Act Now to Flood-Proof the Future

Act Now to Flood-Proof the Future

Giles Framling has been thinking about the floods again and thinks he might have a possible long term solution for some of the worst effects

Six or seven weeks of continuous flooding and no sign of an immediate end means we can't help but wonder about the causes of the problem and some potential remedies. The immediate issue is to relieve the homes and farms affected by the floods, repair the damage and help people get their lives back to normal. But the longer term answers cannot be as reactive as this. People deserve better and we can do better.

Inevitably, some land will always flood when we get exceptional rainfall and improving drainage can only help to ease the problem and speed up the recovery process. Homes, though, are a different matter.

The answer to that seems to be simple - when we build on flood plains (as it seems we must) we need to build responsibly and only allow developers to build homes and other buildings that are flood-proof. And the simple way to do that is to build them so the 'ground floor' isn't at ground level. In many countries the lowest floor is designated as a cellar or is simply empty space (often still used for storage). Otherwise, infill the lowest metre or two of brick or blockwork so the floor is well above the surrounding land. Make this specification mandatory for all new builds in flood plains and other flood-prone areas.

This will add to the building cost, of course, so where will the money come from? Unpopular as it may be, the fact is we need to invest now to save later, and to do that we can ask ourselves who is bearing the cost of flooding and repairs now. The answer is local authorities, national government and its agencies and, most of all, insurance companies.

So why not create a fund, a levy, paid into by insurance companies and topped up by government, to fund the mandatory higher building standards? It seems a simple solution, albeit a long term one, but it can be done. Builders would then draw on the fund to finance the additional cost and keep new house prices close to current levels.

If the less sophisticated communities around the world can live with and on the water, why do we think it's beyond us? It surely isn't!

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