As the UK finds itself in the grip of increasingly extreme weather, we take a look back at how the self-builders behind this Grand Designs house protected their property against the risk of flooding.
Image: There were lengthy discussions with the Environment Agency before planning consent for the amphibious home was granted. Photography: Darren Chung
The Met Office has reported that 2019 was a year of UK weather extremes, including record-breaking high temperatures and significant rainfall. Across the UK, rainfall was above average in March and for most months from June onwards, with several incidences of flooding in the second half of the year. Autumn rainfall records were broken for Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire – Sheffield had its second-wettest year since records began in 1883.
Latest assessment by UK Climate Projections, the Met Office’s climate-analysis tool, points to a greater chance of ongoing warmer, wetter winters – so with rainfall levels set to increase, what can be done to protect the 1 in 6 homes in England currently at serious risk of flooding? As the UK becomes wetter, there seems little doubt that there needs to be investment poured into innovative design and construction solutions for our changing climate.
Self-builders considering buying a plot can check the Environment Agency flood maps to check the site’s risk level. But building a home that can adapt to rising water is possible, as demonstrated by Grand Designers Andy and Nicki Bruce’s amphibious house back in 2014, a UK-first designed by Baca Architects.
Image: The open plan living area opens out on to a terrace overlooking the river. Photography: Darren Chung
Built in an area prone to flooding, on the banks of the River Thames in Buckinghamshire, Andy and Nicki’s home is constructed on a concrete box, or dock, that forms the basement level. Mechanisms, known as dolphins, ensure that the timber-frame house rises with the water level. And should the area flood, there will be no damage to the house or its contents.
The project took just under two years to complete. Along the way, the construction was halted for nearly 12 weeks because of extensive flooding along the Thames, which left the site at least four feet under water.
Image: Zinc cladding wraps around the building’s exterior on two sides. Photography: Darren Chung
For more ideas on how to ensure your build is flood-proof, the National Flood Forum provides practical advice and a directory of retrofit products and services designed to reduce the chance of water getting into a property.
RIBA has also recently published Retrofitting for Flood Resilience: A Guide to Building & Community Design by Edward Barsley. Aimed primarily at architects, engineers and urban planners, the book highlights ways in which the built and natural environment can be adapted to reduce the severity of the negative consequences of flooding.