Mitigating every flood risk at its source is neither possible nor practical, which means that sometimes water will enter properties through the main entrance and flood the ground floor.
Currently, it is estimated that 5.2 million properties in England and 284,000 in Scotland are at risk of flooding. This number is expected to increase by another 110,000 in Scotland by 2080, according to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, due to the impact of climate change. Consequently, certain areas of the UK could turn into flood-prone areas, or 'flood ghettos'.*<1/p>
The consequences of flooding are severe, with already 40% of businesses in the UK failing to reopen after experiencing catastrophic losses from floods.*
Reducing risk there are measures that can be taken at the individual property level to resist, reduce, or recover more quickly from flood damage. Recent research conducted by ClimateXChange, a Scottish research and policy organisation, has shown that approximately 80,000 properties currently at risk in the country would greatly benefit from some form of flood resilience. As the impacts of climate change continue to be felt, this number is expected to rise.*
This field is still relatively new and evolving, but progress is being made. CIRIA, in collaboration with the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, the Institution of Civil Engineers, and RICS, has recently released a Code of Practice for property flood resilience.* This code aims to establish standardised approaches in the industry. However, there is still much work to be done in identifying reliable experts and products in this area. Building surveyors should be at the forefront of providing appropriate advice to property owners affected by flooding, guiding them on effective flood mitigation strategies.
Examples of strategies that surveyors can recommend include:
- installing valves in drains to prevent flood water from entering a building and coming up through the toilets
- fitting waterproof flaps to floor vents
- replacing airbricks with alternatives that won’t admit water
- augmenting doors to act as flood barriers – although not too high or the flood water will cause structural damage – or installing flood doors
- directing water away from a building with barriers or swales, though even temporary barriers may require some modifications to a property in advance
- raising electrics and boilers above floor level
- making ground floors resilient so they can recover easily in the event of flooding
- installing wall linings, skirtings and other features that are resistant to water damage
- installing kitchen cabinets that are resistant to water damage
- installing float-switch-operated submersible sump pumps
- installing water-resistant plasterboard or medium-density fibreboard, or puddle pumps.
Emphasis on recovery
When dealing with a flood, one of the main concerns is how to restore the property to a habitable state as quickly as possible. In the past, it would take months to recover from even minor flooding incidents. However, recent advancements in specialist building drying techniques and monitoring have significantly improved the recovery process. Although these techniques may be more expensive initially, they can lead to a faster restoration.
The traditional approach in the construction industry is to remove building materials that have come into contact with floodwater. However, this approach should be questioned. In many cases, the amount of water used in processes like concrete production or replastering is equal to or even greater than the floodwater itself. Additionally, there are often unfounded concerns about fungal decay associated with this standard approach. Instead, it is advisable to promote and utilise modern techniques for drying and recovering materials whenever possible.
The UK and Scottish governments are collaborating to find ways to inform and assist local authorities, property owners, and their advisers in combating this issue. They have established roundtable groups that bring together various stakeholders, including representatives from the insurance industry, loss adjusters, and building experts, to progress this work.*
It is crucial for property owners, who bear the ultimate responsibility for safeguarding their properties, to take appropriate measures based on the risks they face. Building surveyors should be aware that flood resilience is set to become an increasingly important topic for a considerable number of property owners. These owners could greatly benefit from the professional advice and support provided by building surveyors.
Gallagher provides a construction insurance review, which includes flood inspection, reporting and surveys. Not only can we help you reduce your flood risk but we can help you negotiate terms to find a suitable solution to meet the needs of your business. We can also support you with your business continuity planning to help strengthen your resilience to these kind of events. Get in touch today.