Floodline Consulting’s biggest challenge is removing the fear of building in flood risk areas.
The engineering is already proven – look at the likes of the Netherlands, Canada and South Korea – some of the countries which have long embraced flood management innovation to help solve housing problems. Now consultant Floodline’s team of civil engineers and property experts wants local authorities in the UK to banish the fear factor, trust the engineering, and allow more development in flood risk areas.
“Flooding is Britain’s earthquake. In an earthquake country, nobody would object to earthquake-proofing the local community as part of a new development. But here we hear rumblings of objections, even though the biggest offering is a community-wide benefit,” says Floodline technical director Faruk Pekbeken (pictured left, above).
Floodline provides project management and specialist water advice for clients. It has a core technical team of eight, but brings in outsourced skills when needed.
The Environment Agency divides areas at risk of flooding into zones. Zone 1 has a low probability of flooding at less than 1 in 1,000 years. At the other end of the spectrum, zone 3a areas have a high probability, at least 1 in 100 years. In between these zones, there is a spectrum of flood risk and that is where Floodline believes there is the capacity to release land, which can be sustainably developed.
By gaining local authority permission to develop this land, Floodline says that it can also develop flood risk mitigation measures to protect the existing community as well as building flood-resilient housing stock.
New ways of building
“The way we’re going to solve our current housing crisis is to explore new ways of building. And the key one is to look at new ways of building in flood risk areas. We’re using established technologies and bringing them into the UK,” says managing director Justin Meredith (pictured above right).
So, how does the engineering work?
The aim is to build on land that local authorities would not normally allow to be developed because it has a risk of flooding.
The first project Floodline is working on is a housing development. The houses will rise and fall with water levels and Floodline calls them “Can Float” homes. These can be located immediately next to water, such as a lake or river.
The flood-proof homes, which are designed to be safe at all times allowing dry access and egress. They are designed to be built on dry land but in flood risk areas. They are not designed to be in areas of fast flowing water but more around the edge of an area prone to flooding.
Each house’s buoyant base sits in a concrete basin. In a flood, the water enters the basin pushing the house up enabling it to rise with the flood waters. The building itself is held in position by guide piles that ensure that once the floods have receded, the building returns to its original position.
Burghfield park can float homes 2
Depending on the building location the concrete basin can be self-draining and allow remaining water to be pumped out after a flood.
The substructure is designed to provide stability to the superstructure when in the float position. This is further assisted by spring loaded rollers attaching the building to the guide piles to ensure there is no horizontal movement as the building rises or falls.
Meredith says Floodline is “pretty close” to getting the green light for its first development, which will be at Burghfield Park at Theale Lake in Berkshire.
The plans include 201 open market and affordable homes and 24 flood resilient “Can-Float” homes.
“Burghfield Park encapsulates everything we want to do,” says Meredith.
Floodline’s own analysis found the risk to be minimal, but the site does include a huge lake which will be used as a flood cell or an attenuation pond.
“We’re able to control flood risk so it (the development) would completely isolate the community from the flood water to which they’re currently exposed,” says Meredith.
Burghfield Park still has planning issues to overcome, but Floodline is hoping that a green light will be a catalyst for other developments and give more local authorities the confidence to back this sort of project.
The vision for the housing of the future is at the cutting edge of construction, working with off-site, modular components.
The firm plans to manage the construction element of Burghfield Park itself. Floodline takes inspiration from the car industry where customers pre-order a car with bespoke components, such as interiors.
Flexible property types
Pekbeken sees a future where floating bases are built and then developers can offer three different types of property, at three price points, where the customer can pick the interior.
“In Holland they say the concrete bases can last up to 400 years but you can change the house above it four times. All the houses’ components are lightweight and modular, and all the energy systems are so much more well thought out,” he says.
The firm started in 2010 when Meredith, a chartered surveyor, met Pekbeken. “A light bulb went off. We had three essential ingredients – a history, property expertise and water expertise.”
The housing development arm is becoming increasingly significant as projects come towards fruition.
Annual turnover varies between £300,000 and £500,000 and the duo of Meredith and Pekbeken is complemented by a third partner, chief operating officer Espen Østbye-Strøm whose work focuses on the finance side.
Pekbeken, a civil engineer, brings the technical know-how. He says that often civil engineers will simply provide flood risk assessments, but Floodline takes the results of those assessments and gives developers ways to overcome flood risks and go ahead with their development.
And by bridging the gulf between engineering and property development, Floodline is hoping to make its vision float. N