As you’re seeing in the news flooding has hit Ireland (and the UK) hard this year; with vast areas submerged in water, homes destroyed and the cost running into billions. Everything is now pointing to climate change (here’s 5 Things to know about Flooding & Climate change) with the conclusion being:
“…it’s pretty difficult to assess the effect climate change has on flooding. While in theory warmer temperatures may lead to more rain, the climate system is pretty complicated in practice. It looks likely that the UK will experience more surface, river and coastal flooding in the future, but it’s hard to be more specific than that.”
So I thought I’d give my viewpoint on the issue from an architect’s standpoint:
1. I’m going to have to ask clients more directly whether their site has been flooded when completing planning applications. It’s one of those questions on the planning form much like “have you packed your own bags” at the airport – the right answer regarding flooding used to be no. As a responsible professional with the current flooding problems I’m going to have to take this question more seriously; it is negligent to answer this question incorrectly when I know the facts are different and have completed the planning form with the declaration below:
“I hereby declare, that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, the information given in this form is correct and accurate and fully compliant with the Planning & Development Act 2000, as amended, and the Regulations made thereunder:”
Here’s the question:
It is also doing a disservice to the client answering this question dishonestly when any potential risk of flooding has not been thoroughly addressed in the design and construction. It wouldn’t surprise me if an architect/engineer hasn’t already been sued for completing this form incorrectly! The client won’t want to be living and dealing with a flooded house – the planning permission isn’t worth this.
2. The planners are going to have to change the rules a bit.
One of the tips I wrote on planning a while back was “To use something existing & extend it” but this is no use if the original building is in an area liable to flooding. The Taoiseach has already intimated that families may have to be resettled on higher ground.
This leads neatly on for the planners love of not building on high ground as it “…[imposes] the house on the landscape.”. As you can see in the diagram below from the Mayo Rural Design Guide; planners do not want your house high on the hill. The problem is that it’s high ground that won’t flood! The diagram is slightly in accurate in that we have a project at the moment that is no where near the high point of the hill and the Council is still looking for us to lower the level of the house.
3. We may have to look at alternative construction methods to have floating houses. Not as ridiculous as it sounds as shown in the ‘amphibious’ house on Grand Designs (Dezeen.com link HERE) or the ‘Floating’ houses in Amsterdam shown HERE.
In Ireland the construction of the house won’t be a problem; the real difficulty is the lack of sewage infrastructure and the reliance of septic tanks and waste treatment systems across the country. These flooded systems are now fully submerged and non-functioning – this will need to get addressed. Anyone know how this can be done?
4. We then have to look at all the ways of combatting the flooding by:
• Flood defence systems
• Clearing rivers, streams and drains to ensure the water has a way to get to the sea
In the UK I forget the figures but the cut-backs on flood defence of £95 million resulted in billions of damage.
Any comments & suggestions most welcome…