Homes and infrastructure must be made more flood resistent, the ICE said this week in response to the wave of disruption caused by severe weather over Christmas.
ICE vice president and flooding expert David Balmforth said road, rail and electricity networks should be better able to withstand the impact of floods.
Heavy rain and storm surges have caused a raft of road and rail closures over the past few weeks, while thousands of homes were left without power on Christmas Day.
Balmforth said climate change would make it impossible to rely on flood defences to keep communities and the economy protected from high water levels.
“It is a surprise that as a country we have not got our heads around the idea that this type of weather will be the norm,” he told NCE.
“We are not making progress on making communities more resilient. We have to start doing much better at building flood resilience into communities.
Flood prevention not always possible
“Our main strategy is to prevent areas from flooding but that will not always be possible,” he said.
Balmforth called for homes to be built with flood-resistant exterior doors, concrete ground floor slabs and specially rendered walls. He added that transport and power infrastructure should also be designed to operate in times of flooding.
“I have been working in Singapore recently, where the openings to the Metro system are 1m above ground, and it has been able to operate through floods,” he said.
“We have plenty of examples of road and rail built on embankments for protection but it is not done universally. We get caught out.”
“The cost of building in flood resilience is often not that great; it is more about forward planning.”
Balmforth said clear plans should be drawn up to cope with future extreme weather events.
“We need to make decisions about what we are going to protect - and focus on resilience in those areas we are not going to protect.”
Balmforth described as a “concern” forthcoming job cuts at the Environment Agency, where employee numbers are due to fall by more than 10% to 9,700 by October .
“You have to be concerned, but I am told that key jobs in flood resilience will be protected and that would be very sensible,” he said.
“We don’t have a bottomless pit of funds so we have to prioritise.”
The Environment Agency has insisted the job cuts will not affect its ability to cope with major floods.