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Building Resilience and Flooding

If we build in areas which are at risk of flooding, will Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) be enough to protect property from the possible effects of climate change in the decades to come? Or do we stop trying to manage the natural processes which flood the areas where we want to build, and instead design new development with flooding factored in?

In densely populated urban areas which have experienced flooding, and where there are river, ground and surface water issues, people understand that flooding will probably strike again and that individually they can’t do much to stop it.


So should legislation place responsibility on designers and construction companies to build properties which are fit for purpose in these areas, bearing in mind the flood risk? If a new development is in a flood zone should designers consider that at some point it may be inundated with water and design in such a way that the internal fabric of the building can perform well under flood conditions? Should flood resilience be as much a part of building regulations – (a set of minimum standards for the construction of buildings) as for all the other elements of housing construction such as–

  • Structure
  • Fire safety
  • Ventilation
  • Sanitation
  • Sound insulation


If this was to be the case there could simply be a minimum set of standards incorporating flood resilient materials and construction design. The idea of designing homes to accept that they will let water in may be unpalatable for most property buyers, so perhaps the minimum design standard should be to raise the properties above the level of 1:100, 200, 500 year flood events and the predicted effects of climate change.

Lots of the houses we now see being built use piled foundations, could this system not be used to raise ground floor levels above those of likely flooding? If you take that a step further and have a sacrificial garage/space as the ground floor, this could also reduce the amount of land needed for development or allow more plots to be used as they would take up less space.


A change in regulations would also help to put a stop to the culture of putting back like for like after a flood. There are properties which have flooded on more than one occasion only to be put back to the same specification as before the flood damage occurred. It isn’t in the interests of the insurance companies to keep paying out and some won’t offer renewals when existing policies end.


Perhaps in the future our designers and planners shouldn’t be addressing the question of how we deal with the flood water where we build, but how we build where there will be flood water.

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