Scotland Climate action and sustainable development, Housing and planning

Creating and supporting flood resilient properties – where Build Back Better is more than a metaphor


Build Back Better is a phrase we are all hearing in many different contexts at the moment – whether it is relating to our economy, our lives or our society – and it will be vitally important in all of these contexts. However, there is one area where the phrase has a specific and very literal meaning – when it comes to rebuilding the fabric of the building of a home or business after it has been devastated by flooding.

In this context, opportunities to integrate resilience measures into the building, lessening the impact of future flooding, literally enables the building to be “built back better” than it was before.

CIRIA Code of Practice on Flood Resilience

As part of the wide-ranging body of work underway to improve our resilience to flooding, detailed guidance for both professionals and homeowners on the cross-industry Code of Practice on flood resilience[1] has been published which aims to make it easier for homeowners and businesses to install measures to reduce flood damage, speed up recovery and reoccupation of previously flooded properties.

The Code includes six standards that set a benchmark for the delivery of Property Flood Resilience (PFR) and covers both flood resistance – measures which can help prevent water from entering properties, and flood recoverability which help to limit the damage that floods cause. These measures can prove invaluable in helping home and business owners recover from flooding and reduce the stress that flooding can bring.

The project is endorsed and supported by the three main relevant institutions, these being CIWEM, ICE (Institute of Civil Engineering) and RICS. The organisations came together to discuss PFR in 2016 at the same time that a Defra roundtable on PFR was being pulled together.

(Left) This Code and guidance were funded by Aviva, the Environment Agency, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and the Department for Infrastructure, Northern Ireland. The project outputs were managed by CIRIA and delivered by a consortium that was run by BRE and included the University of the West of England, Whitehouse Construction and the Environment Agency.

Flooding – an increasing problem

Flooding is an increasing problem across Scotland due to the climate emergency. It is estimated that some 280,000 properties in Scotland are currently at risk of flooding and it is expected that this number will rise by another 110,000 by 2080 due to the impact of climate change. Already, some 40% of businesses do not reopen after suffering a catastrophic loss from flooding.

Whilst the responsible authorities are working hard developing and delivering regional flood schemes and raising awareness of the risks, many properties are and will continue to be at risk of flooding with the responsibility for protecting it resting primarily with the property owner.

Preparing for flooding – becoming more resilient

The good news is that there are things individuals and communities can do to prepare for future flooding – from signing up for flood warnings and alerts, to checking your insurance policy and to joining a Community Resilience Group – have a look at our website for more information.

There are also steps that can be taken at the individual property level to resist, mitigate or more quickly recover from the damage caused by flooding. Property flood resilience (PFR) measures can reduce the amount of water entering buildings (known as resistance measures), or limit the damage caused if water does enter a building (known as recoverability measures) and enable households and businesses to reduce flood damage, speed up recovery and the reoccupation of previously flooded properties. These measures include things like installing a flood guard across a doorway, water-proofing brickwork (resistance measures), replacing carpets with tiles, or using closed-cell wall insulation materials both of which can be dried out if flooded (recoverability measures.)

Recent research indicates that some 80,000 of the properties currently at risk of flooding in Scotland would benefit most from some level of property flood resilience measures, with the number increasing as climate change impacts are felt. However, until recently there has been a lack of standardisation of how PFR was assessed, installed and maintained.

The Code of Practice provides practical guidance to a range of audiences and brings consistency to the market, helping to limit the damage that floods can cause and reduce the impact of flooding on people’s lives and includes detailed guidance and standards on each stage of the property flood resilience process. These include:

  • Surveying
  • Identifying suitable products
  • Installation
  • Construction
  • Maintenance

An easily accessible fact sheet to help households and businesses understand how to use, or ensure builders or suppliers are using, the code of practice and associated guidance is now available and a guidance document for local authority planners will be available soon.

You can download a copy of the new guidance and supporting documents from here and the CIRIA bookshop .

The Code of Practice is supported by the Property Flood Resilience Delivery Group, set up by Scottish Government in partnership with the Scottish Flood Forum (SFF).

The Scottish Flood Forum (SFF) will be working to make sure those giving advice and support on flood resilience are familiar with the new Code of Practice, and that the guidance for homeowners is accessible to all. We also work to ensure that flood resilience is seen as one of the suites of measures that communities and individuals can take to be ready for future flooding. Have a look at our website for more information on preparing for flooding – and on helping flood risk communities “Build Back Better” both actually and metaphorically.

Links and hashtags

Scottish Flood Forum:

Code of practice and guidance:

CIRIA bookshop:

Twitter handles: @scotfloodforum, @greenerscotland, @CIRIAupdates, @floodMary, @avivaplc, @EnvAgency, @WelshGovernment, @scotgov, @deptinfra

Hashtags: #CoP #floodresilience #floodrisk #watermanagement #propertyfloodresilience #climatechange



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