The Defra research project FD2682 examined the technical, social and behavioural aspects of supporting low cost flood repairable measures designed to limit damage to buildings during and after flood events. Flood repairable measures (sometimes called ‘flood resilient measures’) applied to buildings are designed to limit damage, or speed up recovery where water has entered a property. They include strategies to keep water away from building elements (such as raising power sockets) and the internal use of waterproof or water resistant materials, including those capable of retaining their integrity and recovering quickly after inundation. These measures have traditionally been regarded as most useful when water exclusion approaches
(measures to keep water out of the building, sometimes called ‘resistant measures’)are not practical or cost effective.
The investigation took an action research approach, consulting widely and reflecting on findings on an ongoing basis. The research comprised the following stages:
1. A rapid evidence assessment (REA) including a review of relevant academic and grey literature; consultation with a panel of experts; interviews with flood reinstatement and property protection professionals; and interviews with occupants of properties where flood repairable measures have been adopted.
2. An assessment of the costs and benefits of selected low cost flood repairable measures, and illustrative packages of measures.
3. A demonstration project to explore innovative approaches that could be used by local agencies and businesses to address some of the barriers to the use of flood repairable measures. This made use of a co-design process, via the formation of the Tewkesbury ‘Learning and Action Alliance’ (LAA).
The REA concluded that (in contrast to previous perceptions of repairable measures as a last resort for properties at highest risk) low cost repairable measures are widely applicable as part of an integrated approach to limiting the residual risk to individual properties that may also include water exclusion measures. Interviews as part of the
REA showed repairability to be a pragmatic approach that can be applied incrementally at various windows of opportunity with lower financial barriers to implementation than alternative strategies. The assessment of costs and benefits of selected low cost flood repairable measures, and illustrative packages of measures, confirmed their potential cost effectiveness in limiting flood damage.
The REA concluded that the weight of evidence supports the effectiveness of an ever expanding list of low cost resilience measures in limiting flood damage.
However, there are also major gaps in evidence, and in communication and sharing of available evidence, reducing the confidence in implementation of measures within relevant trades and professionals, as well as by owners and occupiers directly. Key areas in urgent need of additional scientific evidence include: the implications of
debris and contaminants in floodwater; the effect of hydrodynamic and hydrostatic pressure on ‘waterproof’ materials; and durability of resilient measures after
prolonged flood exposure. However, attention should also be directed towards further understanding the real performance of flood repairable measures in a variety of types of building before, during and after flooding.
The REA and demonstration project both concluded that, in order for the potential benefits of repairable measures to be realised in practice, there will need to be a shift
in the repair and reinstatement process. Improved protocols (and incentives) are required that include clarity regarding the autonomy and responsibility of different
actors within the repair process to recommend adoption of repairable measures. The inception of Flood Re offers both a challenge and an opportunity in this regard. The research finds that there could be benefits to placing the specification of negligible cost and cost neutral measures within the professional remit of surveyors and contractors on the ground. To support this, improved technical guidance and training is needed to raise levels of understanding and awareness within the industry. The surveyors’ checklist, designed within the project, was seen as a useful contribution to this requirement. Improved confidence in appropriate measures could also be fostered through provision of exemplars and factsheets.
The REA and demonstration project highlighted the potential importance of other windows of opportunity (outside the recovery period) in the take up of low cost flood
repairable measures. Insurance renewal and property transfer represent opportunities to raise awareness of measures at very low cost with minimal upskilling
of professionals and may provide direct triggers to action. Other building work and redecoration opportunities are harder to target in terms of awareness raising,
therefore a well-informed and up-skilled local ‘property support network’ (PSN) is needed, in order to spot opportunities to support uptake on an individual basis.
Evaluation of the demonstration project innovations indicated that implementation was most successful in those innovations driven by members of the LAA, or had
significant input from members of the local PSN. Increased awareness of low cost flood resilience measures amongst LAA members was also achieved. Therefore the LAA model was seen as a potential platform to engage relevant local property
experts and agencies, and to empower them to encourage property level approaches.
However, the REA evidence and that from the LAA meetings together with the evaluation of the surveyor’s checklist suggest that emotional barriers to implementation of low cost resilience are important. Use of repairable measures is a difficult concept, as it requires an acceptance that water might enter the property (home or business) and changes within the living space that might feel abnormal.
Interviews with practitioner experts, together with an assessment of current regulations, suggest that making small adjustments to building regulations, relevant
to passive avoidance and resilience, could aid normalisation of such measures. A greater focus on design and aesthetics aspects, and clearer guidance on the ways to
deal with perceived contamination is also seen as important by professionals, the PSN and in the demonstration project. Finally, a wider framing of property level flood
damage reduction, with suggested schemes including both water entry and water exclusion measures was indicated by the interviews with homeowners and professionals and discussed by the LAA as helpful in addressing emotional barriers.
Lamond, J., McEwen, L., Twigger-Ross, C., Rose, C., Joseph, R., Wragg, A., …Proverbs, D. (2017). Supporting the uptake of low cost resilience: Final report (FD2682)