With Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank that battered parts of Britain between early December 2015 and early January 2016 causing damage that estimated to cost insurers £1.3 billion (US$1.58bn) in customer claims, the British Research Establishment, BRE Group, in partnership with insurance industry players and other role-players, unveiled a prototype flood-resilient home in a business park in Hertfordshire in early February 2017.
The demonstration home, built at the BRE Innovation Park at Watford, is designed to be able to resist floodwaters up to a depth of 600mm (2 feet). In addition, the home features a number of innovations aimed at reducing the damage and disruption caused should floodwaters actually penetrate into the interior of the house.
Reducing the Impact of Flooding Inside the Home
These include flood-resistant door and window seals, raised power sockets, ceramic floor tiles with waterproof grout in place of wooden floorboards, loose rugs instead of fitted carpets, a sump below the ground floor that wall and floor membranes channel water to, an automatic pump to clear water from the sump, non-return valves on drainage and sewer lines, and moveable kitchen units made of water-resistant materials.
Different water resilient insulation materials were installed in the home, including thermal board, injected cavity wall insulation and PUR spray foam.
Other precautions include locating water heaters in elevated positions, placing appliances such as refrigerators on stands above floor level, and not storing expensive equipment in lower cabinets. Portable flood barriers may also be used.
Keeping floodwaters out of the home is practical only to a certain point, owing to the danger of increased structural loading on the fabric of the building, so it was necessary to also design for the eventuality of water entering the building. This aspect aims at reducing the potential for flood-damage inside the home and also ensuring that the cleanup will be relatively quick, easy and economical.
A standard house can take several months to fully dry out, with the cost to repair damages averaging £50,000 (US$61,000), whereas it is anticipated that with these improvements a house or commercial building can be back in use within 4 weeks.
The design was developed by, amongst others, Aquobex (pdf) working in conjunction with Baca Architects, who are probably best known for the amphibious home they designed along the River Thames. The project began in 2013, and was part-funded by a grant from Defra.
The systems were live-tested with the help of the Hertfordshire Fire Brigade, which used its hoses to simulate floodwaters both outside and inside the home.
BRE Centre for Resilience director Stephen Garvin said: “It is not yet normal practice for properties in areas at high flood risk to be made more resilient following a flood. The aim of this project is to show contractors and householders in a tangible way that resilient repair isn’t as challenging or difficult as they may think it is.”
New Certification Scheme
He also said that BRE would be launching a new certification scheme and training courses aimed at property flood resilience surveyors, to provide them with a framework for undertaking resilient repairs to various types of property. In addition, it is intended to commence with a property flood resilience database that will hold information on properties that have been upgraded to set standards of the certification scheme.
“This data will be fed to insurers in conjunction with other flood risk data. It will allow them to balance the flood risk of a particular area against the prevention measures taken at an individual property,” Garvin said.
It is anticipated that system this will help to persuade insurers to reduce premiums for the property owners concerned.