2 Apr 2013

Brisbane will flood again, but will we learn from past mistakes?

Lifestyle | Tips and Advice

Brisbane Flood PreventionAnother summer has drawn to a close and yet again Brisbane and large parts of Queensland and Northern NSW have been affected by floods. And yet again people will need to rebuild their lives, some cleaning up for the third time in as many years.

I can’t even begin to understand how soul destroying that must be.

And now that the flood waters have receded we tell ourselves that it can’t possibly happen again, at least not next year. El Nino is surely just around the corner where we will once again be complaining of droughts. But then again it wasn’t meant to flood again this year either was it? This year was meant to be lower rainfall and less chance of flooding.

So what can we conclude from the fact that we were again inundated with flood waters for the third year in a row? Well to my way of thinking we can at least acknowledge the fact that we really have no idea what’s going to happen next year and accept the fact that we might have more flooding in 2014.

So the real question is what should we be doing about it?

Keeping the water out

It has been suggested that the state government should consider building levee walls and extra dams to mitigate against flooding around high-risk areas such as Bundaberg which suffered badly again this year, and to their credit, the government seem to be seriously looking at this possibility.

Levees and flood mitigating dams make a lot of sense. They are very expensive to build, but costs are relative in this case as the cost of rebuilding after damaging floods is significantly higher. Keeping the water out in the first place is a far better option than trying to clean up after the event.

But levees and dams are not the entire answer. Not every area is able to have a wall built around it, and many river systems already have a number of water catchments on them – the Burnett River basin which is responsible for flooding Bundaberg already has 26 storages on it – but this doesn’t mean that homes in those areas can’t aim to keep the water out. It’s simply a matter of thinking outside of the square.

Your very own personal levee

So how do you keep the water out of your property if there hasn’t been a flood mitigating dam or levee built in your area? Simple, you build your own.

Late last year I was contacted by a couple from New York whose home had unfortunately been inundated by Hurricane Sandy, and this is the basis of the advice that I shared with them.

To effectively build your own levee you need to create a structural block wall on all sides of your property. I say structural because as you can imagine it could potentially be holding back a huge weight of water, so it will need to be built to withstand a lot of pressure. A structural engineer should be engaged to ensure that your wall is indeed strong enough.

Next, put a clear waterproofing sealer over the entire wall and then get it rendered. You will now have a wall that is designed to keep the water out. But of course, you need to be able to get in and out of your property so by necessity there will be a few gaps in your walls.

All gates – entry, driveway etc – should be steel framed with a metal or equivalent lining. This, of course, won’t be watertight, but if built correctly it should be able to play its part in keeping the water out and sandbags can then be used to block any gaps.

Designed with inundation in mind

Obviously, not everybody will be able to or want to, go to the expense of building a flood levee wall around their home, so if keeping the water out is not an option then the next best thing will be to reduce the damage by having your home professionally designed to withstand inundation.

For this, I would recommend an architect that has experience in this area. An architect that has already created an award-winning flood-resistant design.

Did I mention our win in the L J Hooker Flood Free Home Design Competition?

But seriously, if you live in a flood-prone area, or know someone who is, please feel free to contact us from dion seminara architecture to discuss your building options.

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