotland, longer duration events (5–10 days) show intensity increases up to 30%, and in the UK, small increases in the magnitude of more frequent events are expected (up to +10%).

Current runoff retention devices, such as swales or bioretention basins, mimic nature when reducing runoff intensities. Yet, these devices require substantial installation space.

axo diagram
Axonometry of runoffs analysis (credit: thr34d5)

LoFlow+Bio is a computation platform in conceptual development, which involves:

  • Projecting runoff flows on topographical datasets (e.g. LIDAR).
  • Analysing the flow regime over sections of pavement – determining regions of high flow rates.
  • Flow data informs software that optimises the porosity and permeability of the pavement biomaterial. Developing a matrix that slows zone-specific water flows.
  • Additive manufacturing technology prints computed matrix of semi-permeable bio-crete in-situ.
  • Seeding sphagnum moss varietals into printed ‘cups’ at base layer of pavement matrix. Moss inhibits bacterial growth, stabilises pH and reduces sediment concentration.
  • Improving runoff hydrographs and water quality before water enters drainage system.

Our world is increasingly paved. Annually, nearly $150 billion and 320 million tonnes of raw materials are invested into pavements in the United States alone. The UN forecasts 80-90% of people will be urban dwellers by 2050. LoFlow+Bio could reduce urban runoff, while filtering flows, and lessen heat island effects.

As world-leading landscape architect, Kong Jian Yu implores, we must “make friends with water”.

thr34d5 project - LoFlow+Bio (WAF Research Programme)

The WAF Research Programme 2018 has been launched to promote the ideas highlighted in the WAFX Manifesto, marking the first ten years of WAF. The manifesto identified key challenges architects will need to address over the next ten years, comprising; Water; Climate, Energy and Carbon; Ageing and Health; Re-use; Smart City Technology; Power and Justice; Cultural Identity; Ethics and values; Building Technology and Virtual Worlds.

The first of these categories open for entries is water, supported by WAF headline partner GROHE. GROHE are supporting research into tackling unique challenges that water present. The WAF Research Programme rewards first-class thought leadership, innovation and research initiatives.

The LoFlow+Bio proposal have been among the 12 pre-selected projects among 60 proposals by the WAF Research Program 2018 jury for its innovative approach regarding computation and material to assess flooding intensity and frequency in cities lacking of water absorption from soils.


Tim Leeson: Project Manager, Design Researcher
Álvaro Cosidó López: Computational Designer, Graphist
Mladen Babic: Computational Designer, Graphist
Adrien Rigobello: Design Researcher