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The rise of “resilient repair” in flood risk management… have the waters become muddied?

Article originally published by Sarah Marriott on Linked In

Whilst the Flood Advisory Service has become synonymous with upholding standards and best practice in the flood sector, another cause that is close to our heart is to demystify the process of self-help for homeowners when seeking solutions to prevent flooding.

In a recent Mail on Sunday article (click here), the merits of a demonstration flood resilient house were investigated. The conclusion of the article was that numerous adaptations to make a home “resilient” are at the disposal of the homeowner. 

But in order to properly get to the bottom of homeowner sentiment regarding their flood risk, more research needs to be conducted. It appears clear that no one has yet thought to ask the general public what their opinions are regarding resistance vs resilience, for example. So the Flood Advisory Service has taken on the task of evaluating public opinion, and in November started conducting an independent, top level survey. We explained the difference between flood resistance - water exclusion via integrated solutions such as flood doors, anti-flood airbricks, non-return valves, sump pumps etc - vs resilience - accepting that water will enter the property but adopting measures such as raising sockets, replacing wood furniture with plastic or steel (e.g. kitchen units), to reduce the flood impact and get back to normal more quickly. The results of this investigation have now been collated, and opinion falls largely in favour of a water exclusion strategy – ie flood resistance, or Property Level Protection (PLP) as it is known.  In brief our results are as follows:

  1. 90% of respondents preferred to adopt a water exclusion strategy rather than allow the water in.
  2. When asked how much they would be prepared to pay for resistance measures, 70% said up to £5,000 (the amount of the recent Government funded grant), whilst 23% would be prepared to pay up to £10,000. 
  3. When it came to resilience 80% of respondents would be prepared to pay up to £5,000, and only 10% would be prepared to pay up to £10,000. Achieving a flood resilient property to incorporate the degree of measures necessary could typically cost as much as £30,000 or more; whereas the cost of applying a holistic range of measures to keep water out (PLP) costs between £4,000 and £8,000, depending on the size of property.

Our survey went further, as we wanted to gauge public opinion on the current standards in the market for property level protection. 

  1. 72% of respondents reported that a flood defence product accredited to the British Standard (BSI PAS 1188) was important or very important. Whilst 78% of respondents reported that such Kitemarked products being installed to certified Kitemark standards was important or very important.

From this “grass roots” survey we have made the following conclusions:-

1. The vast majority of the public we have surveyed prefer resistance to resilience

2. Approximately ¾ of respondents placed a strong value on the BSI Kitemark

3. People are reluctant to pay over £10,000 for measures to adapt their home, meaning that adopting a holistic suite of resilience measures is beyond most people’s reach

Clearly, anything that helps the homeowner to protect their property should be considered; flood risk management is a multi-faceted issue and there are several strategies that can be used either in isolation or in conjunction. We are confident that the experts within the insurance industry are fully briefed as to the merits of Property Level Protection (PLP) as an effective flood risk management “tool”, and are fully briefed as to the innovation that has become available in the past few years for passive products such as flood doors and automatic anti-flood airbricks. 

Dry proofing a property using tried and tested PLP methodology should be the first step to be adopted, since the majority of flooding is less than 600mm deep. A decade’s worth of PLP installation has been put to the test during the past few years in actual flood events, lessons learned have been applied and best practice published by Defra back in 2014. Whilst we recognise the value of true “resilience” measures such as raising sockets, raising the boiler etc, the cost of applying the whole suite of measures necessary to fully adapt a property to satisfy insurers’ standards is substantially greater, and should be considered as a second line of defence.

The cost benefit analysis of delivering PLP is clear, and has been welcomed by a wide range of public and private stakeholders as being both affordable and effective over a period of many years. Let’s not muddy the waters then by describing both resistance and resilience under the simplistic banner of “resilience”. Homeowners are left bewildered as to what steps are most appropriate; this then feeds into the apparent apathy that results in pitifully low take up (estimated to be around 20%) of the Government grant funding schemes when they become available. Resistance and resilience are both invaluable measures in our desire to address flood risk management for homeowners; but on the basis of our research, the Flood Advisory Service recommends that they remain two separate strategies for the sake of clarity. 

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