A deep-dive into flood resilience with Baca architects
Designers and homeowners don’t always agree, but homes which are future-proof tend to be a point of consensus. With the ever growing threat of climate change, rising sea levels and flooding, it’s important to build with flood resilience in mind, particularly in at-risk areas.
Unlike other construction materials, concrete is inherently robust enough to withstand high pressure and doesn’t degrade or lose its strength when submerged in water. It can also help speed up recovery by reducing the impacts of flooding when the worst happens. This makes it an ideal choice to help give peace of mind, protecting both properties and people.
Although our neighbours in the Netherlands are used to building flood resilient houses, this concept is still in its early stages in the UK. Baca Architects has been involved in some significant innovative projects to change this, using a concept they refer to as ‘Aquatecture’. The premise is that these homes are designed to cope when flooding occurs, rather than prevent flooding through traditional walls and defences.
A bold example of this would be the practice’s signature project, Amphibious House, of Grand Designs fame. The property is built on a small island on the river Thames, which sounds truly idyllic, apart from the fact it is prone to regular flooding.
The solution to this was to build the house within a dock lined with reinforced hydrophobic concrete. The basement of the house is also constructed with concrete and, contained within the dock, is allowed to float, rising up out of the water if and when flooding occurs.
The result is a building which has won multiple awards for innovation and has proved its flood resilience since completion – and it relied upon concrete to achieve this.
Since then, Baca has been involved in further projects designed for flood-risk areas, and it has designed water-resilient properties at a larger scale. One of these is in Shipston-on-Stour, near Stratford-upon-Avon, where a development of 12 homes using more subtle flood-management technology has recently been completed.
The properties are raised above the Environment Agency’s advised fluvial flood level and are surrounded by sunken grassy basins designed to help manage floodwater. The homes are then built on a concrete reinforced frame designed to allow water to flow underneath. Concrete blocks form the inner-cavity walls and similarly the internal walls for the staircases and halls.
Richard Coutts, director at Baca Architects, explains why concrete was essential to the success of this development: “Concrete performs well in a flooded situation. It is robust enough to be unaffected by being submerged and dries out at a reasonable rate.”
Baca’s creative design features show the great things that can be achieved when flood-resilience is embedded into design at an early stage, rather than in hindsight. Both Amphibious House and the Shipston homes have embraced concrete as a core element of their design.
Without the proven robustness of concrete when faced with water, these projects would not have been able to be built in the way that they have, promising resilience against floods and peace of mind for all property owners.
Image copyright Darren Chung