Pressure builds for more resilient housing

27 Jan 2014

After heavy rain wreaks havoc in the UK, plans are floated for flood-resistant homes

There are many countries that are well-versed in flood-resistant housing and incorporate design features into their coastal residences to enhance resiliency as a matter of course. The United Kingdom is not one of these countries and, as winter conditions worsen year on year and the UK faces increasingly wet and windy weather, the importance of flood-resistant housing has been brought to the fore.

This spring a live demonstration will be undertaken at the Building Research Establishment (BRE) Innovation Park using a prototype house designed by Aquobex Resilient Property and Baca Architects. The demonstration home will incorporate elements designed to reduce the amount of floodwater entering the property as well as interior fit-out systems that minimise damage should water infiltrate the property. These materials include nanoShell, Dragonboard and Sealwise.

John Alexander, Managing Director at Aquobex, hopes that by conducting a public demonstration of the effectiveness of these techniques, the UK may take a step forward in flood-resistant housing: “Flooding is an ever increasing risk for many as a result of both climate changes and urban development. By showcasing some of the relatively simple measures that can be incorporated into both new built and retrofit projects we hope to encourage both designers and builders to think about incorporating flood resilience measures wherever possible.”

In the following interview with the BBC, Baca Architects' Director Robert Barker outlines the premise of the BRE demonstration home.

In November 2013, the Environment Agency announced that flooding across England had cost the UK economy almost £600m in 2012. Commercial property and contents damage was valued at £84m while the financial cost to businesses due to adverse weather conditions was £200m. The value of damage to flooded properties across England was revealed as £277m.

Another UK-based firm taking positive steps in flood-resistant housing is Assael Architecture which has been appointed to develop a £150million mixed-use regeneration scheme on the edge of Lake Lothing in Suffolk. Working with Cardy Construction Limited, Assael Architecture will masterplan a sustainable waterside community with ‘flood proof’ housing, including affordable homes.

A statement released by the practice notes the influence of Dutch housing design and indicates that the new homes will be raised on stilts, 3m above the ground. It is hoped that this approach will also aid the preservation of the existing ecology and encourage new wildlife to flourish undisturbed.

As referenced by Assael Architecture, The Netherlands is one of the most forward-thinking countries in terms of flood-resistant architecture. One of the most stirring presentations at World Architecture Day 2013 in New York this past October was given by Koen Olthuis, Founder of Waterstudio. “We build static buildings for dynamic cities and this has to change,” Olthuis told the assembled delegates.

This short video goes some way to explaining the design ethos of Waterstudio and why their approach has been so successful in this field.

While there are a number of one-off housing schemes in the UK that incorporate design features to make them more resilient in the face of flooding, there is a dire need for widespread action to protect the economy and safeguard the homes of coastal dwellers. 

Sian Disson
News Editor

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