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Designing for flood resilient homes – living with water

With hundreds of homes flooded and 200 flood warnings in place following the recent storms, it is a timely reminder of the increasing importance of designing new homes and communities that are resilient to flood damage. Flooding causes an average of £1.4 billion of damage each year to businesses and households and currently 1 in 6 homes in the UK are at risk of flooding, and that is expected to double by 2050.

A recent RIBA report, The Value of Flood Resilient Architecture and Design, outlines what the government needs to do and stresses that the UK can no longer base its approach to managing flood risk on simply keeping the water out, but suggests that the focus should be on building flood resilient homes and buildings instead.

RIBA continues to call on the Government to commit to building flood resilient homes. The report recommends that the Government develops a new approach to decision-making and regulation in tackling flooding threats, encourages innovation in flooding resilience in the housing and urban design sector, and introduces specific building regulations for flood resilience and resistance - ensuring that these are taken up by any building owner exposed to flood risk.

There are 3 flood zones based on the likelihood of an area flooding, with flood zone 1 areas least likely to flood and flood zone 3 areas more likely to flood, so these need to be taken into consideration during a planning application. Areas in flood zones 2 and 3 will be required to submit a flood risk assessment as part of a planning application, and areas in flood zone 3 may encounter significant restrictions as to what can be developed.

However, we can’t change nature so rather than restricting what can be built, is it time to start working more with nature? Flood resistant architectural design should help to equip people, communities and business to live with water instead. For example, the flood-resistant Amphibious House in Marlow designed by Baca Architects is designed to float and rise with the water levels during times of flooding.

Other interesting concepts are currently on display at Sea Change: an exhibition of Flood Resilient Architecture for the 21st Century, which showcases projects by leading architects around the world in the field of flood resilient architecture. It demonstrates that solutions come in all shapes, forms and scales: projects that work with nature by developing floating buildings; improving flood barriers and turning them into recreational space; elevating a range of public and private buildings.

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