Wayne Holt, Executive Director at leading Structural and Civil Engineering design consultancy Design2e, examines the need to take flooding seriously.
It is a picture which has become all-too-familiar – the aerial shot of an unfortunate British town submerged in dirty brown floodwater.
Sandbags are hopelessly propped up against front doors, cars are swapped for rowing boats and children are hoisted onto adult’s shoulders.
The Met Office reports that more than half of the 17 seasons or months with record-breaking weather events since 1910 have occurred since the turn of the century.
The winter of 2013/14 was the wettest for 250 years and resulted in 11,000 homes being flooded while, just two years later, 17,000 homes were flooded as storms hit the north of England.
Now, not to anyone’s great surprise, the Environment Agency is warning that heavy flooding in the UK will become more frequent and intense because of climate change and rising sea levels.
Some 5.2 million homes in England alone are at risk of flooding.
The long-term answer is to slow down climate change by reducing the amount of carbon we use as a global population. In engineering, we can play our part by limiting the amount of materials we use in our designs.
But, realistically, climate change is a tanker which is going to take a long time to turn around, so we are faced with coming up with solutions to prevent flooding in the here and now.
The Environment Agency has launched a tender for a £1.5bn flood defence framework, which would make a significant impact, but individual projects will still require bespoke solutions for more localised issues.
At Design2e, we are a dynamic, forward-thinking civil and structural engineering design consultancy specialising in providing architects, contractors and developers with the highest standards of technical expertise to enable them to meet the increasing economic and environmental demands required within the construction industry today.
One of our core services is the design and production of flood modelling and mitigation procedures which can involve producing flood risk assessment reports, flood prevention guidance, sustainable urban drainage solutions and environmental impact assessments – as well as responding swiftly in times of crisis.
An example of this was a new development of 13 houses in Leckhampton, Cheltenham.
The development had been built on a hill and all the properties had been sold. Unfortunately, heavy rainfall led to a major problem for the developer with water running along the surface, straight through the back gardens, running through back doors and out of the front door. The water was 15 centimetres deep.
As a result of this incident, we were approached by the developer for assistance. We began with an initial assessment of the situation and were asked by the developer to meet all of the house owners to address their concerns and to provide a detailed methodology as to how we could mitigate the issues to avoid future problems.
We created a detailed flood model using cutting edge design software to ascertain the cause and future flood risk, which allowed us to produce a robust design solution to capture and manage any water running downhill in the vicinity of the development.
The solution has been very well received by the home owners and the developer, while we also communicated extensively with, and adhered to the requirements of, both Severn Trent Water and Gloucestershire County Council.
Prevention is always better than cure, though. Contact our team to discuss how we can make sure your development is flood-proof.