2013: The Forgotten Target


Calendar years are becoming increasingly synonymous with construction industry targets. Will we meet the 2012 target to build world-class stadia and facilities for the Olympics? By 2016, can we build zero-carbon housing at Code Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes?

2013 has, so far, not been seen as high profile landmark, but is vital none the less and should be on the construction industry’s legislative calendar. It could have far-reaching implications for the design and product / material specification for new properties because it is the year that ‘high risk’ homes built on flood plains will cease to be insured against flood damage unless these properties can demonstrate that housebuilders have taken sufficient measures to protect them.

Last week, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) launched Climate Adaption: Guidance on Insurance Issues for New Developments, a document which calls on the construction industry and planning community to build, design and locate homes that are climate-resilient.

The insurance industry – and indeed the Government - recognises that tackling UK’s housing shortage will inevitably mean that some new properties will be located in areas where there is risk of flooding. However, it has now made it clear that cost and availability of home insurance will be significantly impacted in future unless housebuilders can demonstrate that they have taken sufficient steps to mitigate flood risk.

This stance should come as no surprise when you consider that the insurance industry expects to pay out over £3 billion for the 2007 floods – the most expensive flood event pay out in the world that year.

Within the latest guidance document, the ABI has also made a recommendation to Government and the industry that a Publicly Available Standard (PAS) or kitemark scheme for new build properties should be introduced to ensure that buyers and insurers can establish if a property has been designed or modified to cope with flood risk.

Providing that any proposed scheme is administered properly to ensure it is workable, this seems like a sensible idea which could also ensure that the housebuilding industry makes appropriate decisions on the design and materials chosen for the envelope of all new homes, and the upgrading of existing housing stock.

Careful material selection should already be integral to ensuring that the fabric of a new home delivers energy efficiency, but it is also vital that materials chosen can also offer in-built flood resilience as well.

However, I believe that achieving structural flood resilience does not mean that we have to re-think or develop radically new materials to meet this challenge. Masonry and concrete products and building techniques are readily available and can offer excellent flood resilience. These products can be easily combined with new house designs such as building multi-storey properties and using the ground floor level for flood-compatible purposes such as car parking (as detailed in the ABI guidance document).

Critically, unlike some other building materials and methods, masonry and concrete products will not distort, rust, or rot and the damage caused by flooding will not threaten the overall structural integrity of a masonry home.

As residents continue to deal with the fall out of previous years’ flood events and the UK insurance industry reels from the cost of the floods of summer 2007, the message to developers, planners and buyers is now clear. From 2013, home insurance will only be available for those properties in high-risk areas where sufficient steps have been taken to mitigate flood risk. This deadline will instil a renewed importance to the way new housing stock is built and should help to ensure that UK homes are designed to more robust standards using appropriate materials. Combined with the drive for energy efficient housing through the Code for Sustainable Homes the challenge is a tough one. However, the positive news is that these flood resilient, masonry products and tried-and-tested building solutions are already available to the market, so creating ‘futureproof’ houses that are both sustainable and flood resilient is a realistic and achievable target.

By Phil Sabin, business development manager at Tarmac

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Fact 7

With pressure from clients, specifiers and environmentalists to account for all stages in the life cycle of construction products, the masonry industry is moving forward on responsible sourcing and addressing the issue of sustainable procurement.  There is a certified chain of custody scheme.  This will mean that sustainably-produced products can gain ‘responsibly sourced materials credits’, which are set to become commonly used in the construction industry.

See the more information on the Code for Sustainable Homes