It seems pretty clear, after another summer of disastrous weather, that things in the climate department are changing or you could say even sliding into chaos. Of course, this isn’t just restricted to our shores but is being seen across the world, as this recent article from the Yale Environment 360 group discusses, be it hurricanes, droughts or flooding. But how is it affecting the design of our homes? At the most basic level, our homes have to keep out the elements, so it makes sense that if the weather becomes more extreme, then our homes must adapt.
After the recent devastation of Hurricane Isaac, thoughts return to Katrina which prompted the aspiring architect (and actor apparently?) Brad Pitt to do something about it with his Make It Right foundation. Two years after visiting those worst affected in New Orleans, Brad set up the foundation to rebuild 150 houses in the Lower 9th Ward area. It was promised that the new homes would be safer and stronger, featuring rooftop access, hurricane window fabric and an elevated design. The idea was to create houses that were prepared for natural disasters. And we’ve all seen the devastation that happens when buildings are not prepared. Good work, perhaps he should give up that day job of his!
But closer to home, just how are our buildings coping with the monster weather? In the UK we are more frequently experiencing harsher weather conditions, whether it is rain, drought, wind or snow. June 2012 was the wettest since records began with 145.3 mm of rain, 9 mm more than the previous record in 2007. All the signs point towards it being time to start storm proofing your home.
One key area we need to think about is drainage. Getting water away from your house safely is key to protecting it. Sustainable urban drainage systems, known as SUDS, are now a requirement for all new developments going through the planning phase. These systems both reduce flood risk and minimise the risk of pollution. By managing groundÂ and surface water sustainably, filtering out pollutants, and storing and appropriately releasing water, you can really protect your home from increased rainfall.
It’s not just new systems like this that can have an impact either. The good old-fashioned water butt Â has has a little re design to make it more approriate to the British Semi. This slim little unitÂ will collect rainfall from the gutters around your house, storing it securely in slim containers down the sides of houses, providing an invaluable source of water for your garden during drier spells. Every home should have one.
Of course, for the water butt to work effectively, you need to ensure your guttering is clear and allowing water to flow freely. Gutters can easily get clogged up with leaves and moss, and when this happens your home is at much greater risk of flooding or water penetration. The Guttermate rainwater diverter and filter is a great tool for ensuring excess water doesnâ€™t build up in one place and makes it much easier to keep your gutters clear.
It’s not just outside the house where water can be a problem. With harsher winters, the reported cases of frozen pipes have increased from 1.3% of all claims in 2009 to 6.5% in 2010. A report from insurers Legal and General called ‘Stop the Drop’ (which I worked on, I might add!) contains guidance on how to protect homes and prevent damage from escaped water. The bottom line is that prevention is always better than cure.
Prepare your home for adverse winter conditions and install products such as the Wayscale water leak detector, which cuts off the water supply when a leak is detected, and you can avoid disaster. A great product if the thought of freezing/ burst pipes keep you awake at night
Here in the southeast, we are increasingly seeing clay soil shrinkage that’s causing building subsidence. A report by the Technology Strategy Board states that a re-design of foundations will protect buildings in the long run. Many of the pre fabricated buildings we are working on at the moment are using alternative shallow or pile foundations, Â as opposed toÂ traditionalÂ trenches, to Â neatly sidestep these issues.
During a project on BBC’s DIY SOS, a piling foundation system by Quickbase was used rather than the traditional trench method. This reduces both the excavation work needed and the levels of spoil to the landfill. It’s new thinking like this that can help us all against increasingly harsh and unpredictable natural conditions.
It seems like Mother Nature is getting a little angry at the way we have been treating her and is letting us know about it. With more uncertain and potentially damaging weather conditions to come, it makes sense to start thinking about protecting your home now. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. It really is the best way.