Taken at the Flood
As spring gets off to an uncertain start, I think even the most ardent optimist would say we’ve had a pretty wet time of it this winter. December’s storms and their devastating after-effects gave us all pause for thought and inspired MGA to reflect on the thorny issue of how creating homes that are flood-resistant yet also conform to prevailing regulations on access can be a conundrum.
Back in January, influential government adviser, Lord Krebs, told MPs that although the flooding had caused houses and other buildings to be inundated, property could continue to be constructed on flood plains as long as the risks were made clear to households, local government and developers. Although planning applications on low-lying sites or near rivers almost certainly require rigorous flood-risk assessments, it looks like the development of flood plains is set to continue apace, regardless of public opinion on the matter.
At the top end of the scale, there have been plenty of innovative designs created to turn prime riverside sites into spectacular, no-expense-spared private residences (London-based architects, Baca, recently designed a building near Marlow in Buckinghamshire that floats up with the rising water in the event of a flood, like a boat).
While some of these more bespoke solutions do include exciting advancements that can lead to the wider application of specialist principles in the long-term, it’s important to ensure the ongoing incorporation of specific criteria which can minimise the impact of flooding where there’s a known risk.
Floodwater can find its way into a property through a variety of routes, including ingress around closed doors and via air bricks, as well as seepage through external walls and up from the ground. Considering how a small rise in floor levels can protect a property – or at least parts of it - from floodwater is a useful exercise, as is the provision of moveable barriers for doors, low-level windows and airbricks.
The use of flood-resistant materials and the installation of wiring systems, sockets and meters above flood levels can provide a simple solution to what can be catastrophic and expensive failures in the event of a flood. Thought should be given to the best types of interior finish for flood-risk dwellings, too. Solid floors can provide a useful seal against rising water levels and are easier to clean and restore. Kitchen units should be raised on legs and preference given to high-level appliances where possible. Non-return valves can ensure that flood water doesn’t back flow through drains.
In the long run, it will become increasingly important to establish a joined-up policy for dealing with the risk of flooding as a nation. Do we try to establish more extensive and more sophisticated flood defences or do we find a different approach to rising water levels by creating developments that are capable of accommodating seasonal floods? If the experience of recent years is anything to go by, it’s a topic that’s unlikely to disappear.