A tale of one city that is tackling urban stormwater management the right way

They say that opposites attract.  And new, sustainable urban design in cities – like the northern German town of Wolfsburg – is proof positive that when the worlds of aesthetics and functionality collide, they form a synergy that is influenced by the human experience. Functional concepts can inspire great design, thus helping us to understand how architecture embodies the needs of everyday life. Like rainwater management. Urban pluvial flooding in Europe is a problem that is not going away any time soon. That is why cities across the continent are looking for unique solutions to mitigate the problem, while at the same time embracing nature, beauty and sustainable design. This is the tale of the Wolfsburg project – a story in which Wavin plays a key role in bridging the gap between beauty and function.

The perfect union of aesthetics and functionality

In northern Germany, the city of Wolfsburg is in the process of redeveloping an immense urban area in the district of Hellwinkel. The vision behind sustainable urban development is to promote interconnected green spaces, a multi-modal transportation system, and mixed-use (residential and commercial) development – all designed so that it presents an aesthetically-pleasing but functional environment for residents and business owners alike to inhabit and enjoy.  This is exactly what the city of Wolfsburg set out to do in the Hellwinkel Quarter – located near the Autostadt (owned by Volkswagen). But the plan was not without its challenges.

One of the critical issues was how to secure the town from the ravages of flooding. Each year, rainstorms have been increasing in number and intensity. Flood resilience has become a major concern for cities across Europe and, indeed, around the world. The city of Wolfsburg needed a plan that would ensure the Quarter would be flood-proof, without sacrificing its aesthetic and environmental integrity. 

In pure architecture the smallest detail should have a meaning or serve a purpose.
Augustus W.N. Pugin , Architect

The ‘Dream Team’

After careful consideration, the decision makers put together a consortium of professionals; city officials, planners, architects, engineers, installers and a company to provide the rainwater solution. Their common goal is to create sustainable and liveable communities that protect historic, cultural, and environmental resources. Wavin Germanyis honoured to be part of such a dynamic alliance and a project of this magnitude. The area covers a span of 11 hectares and will encompass approximately 750 living quarters.

According to the urban planners and architects at SMAQ, “The residential development design is based on two local boundary conditions: first, the scenic and imposing forest edge in the south and, secondly, the typical Wolfsburg mixture of different types of housing developments that surround the site. Densely built, terraced “green living” is proposed in the form of a “patchwork” of different types of housing (and therefore users), different public and neighbourhood spaces at various heights and a rhythmic mix of buildings and vegetation. 

The Hellwinkel Quarter – a rainwater challenge

The objective for this urban housing project is to be nearly self-sufficient – on energy, rainwater and infrastructure – and thus very sustainable. This district is hit by floods during heavy rainfalls and high ground water tables become an issue because there is no solution to manage the rainwater filtration. The Quarter’s central point for rainwater management is the Wiesenterrasse, which consists of an upper and a lower part and is designed as a green area with stairs from a promenade that follow the terrain. Below this green area, there should be large storage tanks to create the necessary capacity to buffer heavy rainfalls. Thus, the area needs a flexible rainwater solution that can work in a rising terrain with a special stair design and less disturbing covers from manholes or inspection chambers.

Wiesenterrasse – the rainwater solution

It was decided that there would need to be rainwater attenuation below a nice, multifunctional green space. Wavin’s sustainable rainwater concept centers upon three pillars or objectives:

  • Evaporation via green areas
  • Reduced surface runoff by planted and green areas
  • Invisible below-ground water storage via Q-Bic Plus attenuation tank (from the top, water can filter into the tank but it will not go into the ground; instead, it will run off via flow control valves and chambers to the city of Wolfsburg’s sewer system)

The products being used for this solution are the Wavin Q-Bic Plus (as attenuation tank), and Wavin X-Stream (as rainwater pipe). The installation of the first buffer tanks was finalized in August/September of 2016. 

1500 Q-Bic Plus units – installed in 5 days! How? The Q-Bic Plus is lightweight and very easy to assemble - the units click into place with just one push of the finger. With the integrated connectors, no clips or pins are needed. That's why these units are an installer's dream!

The overall project began in Q3 2015 and is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2018.

Image: location where the underground Q-Bic systems will be installed


The Wolfsburg project is a stellar example of how to make an urban area flood-resilient and sustainable, without sacrificing its beauty and charm. Most importantly, the people living in the Hellwinkel Quarter can rest comfortably, knowing that they will be safe from flooding and all the potential hazards that occur when heavy rain builds up and flows into the streets.

For more information on how you can make your city or neighborhood more flood resilient, download our urban storm water management toolkit here or contact your local Wavin office for more information. And do follow us on Facebook, where we will post updates on the progress of the Wolfsburg project – from now until its completion.