After 10 years building one of the UK’s most successful flood businesses, preceded by over 20 years in the construction sector, I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the refocusing of the agenda towards property resilience away from resistance. This will come as no great surprise coming as it does from someone who has built his business around the adoption of resistance measures in over 7000 UK homes BUT the issue is bigger than any one business in this sector.
I am a great advocate of a multi-faceted approach to flood management. I appreciate that no one solution will necessarily work alone. Be it trees planted on river banks to help reduce long term erosion, plastic kitchen units or the installation of anti-flood doors - every opportunity to support and protect at flood risk properties must be explored.
Hence my frustration that resilience seems to have become ‘flavour of the month’ with the powers that be at the expense of tried and tested resistance measures.
Ask any homeowner what they’d prefer and I can guarantee everyone would first and foremost want to keep flood water out of their property. This is evident from a recent independent survey carried out in which 90% of respondents expressed a preference for resistance over resilience measures. I for one would be interested to see any research evidence to the contrary.
Obviously when there is no option but to let water into a property because there is fear of structural damage then having high level sockets, a boiler on an upper floor and raised kitchen units is a bonus, BUT surely there are a number of ‘resilience’ measures that anyone with any construction industry knowledge should automatically question.
When a property is flooded once with foul, contaminated water, are we confident that when the levels recede, resilient plasterboard and tiled floors will dry without harbouring any harmful bacteria? What about when that property has been flooded multiple times? What long term research has been undertaken to assess the impact of multiple flooding events?
Would the head of Defra be happy to move their family back in to a ‘resilient’ house without knowing what was going on behind the plasterboard and under the floor tiles?
I am under no illusion, resistance measures will not work every time in every situation, BUT please don’t dismiss this proven approach and put all the eggs in one resilient basket.
As well as preferring to keep flood water out of their properties wherever possible, there is of course the difficult issue of cost to add into the mix. Our experience has shown that many homeowners who were recently flooded in the North of the England had little if any spare cash to supplement the £5k grant. Where do we expect them to get the £15K to fund resilience measures? Is the Government planning to increase grant funding substantially to cover resilience measures?
If this is merely an issue of semantics and the new emphasis on ‘resilience’ also encapsulates resistance measures as demonstrated in the BRE house then one thing is evident - we all need to be clear in how we communicate that message to avoid confusion amongst those who are most at risk and all too often seem to be the forgotten voice!