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Flood Resilient Architecture

Flooding is a common problem in the construction industry. It is not limited to a particular region of the world as many architectural masterpieces are being affected by the phenomenon. Nigeria, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and many other countries have seen deadly floods resulting in loss of lives and destruction of homes and structures in the past years. The destruction brought upon homes caused thousands of people to be displaced. Architecture is in a position to create preventive measures that could lessen damage and save lives, hence, flood resilient architecture.

How Architecture can Identify Potential Flooding

Architects can identify the potential risk of flooding at a site before construction work begins. One of the ways to do this is by making use of flood maps or liaising with the local building authority to check if the location has experienced or is prone to flooding. If the result is positive, the architect and the client can decide the best option between relocating or building by taking the necessary preventive measures. Architecture provides several measures if you decide to build in any area prone to flooding.

Architectural Solutions to Flooding

Some of the practical solutions provided by architecture for flooding are discussed below. The most suitable one should be chosen.

  • Elevate Building
  • To flood-proof your home, architecture can provide sufficient space between the ground level and the building. This is often done through the use of stilts. Stilts, however, have their design and functionality risks. The base flood elevation, the minimal height recommended in flood zones, is only an estimate and sometimes a strong storm may prove flooding to be higher than a building is prepared for. More so, the height of the stilts may lend the building to wind damage and sway even with adequate foundation growing.

    Also, stilts pose an aesthetic challenge in terms of design. The architect in charge must balance the quality and functionality of the supporting columns and beams, while making sure the design still looks good. Moreover, echoing and noise control may be an issue as the floor is lifted from the ground.

  • Use Flood-resistant Building Materials
  • It is a known fact that some building materials are more resistant to moisture and flooding than others when they come in contact with flood waters. Flood water can be both hydrostatic and hydrodynamic. It results in displaced foundation walls, collapsed structures, floating fuel tanks, scouring, and more in most cases. These damages usually requires major repair. So the best thing to do to prevent them is to use flood resistant materials. Flood-resistant materials include concrete, iron rod, non-porous rock, glazed brick, closed-cell and foam insulation, steel hardware, pressure-treated and marine-grade plywood, ceramic tile, water-resistant glue, polyester epoxy paint, and more.

  • Build Retaining Walls
  • One of the best architectural solutions is building of a retaining wall into the site’s landscaping design. This can be accompanied with trees and plants to help reduce soil erosion. Though retaining walls have stipulations for different zones, the foundation is usually a minimum of 1.2 meters below the surface. The height of the wall usually exceeds the typical flooding depth of the flood zone in order to ensure that overflow from flood waters do not enter the space.

    It is very important for architectural designs to accommodate drainage between the building and the retaining wall. This is because the retaining wall will make the house flood-resistant but make homes flood-proof by itself. Adequate drainage should be provided for rainfall and water that may accumulate between the foundation, doors, and retaining wall.

  • Install Foundation Vents and Sump Pump
  • Another way to flood-proof your home is to install foundation vents. Foundation vents allow flood water to flow through the home rather than pool around it. Though the damage this solution is capable of doing to the interior of the house makes it seem counterproductive, it provides an outlet for the flood water and relieves the damaging pressure that flood water puts on the windows and walls. You do not need to worry about this if the interior is prepared using flood damage resistant materials, hydrostatic openings, and protected key equipment. You should, however, consider post-flood clean-up will be necessary.

    Also, sump pump, an equipment that pumps water out of basements where flooding happens regularly, is also recommended. It should have battery backup to allow it to continue functioning when the power goes out.

  • Build Above Flood Level
  • Apart from the solutions above, the architect working on a new build should find out about flooding levels of the intended construction area from the local authorities. This is important because choosing unfavourable locations like a gradient or on the top of a hill will put homes at lower risk of flooding.

    Though architecture should be designed to meet the standard of any location you have chosen, always check whether your home is built on a floodplain, as construction is still approved on these zones.

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