Baca Reinforce RIBA’s Latest Flood Resilience Policy Note

Content provided by Baca Architects 

RIBA’s recent report urges the Government to bring flood risk policy in line with innovations in flood resilience made by construction industry professionals.

The RIBA’s recent report ‘The Value of Flood Resilient Architecture and Design’ is based on research into advances in planning and construction that they believe the Government and policy should respond to with updated legislation in relation to flood risk.

People are attracted to and seek to live near water despite knowing the risks that this poses, as these locations can be wonderful places to live.

Combined pressures of increased population, environmental changes and development pressure have been responded to by the architecture industry with advanced pragmatic approaches to resilient building construction in response to the threat of flood. As RIBA Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Andrew Forth, warns:

“The latest figures show that more than 1 in 10 new homes in the UK is built on land with a very high level of flood risk – and that percentage is rising…”

There are many existing homes built in traditional construction methods that are continually devastated by floods. It is time for these homes to be upgraded to stop these residents suffering. Floodplains are required to fulfill an important function and we advocate selective and sensitive development in key strategic locations, such as urban centers to reduce the need for urban sprawl into the countryside. Many at-risk flood sites are brownfield sites that could be unlocked through intelligent design to provide much-needed housing and jobs where they are needed most.

With developments in integrated environmental and landscape planning, together with innovative construction methods, we can now build safe, dry, resilient homes that are adaptable to climate change and can function as normal or recover quickly in the event of a flood. Water, rather than being perceived as a threat can be seen as positive and when integrated as part of the overall development and can provide wonderful place-making qualities.

As a member of HM Government’s Flood Advisory Group, Richard Coutts (keynote speaker at Flood Expo 2018) of Baca Architects offered insight to RIBA including his proposal to pilot an ‘Innovation License’, which would:

“complement current planning objectives but would encourage and facilitate alternatives, whereby licenses would be granted for innovative buildings and designs to be carried out on challenging sites. And that flood-prone cities with housing shortages should explore designating ‘Bluebelt’ land for flood-resilient development”

This ‘Innovation License’ would involve reviewing development proposals on a case-by-case basis in special circumstances for very high quality, environmentally responsible innovation, similar to that of the Paragraph 55 policy for outstanding design in the Countryside where new homes are not otherwise approved. The RIBA policy note references Baca projects as best practice case studies.

Baca recently spoke at the RSAW Watermarks conference presenting a decade of advances in flood resilience, from master planning to the UK’s first amphibious house.  Watermarks conference chair, Jessica Lamond, Professor of Flood Risk Management at UWE (Speaker at Flood Expo 2018) neatly summarised how:

“People like to live with water, whether or not there is a flood risk, they like to live near water and they will!”

Architecture plays a critical role in mitigating flood risk and improving communities’ health and wellbeing during flood events. The Flood Expo is a vital forum for sharing lessons learned and for championing collective innovation across the sector.

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