10 Ways to beat the floods

Last year, the UK suffered widespread flooding.
Here, Tom Heap investigates projects that
could help us stay dry in the future...

The Earth’s
weather,
encouraged by
climate change, seems to
be becoming more
unpredictable. In some
parts of the world, rains
are getting heavier and
storms are intensifying.
A Royal Society report
published in November
2014 stated bluntly:
“Climate change will
drive wet regions to
become wetter”.
Urban populations
are starting to swell,
but this is hugely
problematic as many of
our big cities are built
on large rivers or near
the coast, which puts
residents at risk when
the tides start to rise.
So what can we
do to beat the floods?
Read on for 10
innovative solutions.

1 Tactical Retreat
Hard sea defences, such as concrete, are rather
out of fashion. The ocean often batters them into
submission after a few years, or they just deflect
the destructive energy elsewhere. In November
2013, the sea wall at Medmerry, West Sussex was
scuttled in Europe’s biggest coastal realignment.
The Environment Agency built 7km of sea wall
further inland, and the farmland between the
barrier and the ocean became a salt marsh. This
new wetland habitat is great for birds, but is also
able to absorb the power of the sea and reduce the
flood risk for hundreds of homes. It’s too early for
definitive proof of success, but the locals stayed dry
in the storms of January 2014.

2 Float Homes
There is a house in Marlow, Buckinghamshire that
sits by the River Thames. From their lounge, the
occupants will be able to watch the weather with
surrounded looks cunning Waterproof ground. floods floats first When the River Thames
floods, the house rises
up with the waters
As many as five million homes are at risk of flooding in England.
These houses won’t be knocked down soon, so it makes sense
to retro-fit the buildings rather than construct new ones. Houses
can be fitted with floodproof doors to prevent water from
seeping across the threshold. Ventilation bricks can be equipped
with covers, or can even be replaced with ones that close up
automatically as water approaches.
After 24 hours in a flood, water may start to ooze through
the walls of houses. However, if the exterior is given a waterresistant
nano coating, then this problem is prevented. Solid floors,
magnesium oxide wallboard and waterproof paint can help keep
repair costs down if floods manage to enter someone’s home.
Worcester floodwaters
in February 2014
PHOTO: BACA ARCHITECTS X2, ALAMY, CORBIS, GETTY
Buckinghamsh
loung
weathe
serenity. The rains may pour and the river m
rise… but so will their house. Most of the
structure rests on the riverbank, surrounde
garden like any other home. While it look
modern house from the outside, the cunn
lies beneath the main building. Waterproo
wraps around the basement level, and this
reinforced yet porous hole in the ground
the flfloods come, the whole house flfloats u
by four vertical posts. The dwelling can r
whopping 2.5 metres. It is the fifirst house
in the UK and the owners hope to have
by the start of 2015.


3 Be Water-Resistant
As many as five million homes are at risk of flooding in England.
These houses won’t be knocked down soon, so it makes sense
to retro-fit the buildings rather than construct new ones. Houses
can be fitted with floodproof doors to prevent water from
seeping across the threshold. Ventilation bricks can be equipped
with covers, or can even be replaced with ones that close up
automatically as water approaches.
After 24 hours in a flood, water may start to ooze through
the walls of houses. However, if the exterior is given a waterresistant
nano coating, then this problem is prevented. Solid floors,
magnesium oxide wallboard and waterproof paint can help keep
repair costs down if floods manage to enter someone’s home.


4 Recruit Beavers
Beavers are famous for building dams and are natural
river basin engineers. Following serious floods in the UK
during the winter of 2013-14, The Mammal Society
recommended a widespread reintroduction. In Scotland,
there is currently a trial release of beavers taking place
in Knapdale, and the first batch of reports was released
in November 2014. Valleys where beavers thrive are
a patchwork of ponds and dams, creating a massive
natural sponge that holds and slows the flow of rivers. In
Pickering, Yorkshire, The Forestry Commission and other
landowners are trying to replicate beavers’ methods by
creating a network of dams, bunds and wet woodlands.
This should help prevent the impact of floods, without
splashing out on expensive and unsustainable defences.

5 Replace The Roads
Could Boston
become the Venice of New England? Planners,
scratching their heads in the face of increased local rainfall,
rising sea levels and low-lying districts, suggested replacing the
roads of Back
Bay with canals. This would create a network of
channels, pumps and sluices linking to new wetlands, enabling
the management of water rather than its exclusion.
A similar philosophy underpins plans for a development on
Deal Ground
in Norwich. The site is prone to flooding, so Baca
Architects wants to put 40 per cent of the houses on stilts and
the rest on raised land. Waterways between buildings will be
dug unusually deep to accommodate excess water, and will help
irrigate nearby wetlands. Baca Architects claims that the 670-home
development will alleviate flooding pressure downstream.

6 Remove The Rain
Jakarta floods regularly. In the last 20 years there have
been four serious events – these have claimed hundreds
of lives and cost millions of dollars in damage. The worst
floods take place when high tide meets heavy rain, so
the government’s Weather Modification Technical Unit
decided to make the rain fall elsewhere. They are using
cloud seeding, which involves spraying particles into the
clouds to encourage ice crystal formation and trigger rain.
Planes have been scattering tonnes of salt above the ocean,
therefore causing it to rain at sea rather than on land.
While officials claim to have cut precipitation in Jakarta,
many academics question this conclusion and want more
proof. The authorities are undeterred and are requesting
more aircraft for weather modification in 2015.

7 Farm On The Water
To survive when the
waters rise, we need
food as well as shelter.
In Bangladesh, where
floods are a fact of life,
floating gardens
have been created.
A raft of water
hyacinth, which is a
buoyant and persistent
plant, is assembled and
held together with
bamboo. A layer of
dung, soil and compost
is applied, into which
the crops are planted.
Typically, one of these
floating vegetable
patches is about 1m x
8m, so it can be tended
from a boat and towed
to the marketplace.
Bangladesh is also
pioneering floating
duck coops, allowing
locals to sell eggs
as well as veg.

8 Live Underwater
For around US$9m you could live beneath the waves,
just like the Bond villain Blofeld. The H2OME dwelling,
which is built by US Submarines Inc, is an underwater lair
that is accessible via a spiral staircase from your own private
floating pier. The 464 square metre structure sits 10-18
metres below the surface – the shallow depth means that
the living space doesn’t need to be pressurised. As most of
the light and life in the ocean is situated just beneath the
waves, the H2OME will truly offer a room with a view.
As fewer than 100 underwater habitats have been built
in the last 50 years, it could be argued that our survival
rests on keeping our heads above water rather than
slipping beneath the surface.

9 Release The Drones
Early warning systems can mean the
difference between life and death. But
predicting the path and volume of
water, especially flash floods, is very
difficult. Even Saudi Arabia, which is
an arid region, has seen 100 people
killed by flash floods in the last five
years. Scientists from Jeddah have been
working on a drone system to give
up to two hours notice before a flood
hits. Once a flood is deemed likely,
minicopters take to the air and drop
wireless sensors across the region.
If the sensors land in floodwater,
the drones track their progress. The
data gleaned creates a map of the
flood’s movement, therefore allowing
authorities to deliver accurate
evacuation alerts. The sensors only
have to ping their location over a
short range, so their design can be
simple, cheap and disposable.

10 Big Walls
When towering skyscrapers are being lapped by rising
oceans, there really is only one survival strategy: a
sea wall. Hurricane Sandy struck New York in 2012,
killing 53 people and causing almost US$20bn of
damage. To prevent destruction on this scale again, a
wall is going up around the Big Apple. The ‘Big U’ is
being masterminded by Danish and Dutch engineers,
and will wrap around 16km of lower Manhattan’s coast
at a cost of US$335m. To maintain the city’s identity,
the structure will be hidden within landscaped areas.


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