Housing development in areas at risk from fluvial flood: can individual dwellings be constructed on floodplains, using sustainable design?

Cornes, Ben (2013) Housing development in areas at risk from fluvial flood: can individual dwellings be constructed on floodplains, using sustainable design? BSc dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    Carbon emissions from dwellings are a prime contributor to climate change. Climate change is predicted to cause more extreme weather patterns which will increase flood risk from rivers. The current “build and protect” approach to floodplain development has become unsustainable and is a matter of immediate concern.

    This research assessed the capacity of ‘sustainable’ dwellings to withstand the occurrence of fluvial flood. Literature forecasted that the number of dwellings in England at significant risk of flooding from fluvial sources could more than double by 2080. This made it surprising that literature established no coherent system of sustainable design that incorporates flood risk, instead one which is driven by a political agenda for zero carbon.

    Interviews discovered an awareness of flood defence as a critical consideration of sustainable design. Compatibility matrices were completed by industry professionals, to assess the performance of sustainable construction methods and materials against established fluvial flood defence criteria. The study found that constructing flood proof dwellings would impose restrictions on the extent of sustainable elements that can be included. Therefore, some non-sustainable elements may be necessary to meet all flood defence criteria.

    However, this was accompanied by a general lack of certainty, which may set back efforts to target specific areas for improvement. This could be addressed through laboratory testing under severe fluvial flood conditions to determine where genuine potential lies, Government considered the obvious initiators. There may then be opportunities to reconcile with emerging technologies that are intended to mitigate against flood risk, to form a composite system.

    Evidence from literature revealed an increasing difficulty in forecasting future flood risk, parallel to increasingly inflexible sustainable construction standards. Interviews established drawbacks to applying sustainable construction to a generic site with a set of specific circumstances, given the scarcity of benchmarks and exemplar projects for determining what is achievable under different contexts of flood risk. The residual risk of flood damage may limit economic viability of floodplain development for developers and homebuyers.

    Overall, there is noticeable potential for some aspects of sustainable design to offer strong defence against fluvial flood. However, without a guarantee of complete protection, climate change demands an attitude more accepting of flooding. The adaptive capacity of sustainable design may be limited, but continued research can be used to inform a more comprehensive remedy for the anticipated consequences of climate change.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Technology > School of Civil Engineering and Surveying
    Depositing User: Alice Bentley
    Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2014 15:22
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 12:34
    URI: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/id/eprint/14401

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