With climate change increasing flood risk across the UK, resilience will become increasingly important. The FloodSafe House, on which WSP has been working with Floodjack International and the University of Liverpool, offers fresh thinking in flood resilience.
The innovation looks like a normal house, but when its sensors detect rising water levels it raises itself 1.5+m from the ground (1.84m at door threshold) at the speed of the incoming flood water, safeguarding property and possessions while occupants evacuate to safety. So instead of facing months living in temporary accommodation while their flood-damaged properties are repaired, residents can quickly reoccupy their homes. It is an approach that could reduce stress as well as minimising repair bills, insurance pay-outs and premiums.
Real-world flood risk expertise
As technical advisers, our understanding of flood risk – and mitigating that risk through the planning process – was key to ensuring the house could work in a real-world setting. We liaised with the Environment Agency and insurers to help them understand how the house would work and what the implications would be for them. We’ve also spoken to local authorities and housing associations about the ways in which the FloodSafe House could open up previously unsuitable sites for social housing development.
- 500mm – average flood level in the UK
- 1.5m – how high the FloodSafe House raises in 15 minutes
- £30,0000 – average cost of home flood repairs (total repatriation costs can exceed £90,000)
On the face of it, a system that enables housebuilding in areas of flood risk might seem contentious. But as 10% of all new housing is built in flood zones, the FloodSafe House not only offers a sustainable solution but also reflects the changing reality brought about by climate change. In the past, efforts have focussed on flood resistance – such as building defences. In the coming years the Environment Agency’s strategy focuses on making infrastructure and property resilient, so that communities can continue to develop and can recover quickly after flooding. The FloodSafe House builds resilience at a community level in line with the Construction Industry Research and Information Association’s new code of practice and guidance for property flood resilience.