Leading land agent Aston Mead says that a radically different approach to housebuilding is required if the UK is to continue constructing homes on floodplains.
Britain builds nearly 10,000 homes a year on floodplains, with an average of one new home in every 14 constructed on land that has a significant chance of flooding, either from a river or the sea.
Aston Mead Director Richard Watkins said: “This country needs to get rid of its ‘sandbag mentality’ and start building homes which have flood prevention at the core of their construction. We can’t go on treating flooding as an afterthought. Instead, we should be building properties which are specifically designed to rise and fall with the flood water. The technology is already available out there; all we have to do is make best use of it.”
He points to designs for homes which are built on top of a pre-cast pontoon sitting inside an excavated concrete void. As flood water enters the void, the pontoon rises, guided by vertical rails which can be hidden within walls and chimney breasts. As the floodwater recedes, the house returns to its original position, with a pump removing any excess water. Access is available at all times using an articulated pathway, and services remain connected using a system of flexible knuckle joints.
Richard Watkins explained: “This system is completely scalable, and designs of properties can range from the very traditional to the highly contemporary, with the footprint of the floating pontoon extending beyond the building itself to include garages, terraces and gardens. The pontoons can also be used as fully habitable basements and there are few limitations to size, design or even the number of storeys that can be added on top. An additional advantage is that as water fills the void, it reduces the amount of flood water passing onto neighbouring properties.
“These buildings can be mortgaged on standard terms by most high-street lenders, and they also qualify for standard household insurance – despite being on the floodplain. What’s more, if they are also fitted with grey water recycling and photo-voltaic panels, they can remain fully functional safe havens – even in the worst flooding conditions.”
Recent Met Office figures revealed that December 2015 was the wettest month ever recorded in the UK, with almost twice the amount of average rainfall.
Richard Watkins added; “Resorting to a supply of sandbags in the garage ‘just in case’ is no longer good enough. We can’t continue fighting floods forever. Rain will always fall and water will always rise. And with annual rainfall set to continue, even areas not currently at risk may become vulnerable to flooding in the future.
“These new construction methods mean that we can help develop floodplain sites, in the certain knowledge that future owners won’t experience the sort of devastation from flooding that we’ve already seen across the country this winter.”