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Flooding and flood risk management

Urban Flood Management

The effects of climate change will continue to be debated over the coming years as extreme weather events and global warming become more apparent.  In recent years the UK has seen an increase in the number of flood events and flood risk warnings in many areas.  This is of increasing concern, to home owners, developers and insurers.

Approaches to limiting disruption and damage from flooding have changed significantly in recent years.  Worldwide, there has been a significant move from a strategy of flood defence to one of flood risk management.  This includes the use of flood defences, where appropriate, but recognises that managed flooding is essential to meet the requirements of a sustainable flood strategy.  The success of this approach is dependent on integrating enhanced defences and warning systems with improved understanding of the river systems and better governance, emergency planning and disaster management actions.

As the impact of severe events is felt by increasing numbers of the population, the cost from associated damage has increased dramatically.  The cost of flood cannot only be measured in monetary terms as the human costs are often impossible to calculate.  Between 2000 and 2004, floods killed 185 people within the EU and affected half a million.  In the 2007 summer flood events more than 55,000 properties were flooded and losses incurred reached several million pounds.  In 2012 around 10,000 properties were flooded in a series of relatively small events triggered by prolonged periods or rain. 

The Floods Directive (2007) signalled a change from flood defence to flood risk management, where authorities, communities and i9ndividuals are better aware of their flood risk and have plans in place to minimise the consequences of flooding.  There is a gradually increasing awareness amongst these stakeholders that simply building more or higher flood defences will not solve the problems of flooding.

The focus of BRE’s research over recent years has been concerned with the flood resilience of buildings through innovation in new technologies, retrofitting and repair, and new build construction.  A number of research projects for the UK government and the European Union have demonstrated the potential for the sustainable design of communities (link to the LifE Project) with flood risk and the potential to use smart innovative technologies to manage the flood risk to the built environment and infrastructure (link to the SMARTeST project).

BRE can provide advice to developers, local authorities and communities of new build and adaptation strategies where flood risks exist, including flood resilience options for buildings.  A recently produced BRE Digest addresses the flood risk management framework for new development.

For further information contact:

Dr Stephen Garvin, BRE


If you want to learn more about managing flood risk, have a look at our flood resilience and protection online courses.