UK industry should develop new technologies to flood-proof homes

Posted: Thursday 11th March 2010

UK industry should develop more products to help builders and property owners make the 5.5 million properties at flood risk in England and Wales more resistant and resilient to flooding, Environment Agency Chairman Lord Chris Smith said recently.

Speaking at the National Flood Forum annual conference in Birmingham, Lord Smith also encouraged building merchants and DIY stores to offer advice to builders and members of the public on how to make properties more resilient to floods, so that drying out and cleaning up is faster and cheaper following any flooding.

Lord Smith cited the experience of Appleby in Cumbria in showing the effectiveness of flood protection products. During the floods of last November, 46 properties in the town deployed individual flood protection barriers, on receipt of a flood warning from the Environment Agency. The products had been financed by Defra through a pilot scheme, at a cost of around 2,000 or 3,000 per property, and as water was cascading through the main street of the town, those 46 properties remained dry.

Lord Smith said:

At present there are over 2.6 million properties in England and Wales at risk from flooding from rivers and the sea, and over 2.9 million properties at risk from flooding from surface water, including over one million at risk from both. Thats 1 in 6 properties at some risk of flooding. Forewarned is forearmed, and the best way to recover from flooding is to prepare for it: at both a property and business level, and as a community.

I would like to see industry develop new, innovative products that can be installed in homes and businesses to reduce the risk of flooding. Climate change is likely to increase the frequency and severity of flooding, and the UK could be the global market leader on technologies to counter the impacts that it brings.

We can also encourage people to make improvements so that even if flood water enters their home or business it causes less damage, meaning moving back in is quicker. DIY and building merchants could also help here by providing advice or by stocking advice leaflets, so choices are made as renovations take place.

Fitting water resistant skirting boards, laying tiles on the floor rather than rugs or carpets, and using water resistant materials such as stainless steel in the kitchen can help make drying out and cleaning up faster and easier.

Last month, the Environment Agency launched the UKs largest flood test facility to test flood protection products against a new industry standard. Located in Oxfordshire, the centre features a replica living room inside a massive tank, about half the size of a football pitch and holding almost 200,000 gallons of water. The cutting-edge simulator that recreates the devastating effects of a flood and will rigorously test products designed to defend homes, businesses and people from flooding. Successful products will be awarded the BSI Kitemark, giving householders, organisations and businesses greater confidence in the flood products they use to protect their property.

A recent Environment Agency study into the devastating floods of summer 2007 found the average cost per flooded home was between 23,000 and 30,000 and a quarter of homeowners were not fully covered by insurance.

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