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Keeping you warm, dry and safe are the basic functions of a home.  Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen plenty of examples across the world where this basic functionality has not been achieved. 

In Houston Texas, tens of thousands of people have been displaced, and over 1200 people have been killed in South East Asia due to heavier than normal monsoon rains.  Currently, Hurricane Irma is creating devastation across the Caribbean.   In Freetown, Sierra Leone four weeks ago heavy rain causing deadly mud slides, devastating homes, and business.  With our changing climate, these events are likely to increase in magnitude and frequency.

In the UK we are not immune to this, floods have already caused issues in Cornwall this year and some are still impacted by the floods in previous years in the Southwest and Cumbria.

Keeping the water out might sound like a simple task in building design but coupled with other requirements of a home (such as access, security, and energy efficiency) it isn’t always that simple.

Like many issues, flooding can’t be solved at one level.  It must be tackled at an individual house level, a local community, and a regional / city level.

Understanding if the location (or proposed location) of your home is likely to flood is the first step.  Over the last decade information and tools to be able to understand this have improved significantly.  Interestingly, people are also using social media, this ongoing case where the current householders are trying to sue the previous owners for allegedly providing inaccurate information on if the home had previously flooded shows how information can be sought for all sorts of places.  Perhaps a warning to take the issue seriously.

At BRE a key focus has been on consumer protection at the property level.  In 2015, the Property Level Flood Resilience Roundtable, chaired by Dr Peter Bonfield (CEO, BRE Group) looked at ways to protect properties and businesses from the effects of flooding. A Property Flood Resilience Action Plan was developed and released in 2016. Earlier this year, the Flood Resilient Repair Home at the BRE Innovation Park.  The property, developed to show the practical measures that can be put into place to make a property more resilient to flood through the installation of movable kitchen units and water resilient wall insulation, for example, was flooded with several thousand litres of water, and just hours later was dry and ready to move back into.  It is part of the BRE Centre for Resilience which has the mission to; ‘to provide a place for the sector to research, learn, develop new standards and create the next generation of resilient materials, products, designs and innovations that will ensure the robustness and longevity of our built infrastructure.’

The BRE Academy now have a  since developed a new Flood Protection and Flood Prevention course designed for anyone responsible for the upkeep or management of a building that is at risk of a flood; including householders, landlords, and business owners. To find out more click here.

We have also created the Home Quality Mark (HQM), the mark that allows consumers to understand which homes have better consumer protection.  HQM takes account of much of the property resilience work, but also looks at flooding from a Community point of view.  Creating new development (particularly if it is on land that has not been developed before) often leads to greater levels of hard standing.  HQM pushes the developer to do more in reducing the rate and volume of water leaving the site.  So if you live near a proposed new development, you may wish to, through the planning system (or other means) to push for the site to be certified to HQM.  Reducing the likelihood of your own existing home to be flooded.

At a regional or city level, flooding can occur for numerous different reasons from coastal erosion to rivers bursting their banks or high sea levels.   Home Quality Mark is part of the BREEAM family of international, science based, certification schemes, which also includes CEEQUAL for civil engineering.  A number of Flood Alleviation schemes have achieved CEEQUAL  awards for sustainability.

A large scale example of city level flood protection is the Thames Barrier, which protects 125 km2 of Central London.  On Sunday (10th of September) the Environment Agency will be the annual test closure where the barrier gates rotate by 90 degrees into the fully closed position stopping the tide going into London.  It is open to the public and many organisations (including BRE) will be attending the event and will be explaining to the public what they do.

Gwyn Roberts
About the Author
Homes and Communities Leader, at BRE Global. I lead the team who works on Home Quaility Mark, BREEAM Communities, BREEAM Domestic Refurbishment and the Code for Sustainable Homes. Ex DCLG civil servant consultant and independent traveller; crossing Africa in a Solar powered Landcruiser in 2009/10. @homeqm and @overlandsun

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