Innovation That Matters

The Waterbench can be used on pavements or backyards to keep plants watered and prevent runoff | Photo source Standaert Design

Bench prevents urban runoff 

Architecture & Design

A bench designed to collect and use water to supply integrated plantings could help mitigate urban runoff

Spotted: Sometimes it feels as though not much has changed since 1970, when Joni Mitchell first sang, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” But aside from the reduction in green space, concreting over the city also reduces drainage and can lead to increases in both floods and drought, as water is lost to the storm drains. Designer Barbara Standaert is working to improve this with the Waterbench, a combined bench, rainwater barrel and planter.

The bench is made from two types of concrete. Rainwater seeps naturally through the porous concrete cover, and is collected in a water-tight concrete reservoir, which holds up to 280 litres. Plants growing in the top section absorb the water in the reservoir, aided by a nylon cord that transports the water. 

The top section of the Waterbench doubles as a seating area, and the entire structure rests on rubber feet, allowing excess water to drain away. The porous nature of the concrete also means that the seating remains dry – even in wet weather. This makes the Waterbench a useful and practical city seating solution.

Standaert describes how she came up with the idea as an entry to a contest while she was an architecture student, “During my studies, I made the prototype all by myself.” Things have moved on since her student days. She reflects, “After I graduated I found a manufacturer who is now producing the market suitable Waterbench!”

According to Standaert, the Waterbench was inspired in part by the desire to restore natural processes and give back some green to the urbanised landscape. She is not alone – at Springwise, we have a wide number of innovations aimed at expanding urban green spaces. These have included a playground that incorporates algae bioreactors to purify the air, and a sustainable forest town in Singapore.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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