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The Rollercoaster of Recovery

By Ed Barsley, founder of The Environmental Design Studio and Hazard + Hope, and author of Retrofitting for Flood Resilience: A Guide to Building & Community Design.

The Covid pandemic has caused sudden and unexpected changes to occur in many of our lives and parallels can be made with the process of reinstating a property after it’s been flooded. It’s disruptive, laborious, and often plagued with uncertainty. When it comes to considering whose properties could be at risk, we need to remember that it only takes a very shallow depth of water to seep, soak and spread inside a building (that has not been made flood resilient) for a vast amount of damage to be caused.

The works involved in reinstatement can also have a detrimental impact of the quality of placemaking in a community, with skips lining the streets, dehumidifiers whirring away 24/7 for months on end and the sound of demolition and construction filling the air. Even with insurance to help get your property back into a habitable state, it will still take time and disruption to do so. That could mean living in temporary rented accommodation away from the community and neighbourhood you know and unexpected changes to the routine of how you live and work. So, the value of making your property more flood resilient should not be underestimated as it can significantly alter the consequences endured and amount of disruption to your everyday life.

In our most recent episode of ‘Our Flood Resilient Home’, we met Ian and heard about the rollercoaster journey that recovery has been for him and his family after their home was flooded in 2019. In the weeks and months after the flood they had to move nine times, and it was a year until the reinstatement process of putting the property back together had begun. Two years on from the flood, Ian and his family are now back their home, but it’s still not yet complete.

Now, whilst the disruption floods cause can create a myriad of challenges, recovery can be an opportunity to enhance the former setup/configuration of your property and make it more flood resilient. For a long time, this kind of betterment has not been a feature for consideration in the insurance sector. But the great news is that times have changed and we’re now seeing resilience rewarded and a break in the archaic habit of putting a property back in its former, flood vulnerable state. On the 29th July, the UK government announced its support for a number of changes to Flood Re, in particular their ‘Build Back Better’ program. The purpose of the program is to help support flooded households in making their homes more resilient to future flooding and allow them to benefit from discounted insurance premiums if property flood resilience (PFR) measures have been installed.

When it comes to upgrading a home post flood, Ian, whom I mentioned above has done just this. He’s not only had the energy efficiency of his home improved (by having more insulation fitted and an air source heat pump installed) but a range of PFR measures (such as flood barriers) have also been added. Ian spoke of the relief he’d felt when the barriers had finally been delivered and fitted as he was anxious that the property would flood during the recovery process, and they would be thrown back to square one. But the peace of mind in knowing that the property is now more flood resilient was evident to see.

Sue, who we featured in Episode 3 of ‘Our Flood Resilient Home’ had to endure lengthy reinstatement periods on two occasions when her property had flooded. But, after the second flood the property was repaired and rebuilt to be more resilient and when the third flood came, the PFR measures they had installed worked and the consequences were drastically different. The barriers helped slow the rate of water entry and any that seeped in was swept toward the drain and shifted out of the building by the sump and pump. They did not have to leave the property and there was no major repair/recovery process, bar a quick revarnishing of skirting boards. A real proof of concept when it comes to building back better.

If you yourself are interested in how to go about making your home or business more flood resilient then check out the Code of Practice for Property Flood Resilience. It sets out the key processes through which to be working in this area and we’ve made overview video that introduces the code and its process here.

* Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash.