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Saturday, 1 December 2012

Designing with flooding in mind - Home, land and people.

After a solitary month of droughts – the rains have fell heavily on Britain throughout the spring, summer and early autumn; with a brief reprieve in mid-winter before the heavens opened again  and caused some of the most significant damage of the entire raining year.

Insurance companies attempted to back out of payments on policy technicalities, houses being demolished by rain, or earmarked to be demolished as the foundations too frail or the building inevitably will collapse. Although it was predictable that Global Warming was cited as the reason for these terrible floods – the triage of damage control is re-housing those who have lost homes, get funds (Government, Insurance, private) to support these decimated communities with the intermediate focus then being on rebuilding the lost homes.

What do we do now? Build on stilts in vulnerable flooding areas? Why wasn’t this practice adhered to twenty years ago when insurance companies back then were warning [the public, industry and the Government] against insuring in areas that could become flooded with global warming/increased sea levels etc.

Perhaps a combination of efforts could be the solution for better practice against floods (and droughts!) and damage control for when future floods (albeit possibly reduced ones) still hit our communities.

Build on stilts:

The only way is up? If we built our homes, so that the ground floor (and basement) would be enforced yet also sacrificial so that integrity of the remainder of the houses were unaffected then we would have less a chance of losing our precious homes. If the soils/foundations were better enforced, had naturally stronger resilience to soil properties compromise and street design was planned in an appropriate format to channel excess water away from the houses, streets and farmlands and into the water systems (or absorption factors like soakways, water collection butts etc) then our homes would be better protected.

Although the stilts would not be seen as hidden within the homes/office building walls; the overall structure would be sound in the event of a harsh flood – if the ground floor is destroyed the rest of the house will remain intact.

Going off on a slight tangent – with floods hitting our agricultural systems, would Vertical Farming be one format to reduce impacts and still keep the farms working whilst the flatlands/rolling hills are recovering from flood damage?

More natural soakways:

More gardens in future planning and design of houses and communities would help support more rain absorption, a comprehensive planting programme: planting more trees and wildflowers adding one billion additional indigenous seedlings will really help combat flooding strikes.

Soil conditioning:

Conditioning? Soil can’t be any richer can it? What if a few billion worms were added to the soils at tens of thousands of points across the country? Implementing more active wormeries functioning on a community level would improve out soils properties and condition the soils to support more growth of grasses, flowers and trees to ensure a healthier water cycle is as efficient as possible.

Rain Water collection and Natural Soakways:

Installing a water butt/rainwater barrel may be an obvious issue, yet people only contemplate it when floods are in the news, or droughts have caused us discomfort. The issue of plastic water butts does raise the issue of depleting our oil reserves more - unless you can source all the plastic materials from recycled sources.

The most low embodied and practical option is more grass areas/spaces. Many design principles and planning practices of decades before have eradicated the front/rear garden adjacent to houses; so Britain lost so much more green space and water absorbing properties.

Natural soakways of digging down one metre into the ground and adding rocks before covering it all with soil will help absorb [some] rainwater yet all these token measures when executed by thousands of people will significantly reduce localised/national flooding impacts.

In previous blogs, Davius has explained the basic figures for how many millions of tons of waters/litres ofwaters can be taken out of the flooding equation by simply installing one water butt in every household.

We can all make this happen – it does not necessarily have to expensive to create ‘natural soakways’: a spade, some rocks/stones/bricks from skips. It costs £50 for a decent water butt/rainwater barrel (which sensible people can save £1 a week for a year to implement!) the planting initiaitves which are already happening on a global level by many small pockets of people can easily be expanded, with more locals getting involved spreading the plant seedlings around their districts to increase water retention via plants (which doubles as a biodiversity support mechanism for threatened/declining important species of bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects/birds etc.)

Now what?

You set the example by doing one thing – a few of your neighbours will follow suit. It is understandable that humans only react when threatened, as opposed to plan out for all disasters (which is a little paranoid) as a source of good practice. The flooding warnings are coming at a sharper rate over the last twenty years; we should all try and do something about it now! Get digging, planting and barrelling folks !!