Lyons O'Neill

How to improve flood resilience this winter 

The UK recently marked Flood Action Week 2020 – a campaign to raise awareness of the risks floods pose to communities and provide timely advice on the steps individuals should take if they live in an area at risk of flooding. This year, floods could have a particularly devastating impact as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic – and subsequent social distancing guidelines – could mean that recovery from flooding will be even more complicated than usual.

To mitigate the need for large scale recovery efforts – which can be a costly, time-consuming, and stressful process – we always advise taking precautionary steps in the leadup up to winter wherever possible.

Flood risk assessments 

According to new research commissioned for the Environment Agency’s Flood Action Campaign, only 1 in 8 people (12%) are aware whether or not they live in a flood risk area, which means that millions of Brits risk being caught out by floods every year.

To find out whether your property is located in a flood risk area, all you need to do is visit the Environment Agency website and enter your postcode here. To find out if you could be at risk of flooding in the future, similarly visit the government website here.

If you’re unsure what being in a flood risk area will mean for you and your property, or to better inform your next steps regarding flood protection, we recommend seeking a formal flood risk assessment, which provides early advice regarding flood risks. For those seeking a successful planning application, a formal flood risk assessment could prove instrumental in the process.

At Lyons O’Neill, we have years of experience with flood risk assessments, and have the knowledge, technical skills and experience to provide a comprehensive assessment; including advice tailored specifically to your development and its needs. If you’d like more information about our pre-planning services, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Landscaping and drainage 

To protect your property during the winter season, it’s important to consider the ways surface water around your property is managed. When flat, impermeable materials are used in and around buildings, there’s little room for natural infiltration after heavy rainfall. If this surface water isn’t managed properly, the risk of flooding and water damage only increases.

To mitigate risk, we always encourage our clients to opt for sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) features wherever possible. These drainage systems ensure surface water is managed in a controlled fashion and channeled to where it won’t negatively impact the surrounding environment. SuDS work by using a sequence of techniques that together form a management train. As surface water flows through the system, pollutants can be removed and its properties can be altered, making it ideal for reuse in other features. Rather than directing water to nearby drains like traditional drainage systems – which in the case of flooding, would be likely to overflow – SuDS ensures excess water is reused in ways that bring the greatest benefit to the client and the surrounding environment. This could include sprinkler systems to water nearby grass, or other water features to boost biodiversity in the area.

To make changes on a smaller scale, we often advise clients to opt for water butts, which can be used within gardens to reuse rainwater for gardening purposes. Likewise, homeowners, developers, and architects should also consider the ways the landscaping around the property could be contributing towards flood risk. To avoid water pooling around your property after rainfall, try making sure that the landscaping within three feet of the property slopes away from the foundation. This will prevent water from pooling near foundation walls and causing unwanted damage, all without undergoing a significant landscaping project.

Building for the future 

Sadly, the frequency and severity of flooding events is expected to increase as a result of climate change. For this reason, it’s imperative that all developments are planned, designed, developed and built with the climate crisis in mind. It can seem – in the face of the unwavering climate crisis – that small changes to drainage systems or landscaping are of little importance. But in reality, it is exactly these small changes that will have a cumulative impact on our ability to withstand the changing climate, and extreme weather events that will arise as a result.

As engineers, we’ve made it our priority to come up with the solutions needed to address the potentially devastating consequences of extreme weather. That’s why Lyons O’Neill, along with over 80 other engineers, have signed the UK Structural Engineers Climate & Biodiversity Emergency Declaration. The 13-point pledge – which references the need to “evaluate all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown, and encourage clients to adopt this approach” – informs our approach to every project. As part of this process, our team has uncovered a range of techniques designed to support clients in making the most sustainable, extreme-weather-resistant choices.

If you’d like to learn more about the ways we could support you in building flood resilience this winter, please do not hesitate to get in touch.