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Waterproofing potential for flood resilience shown in new house

A home has been designed with a number of special features designed to show how effective waterproofing can be in making a home resilient against flooding.

The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has built what it has described as a 'resilient house', a prototype designed to show how a home can be designed in such a way as to minimise the impact of flooding, the Self-Build Portal reports.

Among the features of the home are waterproof walls, doors and insulation, while floor and wall membranes will not only be waterproof, but will divert water down towards drains built into the floor. There will also be an automatic sump pump to prevent water rising through the floor and dispose of any that does get into a home, plus one-way valves in toilets and sinks that will stop flooding from sewers.

Discussing the project, BRE Centre for Resilience Director Stephen Garvin said: "It is not yet normal practice for properties in areas at high flood risk to be made more resilient following a flood. The aim of this project is to show contractors and householders in a tangible way that resilient repair isn’t as challenging or difficult as they may think it is."

Making homes more flood-resilient is something that may become a key trend of the next few years, partly because of the increasingly volatile climate and also because efforts to meet demand for ever more homes will be increasingly likely to lead to more building on floodplains. This means that, in addition to making homes vulnerable to local flooding from rivers, the concreting-over of the land also reduces the capacity of the ground to soak up the water. As a result, more water will make its way further downstream, causing bigger problems for communities living there than might previously have been the case.

Moreover, resilience provides an extra line of defence in the event of flood defences being overwhelmed. In 2015, for example, several locations in Cumbria such as Keswick and Kendal saw new flood defences prove inadequate to stop the water from swollen rivers overflowing.

Acknowledging the benefits of resilience when flood defences fail, floods minister Therese Coffey said: "BRE’s house shows how innovations in the construction industry can help people dramatically reduce the financial and emotional impacts of a flood. We are investing a record £2.5 billion to better protect 300,000 properties from floods by 2021. But, if the worst happens, property resilience measures play a crucial role in limiting flood damage, so home and business owners can get back on their feet as quickly as possible."

The BRE has been working hard to establish the Property Flood Resilience Database with the help of bodies such as AXA and LexisNexis. To make this work, however, requires ensuring homes can be assessed to establish how resilient they are and advice given to householders on the action they can take. For this reason, and in response to Defra's recently-launched Property Resilience Plan, the body has been working with industry partners such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to develop a certification scheme for property flood resilience surveyors. It announced the launch of the scheme earlier this month, with the project starting in April.

As a result, householders will get the help and advice they need to make their properties more resilient and it will provide the data needed to support the new database. This will have benefits for homeowners, who should find their insurance premiums fall.