Designing flood resilience into new developments

23 Jan 19 | Joel Coakeley

National planning policy places its emphasis on avoiding this risk. Despite this, development within vulnerable zones still occurs – the proportion of new build assets constructed on high risk land is steadily increasing year on year, standing at 11% in 2017. In this knowledge, ensuring the safety for these buildings and their occupants has never been more pressing.

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Extreme weather events are becoming more commonplace in the UK. Over 50% of the record-breaking rainfall months since 1910 have occurred in the last 18 years. As the effects of climate change take hold, the number of UK households at significant risk of flooding will more than double by 2050.

National planning policy places its emphasis on avoiding this risk. Despite this, development within vulnerable zones still occurs – the proportion of new build assets constructed on high risk land is steadily increasing year on year, standing at 11% in 2017. In this knowledge, ensuring the safety for these buildings and their occupants has never been more pressing.

So, what are our options if avoidance is failing?

Following major floods in recent years, proponents of flood resilience are calling for a change to building regulations. While this is yet to materialise, the industry has not stood still. A Property Flood Resilience Code of Practice is due for publication in March this year. To have the desired impact this Code must provide rigorous, independent standards and appropriate certification processes.

Implementing an industry wide code is essential. As it stands, application of flood resilience is at the discretion of each local planning authority, with little national consensus, meaning flood resilience often falls victim to ‘value engineering’ and is not followed through to construction.

To encourage uptake of flood resilient design by local planning authorities, the code must outline the partnership between insurers, surveyors, the legal profession and government. It is only through effective collaboration that we can work towards ensuring the protection of our new build assets and the communities that rely on them.

For developers this will mean being held to a higher standard in order to meet the demands of a flood resilient development. But ultimately, resilient design should be encouraged by the client, specified by a specialist consultant, accommodated within the architectural design, factored into the development cost, and effectively delivered by the contractor. As flood risk increases, flood resilience should be as integral within the industry as sustainable drainage systems have become.

Flood resilient design forms an integral part of the Flood Risk Assessment and Surface Water Drainage Strategy work we do at Iceni Projects. We would welcome the forthcoming code of practice being a catalyse for securing a consensus on this important issue, which is vital if we are to continue to address the housing problem while delivering the highest value assets to our clients.

Joel Coakeley Senior Sustainability Consultant,Sustainable Development
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