Increased UK flood risk forces  the emergence of ‘flood resilience’ design

The last two winters have both seen flooding affecting the UK. With average repair costs to homes (as reported by The Association of British Insurers) standing at close to £50,000, the threat of flooding is increasingly a concern for home and business owners alike, resulting in new thinking around flood resilience design.

The evolution of ‘flood resilience’ building design

Concerns about flood risk have effectively forced an increased focus on how to design flood resilience in new buildings. A flood resilient built environment can be considered one that:

  • Has design features that better manage and mitigate the risk of flood damage. Principally, a flood resilience approach means keeping water out of the building in the first place by identifying and protecting all potential water entry points. However, structural risks – such as the weight of water against walls, for example – may make this impossible.
  • Is designed to recover more quickly from a flood situation and allow occupants to make use of the building as soon as possible. It might be things as simple as ensuring that waterproof floor and wall coatings that can be wiped clean following a flood are used. Consideration can also be given to the location of key service points within the building – for example raising plug socket positions on walls.

Flood resilience building design has a range of benefits for property owners

Reducing the likelihood of flood damage in the first place, and ensuring occupants can get back into the building sooner than they might otherwise have done, are the most obvious benefits of the approach. However, resilient design also means less repairs are required in the event of a flood, so offers a further cost saving benefit. Where the building is a commercial premises, there’s also the likelihood that the business itself can become operational more quickly, minimising disruption.

BRE Chief Executive, Dr Peter Bonfield OBE, has established a private sector initiative bringing together key contacts across industry to recognise the obstacles to flood resilience in the UK and to help produce solutions to overcome these. In September 2016, the group published their findings and strategy for the future in the Property Flood Resilience Action Plan. This highlighted 5 key work streams for the group to address these challenges.

These are:

  1. Immediate action – A group aimed at assisting those previously affected by flooding, through grant application assistance, knowledge sharing through a flood advisory service, and installation of property flood resilience measures in key flood-affected areas.
  2. Embedding resilience in small businesses – This task group focussed on working with insurers and lenders to ensure that small businesses in flood-prone areas can recover quickly from the flood events, and to act as a catalyst for instigating an uptake of flood resilience measures.
  3. One-stop-shop – Establishment of a central website acting as a conduit to correct and accurate information for householders and business owners. This information is available through
  4. Standards, certification and skills – Task group four reviewed the gaps in the industry for standards, certification and skills, and aimed to fill these gaps across the organisations involved in this group.
  5. Communication and behaviour change – With a keen focus on encouraging the take up of flood resilience measures, this task group works in parallel with all the other groups to provide a holistic message of behaviour change across both industry and the wider public interaction.

Subsequently, a sixth group has been established – to establish the data required to underpin the work of the initial five task groups; recognising the gaps in these datasets that will be required to help support a shift to a resilient built environment.

Appropriate certification and standards need to be created across the industry in order to facilitate the transition to flood resilient buildings. While current standards are in place for many flood resilient products, Task Group four is looking at the possibility of producing product standards for flood resilience measures. A full list of current recognised standards is available in the Property Flood Resilience Action Plan.

A further gap in standardisation was that no official certification scheme for flood risk surveyors existed. BRE Group announced a year ago that they would be officially launching a certification scheme and accompanying training to fill this gap – in partnership with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

This will allow home owners and business owners to be confident that the individual surveyor of their building has demonstrated the appropriate credentials and knowledge required to successfully survey their building and recommend appropriate flood measures. Confidence in the surveyor is an essential part of the protection of a building, especially if these measures are going to require the property owner’s investment in order to protect their property from future flood damage.

UK Insurers’ attitudes to flood resilience design

Recognition of flood resilient designed property by insurers is becoming increasingly prevalent. However, there is more to be done in establishing commonly understood standards that may, for example, trigger an insurer to reduce a buildings insurance premium on the basis that the risk is less than it might otherwise have been.

A lack of universal recognition by flood insurance providers regarding the installation of flood protection measures to homes and businesses within the UK is still being developed. The creation of the Property Flood Resilience Database (PFR-d), which concluded in September 2017, was an Innovate UK research project which helped to address this.

The PFR-d required the design of a system that would allow the measures installed by property owners to be recorded in a national database. The database would then be available to insurers and local government to recognise the level of protection taken by these property owners. This would not only highlight the properties within flood-prone areas that are at the greatest risk, but would also indicate which homes and businesses had not taken appropriate measures to protect themselves from future flood events.

For any property owner looking to insure a building where flood is a notable risk, considering design features as well as being able to demonstrate carefully thought out contingency plans to mitigate the impact of a flood should be front of mind. As an insurance broker we can advise property owners not only on the cover that they may require, but also on how best to present the risk to an insurer, in order to ensure adequate protection is in place.