Future-Proofing Flood Risk Zones: The Crucial Role of Flood-Resistant Building
A focus on flood-resistant construction in risk areas is required to better prepare for future flooding. This is one of the main conclusions of research conducted as part of the REACHOUT project by the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) at VU Amsterdam, which was recently published in Water Resources Research.
In the summer of 2021, Limburg was hit by a severe flood. The total damage from the disaster is estimated to be between €400 and €500 million. Following the 2021 flood, VU Amsterdam, in collaboration with Deltares, distributed a questionnaire to gain insight into effective measures for residents to reduce damage from such weather extremes in the future. The questionnaire was ultimately completed by over 1,500 households, with more than 300 of them having experienced flooding. These types of disaster damages are becoming more frequent and intense. At present, insurance policies do not cover all flood-related damages, making further intervention essential.
More than just insurance
The flooding in Limburg in recent years sparked a discussion between the government and insurers regarding the insurability of floods. The compensation process for damages caused significant stress to flooded households in Limburg. Not all affected households were insured against flooding from smaller rivers or streams. Some of the uninsured damages were compensated through the Disaster Compensation Act (WTS) or the Disaster Fund, but this did not cover all the damages. Earlier research indicates that a sample of affected households had received compensation for around 60% of their total damages six months after the flood.
To reduce flood damages in the future, the research emphasizes the importance of taking action in and around homes. Incorporating flood-resistant construction measures during the renovation and construction of homes in high-risk areas not only prevents damage but also reduces post-flood stress. Measures include using waterproof materials and elevating electronic appliances, such as power outlets or kitchen equipment. The research shows that this can protect nearly 30% of the building’s value and 40% of the contents’ value.
Figure 1. Flood damage to the building for different flood depths for the group with (green) and without (blue) water-resistant measures.
During the flood in the Netherlands, about half of the households were able to take such actions. Residents in the southernmost parts of the country did so less often, as they were often caught off guard by rapidly rising waters. The research indicates that emergency measures can reduce flood damage to the building by almost 30% of the total reconstruction value, equivalent to damage reduction of around €40,000. It also prevents an average of over €25,000 in contents damage.
One of the recommendations of the research to better protect homeowners is to include the flood mitigation measures in a house’s climate label. The Dutch Green Building Council (DGBC), an organization dedicated to future-proof construction, has developed an open methodology for assessing climate risks for buildings.
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Short summary: A story about Jan and Maria during extreme precipitation.
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