The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has dubbed the winter floods of 2015/2016 the most extreme on record and calls for greater consideration of detailed risk assessments, and the products and solutions outlined within them.
The sheer scale of last year’s floods was quite extraordinary, with many communities still recovering. Despite being an island nation at the mercy of the wind and rain, the storms of 2015/2016 were a shock to many, including those who design and build our core infrastructure such as transport and utilities. In fact, some are now dubbing the storms and ensuing disruption one of the worst in the last 100 years, drawing comparisons with the floods of 1947.
Of course, flooding is never wholly preventable or predictable, but through careful planning and a detailed understanding of all the environmental factors at play in a new development, we can much better plan for every eventuality. What is imperative is that we do not turn to quick or cheap fixes in the quest for environmental surety and that the robust assessments and solutions presented are each considered on merit, not simply cost.
A thorough risk assessment will take into account flood plains, ground water as well as nearby waterways and rainfall for each and every construction project. This remedial work should be the bedrock of each and every development, so that suitable remediation measures can be implemented if required. Yes, the additional planning and deployment of measures may take time and potentially cost more, but the long-term savings are great.
It is also important to consider man-made risks, rather than purely natural events. This may include for example proximity to farmland and more specifically the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which subsidises maize production around the country – potentially increasing surface water run-off and flood risk.
Needless to say, the topic of flood risk is an incredibly emotive topic for many people across the country. For too long, too little consideration has been paid to flood risk, which at times can lead to projects being rejected in the planning stages, due to lack of foresight.
Consultants, architects and contractors need to appreciate that, at times, the best solution for the job may be the most expensive one. In doing so, there is a potential that we can protect people from some of the extremes of flooding through more careful planning of our buildings and national infrastructure. A little foresight goes along way, and so with the ability to model flooding scenarios, they should be more readily used across all new developments – whatever they might be.