A Code of Practice for Property Flood Resilience

Property Flood Resilience (PFR) is a key response to reducing the costs of repair, recovery time and reoccupation of buildings and thus reducing the misery and disruption caused to people and businesses affected by flooding.

Historically there has been a lack of regulation and accepted standards around the specification and deployment of PFR, leading to inconsistent use and low market confidence in its efficacy. There is now, at last, a formal response to this issue.

A Code of Practice (CoP) for PFR has been published by CIRIA (the Construction Industry Research and Information Association), developed by a consortium led by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), and in collaboration with the insurance industry, surveyors, consultants and UK regulators and government, to provide an industry benchmark for good practice in the management and delivery of PFR measures.

The CoP consolidates and builds on existing knowledge and experience and offers a comprehensive and standardised approach applicable to properties of all types, size, age and use – at any stage of its lifecycle.

Its aim? – To increase clarity, consistency and confidence in the effectiveness of PFR measures and facilitate widespread adoption. The result has the potential for bringing social and economic benefits to multiple stakeholders in the property lifecycle affected directly and indirectly by flooding such as: owners, occupiers, businesses, insurers, loss adjusters, brokers, designers, contractors, local authorities and communities.

These benefits extend beyond reductions in the costs of repair and recovery time. They may for example include: maintaining the presence of major employers in towns and cities, thus protecting jobs and communities for the long-term; secure the continued occupation of buildings that may otherwise be left vacant and blighted by flooding, to preserve income and asset value and protect local services; re-purpose flood blighted brownfield as development land and potentially reduce pressure on greenfield development and associated negative environmental impacts.

The Code of Practice is concerned with the physical changes that can be made to a property to enhance its flood resilience and explains that PFR measures fall into two distinct categories, both of which may be appropriate to use, depending on the type and nature of the flood risk, building construction and end user requirements. These are:

  • Resistance measures – reduce the volume of water entering a building, either by raising the building above the predicted flood level on ‘stilts’, or installing flood barriers, which may be permanent or temporary, such as demountable boards in front of doorways, purpose-built flood doors, air brick covers, non-return valves and sealing up routes of entry such as underground service penetrations. These measures can also be supplemented with discreet internal drainage connected to automatic sump and pump systems to discharge any seepage back over the defences to the ‘wet side’.
  • Recoverability measures – design buildings and specify materials to limit the amount of flood damage. This enables the drying out, cleaning, disinfection and reuse of fabric and finishes, rather than wholesale replacement – thus also reducing waste and carbon footprint. Such measures might include raising electrical services, installing solid concrete floors with ceramic tile finishes, using waterproof wall materials and resin bonded kitchen units with non-porous worktops. Such measures can also reduce the risk of structural damage caused by the weight and force of the flood water acting on the building.

The Code of Practice is 12-pages long and sets out a structured approach in an accessible and useable format. There are six standards each with their own aims and requirements that should be achieved to meet the standard. The standards reflect the industry accepted approach to construction work and the RIBA Work Stages. Meeting the standards will ensure better quality and effectiveness in the use of PFR measures.

The requirements provide guidance on how to achieve the aims including issues such as: the level and detail of design information needed to plan and develop suitable PFR proposals; the need for a clear, well documented client brief; the need for objective and impartial advice; the allocation of contractual responsibility for the design and construction phases of the project; the specification of tried and tested products and materials; the use of reputable contractors with knowledge and experience in the sector; the need for testing and commissioning the installed measures and responsibility for the deployment and maintenance of the facilities.

The standards and their aims are summarised as follows:

  • Hazard assessment – a property level flood risk assessment which determines the likelihood and severity of flood risk from all sources (including coastal, rivers, surface and ground water). This information is essential to inform the selection and design of PFR measures.
  • Property survey – to assess the current level of property flood resilience, understand the building’s construction and provide necessary information to identify the PFR options suitable for the property.
  • Options development and design – to identify and consider the PFR options available and develop the design and specification of the selected measures.
  • Construction – ensures that the construction works deliver the anticipated benefits of the specified PFR measures.
  • Commissioning and handover – to ensure the PFR measures will operate effectively as designed and that the end-user has all relevant information for deployment, operation and maintenance.
  • Operation and maintenance – to ensure correct storage and carry out planned preventative maintenance regimes.

Paul Shaffer from CIRIA and project manager for the CoP and guidance explained that:

“The CoP has been developed to set the benchmark for good practice that consultants and contractors should follow. Doing so will provide end users greater confidence in the property flood resilience measures being delivered. Guidance notes will be released in the new year to explain how the CoP can be followed.”

The Code of Practice for property flood resilience is free to download from CIRIA’s website. The guidance will follow soon.”

This article was prepared for the Chartered Insurance Institute and has previously been published on the website for The Society of Claims Professionals