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Plenty of positive property flood resilience progress

Over the past decade, the Property Flood Resilience (PFR) sector has changed dramatically. For many years there had been a paucity of precedents when it came to seeing a full suite of PFR measures in practice and limited resources on how to adapt to flood risk at the property level. However, times have changed, and we now not only have a myriad of ‘proof of concept’ success stories that showcase the approaches to and benefits of PFR, but with the ‘Code of Practice for Property Flood Resilience’ we have a rigorous piece of guidance and joined up process through which to be working in this field.

This progress has in part been made as a direct / indirect result of the work of DEFRA’s PFR Roundtable which has brought together a wide range of government, industry and academic experts to explore knowledge, skills and information gaps within this sector. The Code of Practice for PFR has been a related output, but there’s also been huge amount of progress made with pilot PFR schemes, the way which we model/map flood risk, and more recently training/certification programs. For example, the Environment Agency funded PFR training (that’s currently in development) will be engaging and upskilling stakeholders from a range of disciplines on both the technical specifics and boarder concepts of PFR. The RIBA has also added ‘The Fundamentals of Flood Resilient Design’ as one of their core CPD training modules for 2021, showing they want Architects to be up to speed on not just why but how to manage flood risk at the property and community level.

The creation of Flood Re in 2016 has also significantly changed the PFR sector with regards to the way flood risk insurance is structured and managed throughout the UK. In their 2019 Quinquennial Review they set out a range of proposals for the ways in which they envisage their schemes efficiency and effectiveness could be improved. Of particular note was their aim to offer discounted premiums for the proactive installation of PFR measures and an option to ‘Build Back Better’ (BBB), whereby a claim would include up to £10,000 towards PFR. In this way, recovery would be an opportunity to rectify the vulnerable setup of a building and limit future flood repair costs. The DEFRA review on these proposed amendments to Flood Re has just closed, but if taken forward, these would be significant changes and the betterment enabled from BBB will I believe be a key mechanism to enable an incremental flood resilient retrofitting of the UK’s existing building stock.

However, whilst proactive installation and BBB are very positive steps forward, the benefit of planning ahead (even if measures aren’t fitted at that time) should not be overlooked, as it can help to ascertain; What the flood hazard is to your building (CoP Stage 1), how your property is setup (CoP Stage 2) and what options for PFR could be suitable (CoP Stage 3). Beginning the PFR process and commencing a dialogue around the measures and manner in which a property could be adapted to be more flood resilient (being proactive rather reactive) can save many months of time. It can also provide property owners the opportunity to save or plan for works to be undertaken in combination with additional extensions and/or upgrades to the building. This kind of ‘Pro-active Preplanning’ approach will no doubt tie into many of the PFR Ratings systems being trialled / launched over the coming months and years and should I believe be scaled up to enable flood (and climate) resilient adaptation plans to be created for the wider community.

What’s promising to see is that a lot of the specific standards, guidance and training that have been and are being developed, will act as a solid foundation from which the industry can build on, at speed. Ultimately though, it’ll be our mindsets and approaches to adaptation and how we learn to live with flooding as a residual risk that will influence the manner and pace at which we move towards becoming a more resilient society. Throughout the ‘Our Flood Resilient Home’ and ‘Our Flood Resilient Business’ episodes of Hazard + Hope we’ve heard from many home and business owners that have experienced the devastating impacts of flooding first hand, but chosen to take action and adapt. It’s these kinds of climate and community champions that we need to learn from moving forward, as they’re putting theory into practice and the consequences are inspiring to see.

Ed Barsley

Founder of ‘The Environmental Design Studio’ and ‘Hazard + Hope’

Author of ‘Retrofitting for Flood Resilience: A Guide to Building & Community Design’