Floods : Rebuilding After a Flood
At time of writing, warnings of floods scatter the map of the British Isles. In fact, 1 in 6 British homes are at risk, according to the Environmental Agency.
Yet last year, between 12,000 and 16,000 homes were built on flood plains in England; a pattern that looks unlikely to change any time soon, despite high-profile protests in Tewkesbury and Chester. Why? Because houses built on flood plains are about 10% cheaper than elsewhere.
Sadly, and as thousands of homeowners are finding out, traditional flooring is simply not designed to withstand flooding. Between the concrete and the carpet are layers of insulation, membrane, chipboard and underlay – all of which are liable to rot, retain water or float away.
Flood-proof flooring systems involve water pressure instruments, tanking, under-floor pumps, reflective blankets, closed-cell insulation and waterproof grouting – and should be compulsory in houses in high-risk areas.
Frustratingly, some insurance companies insist on rebuilding flood-damaged homes exactly as they were before. The replaced flooring is then prone to the same flood damage, if and when the waters return.
Clearly we need to adapt the way we build and rebuild our homes – particularly if we are going to continue to build on flood plains.
Could floating houses be the solution? Flood risk engineers in the Netherlands seem to think so – over the past few years the Dutch have been experimenting with ‘amphibious’ houses, which rest on land but float on water in a flood (secured in place by sturdy poles). Based on Dutch designs, Britain followed suit with their own buoyant house earlier this year.
Other flood-management ideas include houses built on stilts (as in Thailand, Burma and India), moveable river barriers and absorbent sandbags. One thing’s for certain – we can no longer afford to build and rebuild our homes as before.
On a more positive note, although thousands of homes have been flooded, thousands more have been protected by flood defences, according to the Environmental Agency. Clearly the flood-management solutions are out there – we just need to embrace them.