Our Flooded Future

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Old Moore is predicting more flooding in 2018. With climate change already causing huge damage, property owners are trying to think of new ways to combat the onslaught of water.

A rather wet existence is upon us. Governments all over the world are trying to come up with water management plans and fast, but nothing in Ireland will be in place fully in 2018. However, there some temporary fixes we can roll out to keep the floodwaters at bay, at least until larger programmes can be instituted.

In 2017 the USA was hit with all sorts of challenging weather conditions which resulted in flooding. This situation gave birth to some experimental solutions to hold back the waters, and one that caught people’s attention was the AquaDam. This is a temporary dam that can be used to surround a farm house or a barn full of animals to keep them dry and safe. A huge tube is rolled out around a property and filled using the approaching floodwaters. It is then secured, and once in place promises to keep the property dry.

The caveat is that it is not right for every property. For example, if your property is on certain types of limestone, the barrier won’t stop the water seeping up through the ground and into your house, so the use of this is conditional. But if your property meets the requirements, then this could be a great investment in keeping your property dry. It is reusable, so it can be stored and pulled out again in times of approaching flooding.

The Aquadam is now being used in Ireland

While flooding is a complex issue which requires more than one approach, various councils have heard the rallying call for more flooding protection. Galway City Council, for example, employed an Aquadam to the Spanish Arch area in 2015, at a cost of €100,000. This was seen as an investment rather than a cost – cleaning up after flooding is vastly more expensive. And it was especially helpful for businesses that could not get insured due to being located in a flood-prone area. And it worked.

If you have a lot of space to store temporary barriers – if you are in a rural area, for example – then you have every hope of keeping your property dry. But these types of solutions may not suit more urban areas. Fortunately there are other more suitable options for towns and cities.

According to Noel Phelan, owner of Floodgate Ireland, all coastal towns and cities in Ireland are built on rivers so there is a lot of risk. “In Dublin for example, most of the road levels on both sides of the Liffey below O’Connell Bridge, are below what is deemed a 1-in-100-year flood. Thus all basement car parks are at risk and most ground-floor levels. All new builds in flood risk areas must have flood protection designed in, or planning will not be approved.”

Flood gates at Crossmolina

Phelan says that where there is ongoing flood risk in rural areas, a property could be walled in or land banked. But sometimes this isn’t possible, because the public might still need to access the property. “In Crossmolina, a car park had to be protected from the flood water coming from the adjacent field. But the farmer access had to be maintained.” So a water-proof flood gate was installed onto the stone wall. This way the farmer can open the gates when he needs to, as long as there isn’t a flood. A similar example is being used in Tinnahinch where openings along the river wall allow people to access boats. Now, at times of flooding the river is held back by flood gates.

From 2018 onwards, we need to be ready for more warm and wet winters. Let’s be sure to manage these floods in very fashionable wellies!

 

The Flood-Proof Amphibious Home

With the earth predicted to evolve into something reminiscent of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld, we need new ideas and fast. So welcome to amphibious homes, a housing concept put forward by London-based Baca Architects. The first example of this house is now situated on the banks of the River Thames. It has been named “Formosa” (Ilha Formosa is the colonial-era Portuguese name for Taiwan, it means “Beautiful Island”).

Formosa on the banks of the Thames

 

Formosa is a building that rests on the ground on fixed foundations but, whenever a flood occurs, water pours into the fixed concrete base, under the house, and the house rises up, floating on the water. This truly unique 225sqm house is located just 10m from the river’s edge.

The home owners approached the architects, asking them to design a house to build on land that was a flood risk site. They wanted panoramic views but when the floods came they wanted the house to be safe and enjoyable. And the house needed to be insurable.

How the amphibious house works

 

Fast forward to the end of the build and the newly-constructed house is everything the homeowners wanted and more. The carefully laid-out garden or “hydroscape” acts as a natural early flood warning system. As the water level rises, the residents can watch it approaching the house.

The property is a major breakthrough for architects and engineers who have been searching for many years for a solution to mitigate the risk – and damage – of water damage to homes in flood-prone areas. The new house has been designed to cope with up to 2.5m of floodwater, well above the predicted flood levels and future projected flood levels for the area. The home is watertight and elegant. This kind of building will be our future in an increasingly wet world.

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