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  • Published: 18 November 2022

Flood risk management through a resilience lens

  • Karin M. de Bruijn   ORCID: 1 ,
  • Bramka A. Jafino   ORCID: 1 , 2 ,
  • Bruno Merz   ORCID: 3 , 4 ,
  • Neelke Doorn   ORCID: 5 ,
  • Sally J. Priest   ORCID: 6 ,
  • Ruben J. Dahm   ORCID: 7 ,
  • Chris Zevenbergen   ORCID: 8 , 9 ,
  • Jeroen C. J. H. Aerts   ORCID: 10 , 11 &
  • Tina Comes 5  

Communications Earth & Environment volume  3 , Article number:  285 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

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  • Environmental studies
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  • Water resources

To prevent floods from becoming disasters, social vulnerability must be integrated into flood risk management. We advocate that the welfare of different societal groups should be included by adding recovery capacity, impacts of beyond-design events, and distributional impacts.

Societies have prospered in river valleys, deltas, and coastal areas thanks to effective strategies to cope with flood hazards. However, floods have been increasing in frequency and severity due to climate change and increasing exposure. Governments worldwide aim to develop strategies to reduce flood risks, usually favoring the measures with the largest risk reduction benefits and the lowest costs for a range of sufficiently likely hazard events. Here, the costs conventionally considered are the direct damages.

The high impact of recent extreme but rare events such as the 2022 floods in Pakistan and Malawi, the July 2021 flood in Northwestern Europe, the devastation due to Hurricane Iota in the Central Americas (2020), or the 2017 flooding of Houston, Texas, have brought us to rethink flood risk management. In conventional risk analyses rare, extreme events typically have little importance, because the expected annual damage–the indicator of conventional risk approaches–is often dominated by events that have a high probability but cause relatively low damage. Risk reduction measures conventionally aim to reduce direct impacts and total flood risks while minimizing costs. In contrast, it is rarer for measures to be implemented that enhance the ability to cope with flood hazards and to recover rapidly, to reduce indirect flood effects and to account for the distribution of impacts over wealthier and poorer communities 1 This may result in strategies that amplify existing inequalities, promote already wealthy societal groups 2 and neglect disastrous outliers.

Climate change and the related increase in flood hazards require additional investments into flood risk management. This opens a window of opportunity to ensure new investments contribute to a fairer and more resilient world. We argue that policy makers should adopt a resilience lens that utilises more comprehensive analyses, rooted in societal welfare.

Adopt a resilience lens

To develop flood risk management strategies, governments need to consider what really matters, namely how and over what period floods affect societal welfare. To do so, we advocate the adoption of a resilience lens in flood risk management. Here, resilience is understood as the ability of a society to cope with flood hazards by resisting, absorbing, accommodating, adapting to, transforming and recovering from the effects of floods on people’s welfare 3 , 4 . To analyze and enhance resilience, we need to consider how and over what period floods affect societies and how measures could affect flood impacts and society 5 . Questions to consider include whether floods will hamper economic activities; whether people can earn sufficient income or their livelihoods are destroyed and whether their health will be affected.

Adopting a resilience lens means taking societal welfare as our starting point. From there, the interaction with flood hazards and flood risks can be considered 6 . For frequent events resistance may be required to allow societies to continue functioning without facing frequent damage. Damage as a result of rare and extreme events may not be avoidable, but such events must be included in our considerations in order to make sure that those events, although damaging, do not turn into disasters. This requires a deep understanding of what makes people vulnerable to floods and how resilience can be improved. We offer four elements linked to this resilience lens to understand what makes a flood disastrous. We aim to enable an informed discussion on how to arrive at appropriate flood risk management strategies (see Fig.  1 ).

figure 1

A welfare and recovery capacity (element 1 and 2): Different effects of floods on different areas or societal groups: some have a larger deterioration of welfare or a slower recovery than others. Both the maximum impact and the recovery together determine the impact of a flood disaster. B include beyond-design events (element 3). The grey curve shows the impacts as a function of event extremity. The standard assessment integrates over this curve and uses the resulting expected annual damage as risk measure; this aggregation undermines the role of high-impact but low-probability events. The extreme events must be given attention as well; ( C ) distributional impacts (element 4). Distributional impacts can be considered spatially or for different social groups. Welfare economics principles can be applied to capture the utility of different communities and vulnerable groups. By aggregating the effects, we may not see how some groups benefit from measures while others pay for them, or still face large risks. Therefore, next to total cost and benefits, also distributed impacts must be used and weighted to enhance equity.

Impacts on welfare, instead of on asset losses

Floods hit socially vulnerable people harder, because poorer communities often lack the capacity to recover quickly. Vulnerable people or communities have a lower capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist or recover from the impact of hazards 7 . They may be forced to live in hazardous places, have less access to flood warnings, a less effective network to enhance recovery, and fewer resources to protect their homes or livelihoods. Especially people that already live in poverty may need to shift to destructive strategies such as selling land or cattle or consume seeds to meet other short-term needs. Such strategies can lead to a vicious circle.

Using absolute asset-based damages as yardsticks, as is often done in flood risk management, largely underestimates the disproportionally large welfare impact relatively small absolute losses can have on poor people and may lead to biased planning 8 . As one dollar does not count equally for all people, flood risk planning should move beyond asset-based valuations and put the welfare of people at the core of the assessment 9 . This can be done, for example, by considering social impacts such as loss of houses (irrespective of their value), deprivation cost, loss of percentage of income, or considering the effect on income generating ability.

There are further merits to placing welfare upfront. First, it opens the possibility of better aligning flood risk management with the larger development agenda 3 , for instance by linking flood risk management to spatial and economic planning. Second, it allows for a better inclusion of non-structural measures in flood risk management strategies, such as adaptive social protection systems that can quickly disburse financial assistance to households when a disaster hits 10 . Such measures may not reduce asset-based damages but can have significant benefits of increasing recovery rate and dampening welfare losses.

Recovery capacity

When recovery from floods takes longer, the impact of the floods is more disastrous because of the many indirect and cascading effects, which often exceed the direct damage 11 . Differences in flood impacts across societal groups often link to differences in their ability to recover from flood impacts. To recover, physical damage must be repaired and income generating options must be restored. Accounting for disruption of services of critical infrastructure, cascading impacts 12 or addressing people’s recovery capacity are thus crucial to understand the impact of floods on societal welfare. If we consider recovery as part of flood risk management, the effect of recovery enhancing measures can be included to reduce longer-term welfare loss. Measures such as citizen training, micro-credits, affordable insurance to compensate for flood losses and improving critical infrastructure (enhancing its robustness, redundancy, or flexibility) then become relevant.

Beyond-design events

The July 2021 floods in Europe have shown the devastating impact of beyond-design events, events that exceed the known risks. The flood peak discharge in July 2021 in the Ahr valley was roughly five times higher than the extreme event scenario of the official flood map 13 and its return period was estimated to be around 500 years. Such an event was beyond the imagination of people and authorities, which led to high numbers of fatalities and massive destruction.

The complexity of flood risk systems, limitations of scientific knowledge but also motivational and cognitive biases in perception and decision making contribute to such surprises 14 , 15 . In many regions, climate change and other drivers of change, such as population growth or increasing vulnerability, lead to more frequent situations where current protection systems are overwhelmed. Our third element targets this blind spot of flood risk management: extreme events beyond current design standards to prevent disastrous surprises.

This can be done for example by using a storyline approach, narrative scenarios or training exercises and simulation games that stimulate decision-makers to think through the full disaster cycle. Such exercises are known to inspire discussion of potentially long-term unexpected or unintended cascading effects across different systems 16 . Outliers in ensemble forecasts may be used as a starting point for such scenarios. These explorations guide dialogues towards achieving the desired level of protection and preparedness for extreme events, to reduce the impact to the most crucial objects, locations, or groups of a society, and provide the basis for training of decision-makers.

Distributional impacts and equity

A resilience lens requires asking the distributional questions of “the five Ws“ 17 : for whom, when, what, where, and why? Most flood risk analyses aggregate risks and flood protection benefits and disregard their distribution across people, space and time. The resilience lens requires unpacking this aggregation by assessing the distributional impacts of alternative measures. Making explicit who wins and who loses can support distributive justice and prevent unintended distributional consequences. Additional measures for compensating worse-off groups can also be prepared. It is one option, for example, to target flood risk protection measures 18 at the most socially vulnerable instead of selecting measures based on utilitarian principles. To do so, a risk analysis that shows distributed impacts on a range of social groups and regions must be carried out. These distributional questions also play out between current and future generations (intergenerational justice).

The distributional performance of alternative plans can be assessed through a normative analysis. Various ethical principles drawn from theories of distributive justice can be operationalized to evaluate the fairness of alternative measures 19 . Multiple principles can also be combined. In the Netherlands, the flood protection standard is designed such that every person has at least a minimum level of safety (sufficientarian principle), while additional safety margin is allowed if it is economically sensible (utilitarian principle) 20 .

Moving forward

We make a plea for more comprehensive, better-informed and transparent decision-making which allows an open discussion of inherent trade-offs between different values or ambitions, and makes transparent the impact of flood risk management over space, time and population groups. Disparities in flood risk and in effects of risk on people’s welfare should be understood and transparently shown to enable decision-makers to take equitable and effective decisions and to prevent increasing inequity due to climate change.

We now have the appropriate tools and methods available to adopt a resilience lens by analyzing distributional impacts, by assessing impacts on welfare, and by including recovery and longer-term consequences for both design and beyond-design events. Using this broader perspective will lead to other flood measures that better serve our joint journey towards a more just and resilient world.

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Deltares, Department of Flood Risk Management, Delft, The Netherlands

Karin M. de Bruijn & Bramka A. Jafino

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GfZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Hydrology, Potsdam, Germany

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Neelke Doorn & Tina Comes

Flood Hazard Research Centre, Middlesex University London, London, UK

Sally J. Priest

Deltares, Department of Catchment & Urban Hydrology, Delft, The Netherlands

Ruben J. Dahm

IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Water Engineering Department, Delft, The Netherlands

Chris Zevenbergen

Delft University of Technology, Department of Hydraulic Engineering, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Delft, The Netherlands

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K.dB.: Initiator, conceptualization, and writing – first draft. R.J.D.: Initiator, conceptualization, review and editing. B.A.J.: Conceptualization, visualisation, and writing – review and editing. B.M., N.D., S.J.P., R.J.D., C.Z., J.C.J.H.A. and T.C.: Conceptualization and writing – review and editing.

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Article contents

Flood resilient construction and adaptation of buildings.

  • David Proverbs David Proverbs Birmingham City University
  •  and  Jessica Lamond Jessica Lamond University of the West of England, Bristol
  • Published online: 19 December 2017

Flood resilient construction has become an essential component of the integrated approach to flood risk management, now widely accepted through the concepts of making space for water and living with floods . Resilient construction has been in place for centuries, but only fairly recently has it been recognized as part of this wider strategy to manage flood risk. Buildings and the wider built environment are known to play a key role in flood risk management, and when buildings are constructed on or near to flood plains there is an obvious need to protect these. Engineered flood defense systems date back centuries, with early examples seen in China and Egypt. Levees were first built in the United States some 150 years ago, and were followed by the development of flood control acts and regulations. In 1945, Gilbert Fowler White, the so-called “father of floodplain management,” published his influential thesis which criticized the reliance on engineered flood defenses and began to change these approaches. In Europe, a shortage of farmable land led to the use of land reclamation schemes and the ensuing Land Drainage acts before massive flood events in the mid-20th century led to a shift in thinking towards the engineered defense schemes such as the Thames Barrier and Dutch dyke systems. The early 21st century witnessed the emergence of the “living with water” philosophy, which has resulted in the renewed understanding of flood resilience at a property level.

The scientific study of construction methods and building technologies that are robust to flooding is a fairly recent phenomenon. There are a number of underlying reasons for this, but the change in flood risk philosophy coupled with the experience of flood events and the long process of recovery is helping to drive research and investment in this area. This has led to a more sophisticated understanding of the approaches to avoiding damage at an individual property level, categorized under three strategies, namely avoidance technology, water exclusion technology, and water entry technology. As interest and policy has shifted to water entry approaches, alongside this has been the development of research into flood resilient materials and repair and reinstatement processes, the latter gaining much attention in the recognition that experience will prompt resilient responses and that the point of reinstatement provides a good opportunity to install resilient measures.

State-of-the-art practices now center on avoidance strategies incorporating planning legislation in many regions to prohibit or restrict new development in flood plains. Where development pressures mean that new buildings are permitted, there is now a body of knowledge around the impact of flooding on buildings and flood resilient construction and techniques. However, due to the variety and complexity of architecture and construction styles and varying flood risk exposure, there remain many gaps in our understanding, leading to the use of trial and error and other pragmatic approaches. Some examples of avoidance strategies include the use of earthworks, floating houses, and raised construction.

The concept of property level flood resilience is an emerging concept in the United Kingdom and recognizes that in some cases a hybrid approach might be favored in which the amount of water entering a property is limited, together with the likely damage that is caused. The technology and understanding is moving forward with a greater appreciation of the benefits from combining strategies and property level measures, incorporating water resistant and resilient materials. The process of resilient repair and considerate reinstatement is another emerging feature, recognizing that there will be a need to dry, clean, and repair flood-affected buildings. The importance of effective and timely drying of properties, including the need to use materials that dry rapidly and are easy to decontaminate, has become more apparent and is gaining attention.

Future developments are likely to concentrate on promoting the uptake of flood resilient materials and technologies both in the construction of new and in the retrofit and adaptation of existing properties. Further development of flood resilience technology that enhances the aesthetic appeal of adapted property would support the uptake of measures. Developments that reduce cost or that offer other aesthetic or functional advantages may also reduce the barriers to uptake. A greater understanding of performance standards for resilient materials will help provide confidence in such measures and support uptake, while further research around the breathability of materials and concerns around mold and the need to avoid creating moisture issues inside properties represent some of the key areas.

  • flood resistance


Resilient construction has been in place for centuries, but only relatively recently has it been used as a systematic component of an integrated flood risk management strategy. Resilient buildings are designed and constructed in such a way to avoid, prevent, or reduce the damage caused when flooding takes place. They can play an important part in flood risk management strategy by reducing damage and, importantly, speeding up the recovery process. This article begins by charting the historical development of the concepts of resilient construction, the use of engineered flood control systems leading to current thinking around living with water, and the acceptance that flooding is unavoidable.

The importance of buildings and the wider built environment within flood risk management is illustrated. An account of the developments in the use of construction technologies and materials follows, including the recognition of the need for more scientific research. The developments of this technology and the understanding of property level measures then follows. This leads to an account of the research and advancements in practice around the repair and reinstatement of flood-damaged buildings.

Looking toward the state of the art, attention is given to the current and future directions around the science of resilient construction, highlighting recent research trends and discoveries. Current developments in the design, construction, and adaptation of flood affected buildings are described. The discussion highlights the development of hybrid approaches to property level resilience combining water exclusion measures with water entry measures. Recent research around water resistant and resilient materials is highlighted, as well as developments in considerate reinstatement practices. This leads to a section on future developments in flood resilient construction before presenting conclusions.

Historical Developments in Flood Risk Management and the Built Environment

The wider built environment and the buildings and properties that shape this play an integral role in flood risk management. Once structures are constructed on and around flood plains, there is a natural priority to protect these assets, which leads to the development of flood defense schemes or mechanisms to mitigate the damage and disruption that is caused. Flooding can cause a range of damage to urban settlements, including the threat to personal safety when normally dry areas are submerged, leading to the need to escape from buildings. High-velocity floods can sweep people away before emergency services are able to reach them. Damage to buildings and their contents is another major impact, leading to major losses and in some cases severe costs to individuals, businesses, insurers, and government funds. Infrastructure in the form of major transport links, including roads, railways and airports, can also be affected, leading to widespread disruption and interruption to normal business. Further, social impacts, such as the need to close schools, hospitals, and places of worship and also the loss of essential services (electricity, water, and gas supplies), highlight the essential need to protect the wide range of physical assets that make up the built environment.

Engineered flood control dates back centuries for example to China in 400 bce , where steps to protect the agricultural community from the flooding of the Yellow River were undertaken and included the construction of levees, fluvial channels, and natural channels. In the Nile Delta, before the construction of the Aswan Dam, seasonal migration and evacuation were a long-established flood risk management method and were reflected in the seasons of the Egyptian year of Akhet (inundation), Peret (growth), and Shemu (harvest). This approach, while effective, did not protect the built environment. However, these floods brought important nutrients and minerals into the fertile soil, making it rich for farming since ancient times.

In the 20th century in the United States, flooding was the most damaging natural disaster in terms of numbers of lives lost and damage to property. Levees were first built in the United States some 150 years ago. Farmers were attracted to the fertile soils of the flood plains, and were largely responsible for the construction of levees to protect farms and farmlands. Other levees were built to protect cities and towns and following devastating floods. In the early 20th century , the 1917 Flood Control Act was introduced to reduce flood damage along the Mississippi, Ohio, and Sacramento Rivers. Subsequent developments in the Flood Control Acts of 1928 and then 1936 gave greater prominence to flood control as a national priority, giving the US Army Corps of Engineers responsibility to design and construct flood-control projects. These acts also placed a requirement on local communities to undertake maintenance and operation of the levees.

During this era of increased flood control, Gilbert Fowler White, the “father of floodplain management,” wrote his influential book Human Adjustment to Floods , published in 1945 by the University of Chicago (White, 1945 ). White was critical of US government policy on flood risk management and the overreliance on the development of structural flood defense schemes, claiming that these were actually leading to increased losses when levees and dams were overtopped. The development of areas located in flood plains but protected by these structural systems leads to catastrophic flooding when these systems fail, as was witnessed in Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans.

In Europe, a lack of farmable land in certain countries (e.g., the Netherlands and parts of the United Kingdom) led to land reclamation schemes, resulting in large swathes of countryside and associated settlements situated below sea level and mechanically drained. In such circumstances, flood risk management is inextricably linked with pumping and drainage, and in the United Kingdom regulated by a series of drainage acts and local drainage bodies. National-scale flood risk management started with the Land Drainage Act 1930 and was further amalgamated by the act of 1961 . Massive coastal and riverine flood events in the early to mid- 20th century led to a shift in thinking towards engineered defenses and large-scale infrastructure projects, including the Thames Barrier and the extended Dutch dyke system. In recent years, the approach to flood risk management has evolved to a philosophy of living with water (Fleming, 2001 ), the concept of blue-green cities where flooding is accepted and embraced (Lawson et al., 2014 ), and the need for renewed understanding of flood resilience at a property level.

Developments in Construction and Building Technologies

The scientific study of construction and building technologies that are robust to the actions of flooding is a relatively newer field than the study of measures to predict and prevent flooding. There are several underlying causes. First, the relative perceived success of flood control measures in the developed world and the framing of property level interventions as “residual risk” with only a small contribution to integrated risk management. Second, the need to accept that floods cannot be prevented and ultimately that floodwater may damage homes despite the massive investment in flood prevention, whereas in developing countries, where flood control has been less prevalent, Hughes ( 1982 ) contends that destruction of housing during floods is an expectation and other factors (such as preservation of life) take priority. Third, different vernacular architectures and construction types requiring a much more diverse consideration of materials and methods than that required for large-scale community defenses. As a result, the development of domestic resilient construction technologies has historically been largely a parallel process carried out locally within communities using indigenous knowledge and supported by the construction industry and sometimes by small expert groups. In the low-lying regions of the Netherlands, early houses were built on dwelling mounds called terps (Beeftink, 1975 ); similar construction was practiced in the United Kingdom (e.g., Glastonbury) (Barrett, 1987 ), where individual clay mounds were constructed, and in Ireland, where crannogs of stone, earth, and wood were used (O’Sullivan, 2007 ). Later developments raised individual houses without earthworks, for example traditional stilt housing in Thailand, the Queenslander style in Australia, and raised housing in the United States and Nigeria, as shown in Figure 1 . Among other things, raising on stilts allows for free air circulation in hot and humid climates and also assists in flood avoidance. Raising on masonry or concrete yields avoidance and is often more stable in high-velocity flooding.

flood strategy case study

Figure 1. (a) Traditional stilt house in on a canal near the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand (by Ernie & Katy Newton Lawley from Bowie, MD, USA—Flickr, CC BY 2.0); (b) Flooded Queenslander style architecture in Goondiwindi, Queensland, 1921 (archive of State Library of Queensland) (c) Raised Creole Style building, downtown river corner of Esplanade & Villere Streets, New Orleans (by Infrogmation of New Orleans—Flickr, CC BY 2.0); (d) street of raised houses in Calabar, Nigeria

Often progress has been driven by the reality of experiencing flood events and the process of reconstruction after flooding, as after hurricanes Katrina (Popkin et al., 2006 ; Eamon et al., 2007 ; Coulbourne, 2012 ) and Sandy (John Ingargiola et al., 2015 ). Some research has been motivated by the need to provide better guidance to support planning restrictions in floodplains, to enable continuation of insurance, and to maintain existing communities, recognizing that they face increased flood risk due to climate change and environmental degradation. As will be demonstrated in the section on State of the Art, the research generated in the late 20th and early 21st century is being shared internationally, and a growing number of studies are emerging that are specifically aimed at understanding the action of flooding on different building types and designing improved technology to reduce future damage to buildings.

The approaches to avoid damage at an individual property level are variously described but basically categorized into three strategies: avoidance by choosing suitable locations or by designing sites or elevating buildings to avoid flooding; water exclusion, also known as dry proofing and resistance where water is prevented from entering the building by barriers and other “resistant” technology; and water entry, also known as wet proofing and resilience, where it is recognized that water will enter a building and the aim is to limit the damage and disruption from flooding.

Avoidance Technology

Of the three approaches to property level measures (avoidance, water exclusion, water acceptance), the avoidance approach is usually preferred. Elevation and landscaping is advocated as a first recourse by most research and guidance (for example Sheaffer, 1960 ; Hawkesbury-Nepean Floodplain Management Steering Committee, 2007 ; Bowker et al., 2007 ). On a given building plot, avoidance can be achieved through landscaping, drainage, and retention features and free-standing structures or barriers to prevent water reaching the building. Much of this might be considered standard construction technology or directly transferable from large-scale water engineering. Avoidance can also be achieved by elevation of the building itself through raising on pillars, extended foundation walls or raised earth structures, or flotation. In the United Kingdom, raising through extended foundation is popular sometimes with garaging underneath. This trend for developments in the floodplain to be elevated has existed for some time but has been accelerated and supported by recent planning guidance (PPG/S25). The advantages of elevation are seen as self-evident if safe access and escape can be ensured, leaving only questions around structural suitability and performance during a flood.

Where wood framed construction is common, for example in the United States and Australia, raising on pillars is more structurally viable. Riverfront/foreshore construction across the globe has often been required to be built on piles for stability on shifting soils and subject to powerful currents. US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) ( 1998 ) examined the performance of flood proofing, including elevation, and learning in the United States continued after Hurricane Katrina (van de Lindt et al., 2007 ).

An alternative avoidance technique is to create buildings that rise and fall with the water, either permanently floating or designed to float in flood conditions. Arguably avoidance via floating reduces the vulnerability of properties to windstorm damage, as they are not permanently raised and exposed to increased wind loading. Traditionally, houseboats have been a feature of river and coastal living—for example, in the Netherlands and the United States—and based on technology associated with boats. Floating houses are a logical extension from such concepts requiring new research around flotation devices (SGS Economics and Planning Pty Ltd, 2011 ) and provision of services. However, houses designed to float periodically are a more recent development, requiring studies into stability during and after flood events (English et al., 2017 ; Mohamad et al., 2012 ). Much of this underpinning research is based in the Netherlands and the United States.

Water Exclusion Technology

Water exclusion strategies, also known as resistance and dry flood proofing, are designed to keep water out of a property. Temporary measures are frequently resorted to, and sandbags and homemade flood boards are commonly used by communities to exclude water during an emergency. Sandbags and temporary measures, while they may slow ingress and damage, are neither adequate nor sustainable. In the United States, flood events, in particular the 1927 Mississippi flooding leading to the 1945 Flood Act handing responsibility to USACE, the 1961 Kansas and Missouri flooding, and the formation of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), prompted investment in research to reduce the residual impact of floods on buildings (Perkes, 2011 ). A pioneering publication is Sheaffer’s ( 1960 ) thesis on flood proofing and the ensuing 1967 guidance, and by 1972 the USACE had produced flood-proofing regulations and guidance (United States Army Corps of Engineers, 1972 ; Federal Insurance Administration, 1976 ). Canada followed suit in 1978 (Williams, 1978 ). Figure 2 shows the development of US guidance and regulation up until 2011 .

Figure 2. Development of regulation and guidance materials for resilient construction in the United States (after Perkes, 2011 ).

However, this was based on scant evidence, and the studies that followed by Pace ( 1978 , 1984 , and 1988 in Fema, 1993 ) on waterproofing walls provided improved evidence for the 1993 FEMA technical bulletins. Research on building openings again harks back to Sheaffer ( 1960 ), but this has more recently been pursued vigorously in the United Kingdom and Europe as a result of flooding in the late 1990s and 2000s starting with Ogunyoye and Van Heereveld ( 2002 ) and Elliot and Leggett ( 2002 ), assessments of existing technologies to protect openings and resulting in a proliferation of “resistant technologies” designed to keep water out. Products such as door and window guards, air brick covers, smart air bricks and non-return valves, pumps, cladding systems, plastic skirts, flood-resistant doors, and wall coatings were designed and sold, necessitating the introduction of standards and kite testing to protect property owners and occupiers from investing in substandard technology (PAS1188). Much of the early research on barrier products was conducted in-house and is too numerous to include in this chapter. However, kite mark testing has been carried out in designed facilities in the United Kingdom since 2004 (BSI, 2016 ). A recent EU-funded project also addressed the performance of flood barriers (Schinke et al., 2013 ). In the United States, Aglan et al. ( 2004 ) tested whole building construction for wood framed domestic buildings, and more recent studies by Perkes ( 2011 ) and Uddin et al. ( 2013 ) for more contemporary forms of construction. Ingress through masonry walls has also been studied in the United Kingdom by Kelman ( 2002 ), Escarameia et al. ( 2007 ), and Beddoes and Booth ( 2015 ). Work sponsored by CLG in the United Kingdom also examined floor construction technology (Escarameia et al., 2006 ) and considered the properties of insulation. Water-resistant properties of insulation has also been examined by the Smartest project (Schinke et al., 2013 ) and Perkes ( 2011 ). The consideration of tanking technology has been led in the United Kingdom by the knowledge derived from waterproofing basements, although in general the difference in hydrostatic pressure between normal groundwater and flood conditions has not been studied.

Water Entry Technology

This is also variously know as wet proofing, flood resilience, or water acceptance and involves methods and technology designed to limit the damage once water has bypassed the building envelope and entered the occupied space. This is the area least researched, specifically in the flood scenario, much of the knowledge about resilience has emerged from the studies on water exclusion as a side issue, perhaps because water entry has been seen as absolutely the last resort by the risk management and property protection community. In this area, scientific study is bounded and constrained by emotional barriers, and misconceptions and aesthetic and safety considerations can outrank building technology. Historically, this is the area of flood technology most informed by indigenous practice and flood experience. Testimonies tell us that in the past, water was simply accepted and then swept out of buildings (Rogers-Wright, 2013 ). For example, channels were provided in the floor to facilitate this in the Netherlands. However, with the increased wealth and technology housed in buildings, in building services, and in soft furnishings, the “old-fashioned” methods no longer suffice. Water entry approaches can be subdivided into avoidance, resistant, resilient, and speed of reoccupation, and a recent study identified over one hundred different interventions (Lamond et al., 2016b ). There is a large overlap with the research on reinstatement, especially in avoidance and speed of reoccupation approaches. There is also a lively debate in this field around the suitability of retrofitting modern waterproof building materials in existing (sometimes heritage or character) properties (Fidler et al., 2004 ).

The research specifically on flood resilient materials and methods has usually been a smaller part and has run alongside research on water entry under the catch-all title “flood proofing.” There is a separate branch of related research on building material properties which has been drawn on (sometimes inappropriately) that has also informed the flood-specific studies. Sheaffer is again a major starting point for the work, and FEMA issued guidance on flood resistant materials in 1993 and superseded this in 1999 (FEMA, 1999 ). Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom the Building Research Establishment also issued guidance (BRE Scottish laboratory, 1996 ). Subsequently, the ensuing experimental research in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe has progressed in parallel with Aglan’s study (Aglan et al., 2004 ) dovetailing with Escarameia et al.’s ( 2006 ) work and some laboratory studies by Wingfield et al. ( 2005 ). In Australia, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) invested some effort in various studies by Cole (for example Cole and Bradbury, 1995 , as cited in Hawkesbury-Nepean Floodplain Management Steering Committee, 2007 ). Figure 3 shows the path towards the current British Standards around property level resilience in the United Kingdom, clearly showing the influence of US research.

Figure 3. Development of research, standards, and guidance on water entry (Lamond et al., 2016b ).

Repair and Reinstatement of Flood-Damaged Property

Research into the recovery and reconstruction of property that has suffered flood damage links to the topic of resilient construction through the simple fact that, particularly in the developed world with increasing restriction on developing new buildings in areas at risk, many construction activities in areas at risk from flooding arise as a result of damage and reconstruction activities. Equally it has been observed that those most likely to prioritize resilience in buildings are those with experience of the loss and damages flood events can bring. Reconstruction, which is the demolition of damaged structures and rebuilding, can often follow design principles for initial construction as described in Jha et al. ( 2012 ). However, there may be pressure to maintain cultural heritage that leads to a similar style of buildings being constructed or even direct copies of previous structures.

In a large proportion of flood events, however, the recovery involves refurbishment of existing structures that have been partially damaged and do not need to be demolished. This is particularly the case in the United Kingdom, where structural failure due to flooding is a rare event and the majority of flood damage repair falls under the category repair or reinstatement. Under such circumstances, the property remains substantially intact, and the tendency to replace like with like regardless of the risk of future flooding is strong.

Local practice and “common sense” has informed the damage management industry. Guidance on how to recover from flooding was available as early as 1937 (United States Department of Agriculture, 1945 revised from 1937 ). However, research in this area related to the building fabric is of more recent origin and largely based in the United Kingdom, and has examined the process and technologies entailed. Key studies in this regard are the 1992 Towyn study (Welsh Consumer Council, 1992 ) and the 1998 Trading Standards report that followed the 1998 flooding in England (Warwickshire Trading Standards, 1998 ). The BRE released a guide to repair in 1997 (BRE, 1997 ). This was followed by a benchmarking study (Nicholas et al., 2001 ; Nicholas & Proverbs, 2002 ) of current practice in England and Wales that formed the basis of a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) for flood repair (Netherton, 2006 ) and a number of associated guidance documents (Proverbs & Soetanto, 2004 ). CIRIA also released guidance in 2005 (Garvin et al., 2005 ), and the notions of speeding up drying and resilient reinstatement began to be explored by researchers and industry alike (Association of British Insurers/National Flood Forum, 2006 ; Lambert, 2006 ; Escarameia et al., 2007 ). Further research on the satisfaction of insured households with claims handling and repair (Samwinga & Proverbs, 2003 ) coincided with further flood incidents where reports of uneven performance by insurers and their contractors demonstrated the difficulties of maintaining standards in time of spate (Association of British Insurers, 2007 ). The Pitt review (Pitt, 2008 ) following the 2007 flooding in England and Wales highlighted the delays in returning households to their homes. A proliferation of research at this juncture included Proverbs and Lamond ( 2008 ), Soetanto et al. ( 2008 ), Woodhead ( 2008 ), Association of British Insurers ( 2009 ), Kidd et al. ( 2010 ), and Taylor et al. ( 2010 ). In the heritage arena, advice on non-destructive repair strategies was developed (Fidler et al., 2004 ; Cassar & Hawkings, 2007 ).

A separate stream looking at the social and emotional aspects (e.g., Fernández-Bilbao & Twigger-Ross, 2009 ; Samwinga, 2009 ; Whittle et al., 2010 ) concluded that speed of recovery is an important consideration in designing repair strategies. The most recent study that considered the reinstatement process is by Lamond et al. ( 2017 ).

Much of the literature in the United States concerns environmental and contamination issues associated with flooded buildings, such as the medical dangers from mold. Curtis et al. ( 2000 ) demonstrated that fungus and bacteria were not significantly higher in previously flooded houses. Substantial work was carried out in the aftermath of Katrina where mold was more prevalent (Chew et al., 2006 ). This research has recently become more widespread—for example, ten Veldhuis et al. ( 2010 ), Taylor et al. ( 2013 ), and Johanning et al. ( 2014 )—and this has led to recommendations for recovery work.

Current State of the Art

Current thinking on flood resilient construction starts from the premise that new construction on the floodplain should be avoided where possible, following the principles of “making space for water.” Examples of planning statements that guide or restrict floodplain development include the Australian Emergency Management Institute’s handbooks (Australian Emergency Management Institute, 2013 ) and PPS25 in the United Kingdom. In the United States, the USACE/FEMA guidance predominates.

However, where buildings are permitted in the floodplain or where redevelopment, regeneration, or reinstatement activities are carried out in areas at risk from flooding, best practice is represented in guidance documents as highlighted in Figure 3 . For the United Kingdom, relevant documents are BS85500, PAS1188, BS1999, and to some extent the CIRA SuDs manual; underlying principles are laid out in PPS25.

The evidence is underpinned by knowledge of the potential impact of flooding on buildings as outlined in Kelman and Spence ( 2004 ), an understanding of properties and limitations of construction materials, structural engineering principles, and the science of water transport and flood characteristics. Nadal et al. ( 2006 ) summarizes the state of knowledge based on a combination of theoretical and empirical evidence. It is clear that construction elements, furnishings, and occupants all need to be considered from the substructure to provisions. As Kelman and Spence ( 2004 ) observed, the main flood actions on building components are:

Hydrostatic (lateral pressure and capillary rise)

Hydrodynamic (velocity, waves, turbulence)

Erosion (scour under buildings, building fabric)

Buoyancy (lifting the building)

Debris (items in the water colliding with the building)

Nonphysical actions (chemical, nuclear, biological)

Flood resilient construction seeks to minimize the impact of these actions on people and property in the event of a flood using the principles of avoidance, water exclusion, and resilience. The potential actions of flood depend on the likely source, depth, and velocity of flooding within a given area; impacts of high velocity flooding may be dominated by hydrodynamic and debris actions, whereas groundwater flooding may be dominated by hydrostatic and buoyancy actions, and therefore design should always take into account the likely flood attributes.

Local construction traditions also matter, as vernacular and contemporary architecture varies with local climate and available materials. For example, raised housing is traditionally adopted for air circulation in some hot climates and also aids flood avoidance. Therefore it is not practical to propose a generic building design which will suit all flood-prone areas, even where flood patterns are similar. Even within smaller geographical areas, it appears to be accepted by practitioners and academics that there is no simple formula that can determine appropriate adaptation approaches. General principles are offered, for example the USACE flood proofing matrix (Table 1 below), the Australian Hawkesbury-Nepean guide (Hawkesbury-Nepean Floodplain Management Steering Committee, 2007 ) and the UK guidelines (BS85500). While these are a useful starting point and are based on the available evidence, they somewhat reinforce the preference for water exclusion and categorization that is beginning to be seen as unhelpful (Lamond et al., 2016b ). While these matrices imply an either/or approach, the evidence from the field is that many buildings occupants take a more pragmatic and integrated approach. There are also many evidence gaps in the underpinning science that mean practice is often reliant on trial and error techniques.

Table 1. USACE Flood Proofing Matrix

The latest guidance on raised construction in the United States following learnings from Katrina was issued by the USACE (ASCE, 2015 ). A critical design factor is the required elevation of structures to limit the chance that flooding will exceed the designed protection. Overelevation causes unnecessary expense and exposure to wind loading, whereas underelevation increases the probability of exceedance. Elevation is usually recommended to above a probabilistic baseline flood (for example 1 in 100 year + climate change adjustment in the United Kingdom, 1 in 100 year in the FEMA guidelines) as represented by flood hazard estimation by government agencies. There is clearly the possibility that these levels will be exceeded and properties may flood, particularly if flooding becomes more intense in the future. UK research under the Technology Strategy Board’s “design for climate” project examined the current and future requirements for flood avoidance (Baca Architects et al., 2013 ), concluding that uncertainties around future flood risk may render elevated properties more vulnerable than current estimates suggest. The use of the sub-floor space is also a matter for debate. Where this space may be used for garaging or storage, the potential for assets to be destroyed remains. Insurers pay out on loss of motor vehicles due to flooding instead of contents. Furthermore, the items stored may become damaging debris, and structural damage to the raised elevation may ensue.

Flexibly floating houses have the prima facie advantage of rising flexibly above the maximum flood with little increased cost and no increased wind exposure. In practice, however, there will be limitations set by the guidance and tethering mechanisms as well as from attached services.

Concerns around access to raised housing (see examples in Figure 4 ) during a flood event for emergency services has led to regulation in the United Kingdom that ensures access is provided (Baca Architects et al., 2013 ).

flood strategy case study

Figure 4. Examples of raised construction in England

Property Level Flood Resilience Technology and Design

Moving away from the water exclusion/water entry dichotomy, the concept of property level flood resilience combines the means to limit the amount of water entering a building (where sensible) and approaches that limit damage where water does enter the building envelope, as illustrated in the diagram (Figure 5 ). This is a concept gaining acceptance in the United Kingdom in recognition that a hybrid approach is often the most pragmatic one. As many UK floods are reasonably shallow, slow in onset, and of relatively short duration, water exclusion is often possible and water entry can be controlled.

The decision about whether to attempt to exclude water from a building is informed by the likely structural consequences in creating increased hydrostatic load due to differences in water levels inside and outside a building. This has been studied In the United Kingdom by Kelman (Kelman, 2002 ) for masonry structures and in the United States for wooden construction (Aglan et al., 2004 ). Such research has led to recommended limits to the water exclusion approach, depending on construction type, varying from 0.3 m to 1 m. However, the research does not cover sufficient types of construction, and further testing of construction stability is warranted. If water is to be allowed in for structural stability reasons, then a plan to allow or control flow to ensure rapid equalization of levels may be needed; scant research or guidance exists on this approach.

Other circumstances that may reduce the effectiveness of the water exclusion approach include: groundwater flooding, although it may be possible to create a water resistant flooring system that excludes it, albeit structural considerations may make this undesirable (Bowker et al., 2007 ); fast onset flooding, which may limit the time for measures to be deployed; high-velocity flooding, where hydrodynamic forces may cause structural issues at lower depths; long-duration flooding, since most walls will allow water through eventually unless steps are taken to treat the wall surface (Beddoes & Booth, 2015 ); attached property, where an adjoining structure that has a different approach to limiting damage is of different construction or is at a different elevation; historic/character properties, where there may be constraints on the type of measures acceptable for use (Historic England/Pickles et al., 2015 ); occupant considerations, where both the capacity and preferences are important (JBA, 2012 ); nonstandard construction; poor-quality/porous brick and poorly maintained structures.

Excluding water requires the consideration of multiple entry points: windows and doors, floor voids (particularly suspended floors), cracks or gaps in walls, air vents or air bricks (designed for ventilation), service ducts and pipes, toilets and drains, or seepage through floors (particularly earth or stone floors where there is no damp-proof membrane). In addition, the quality of building components is critical, as failure of any one element can compromise the whole design.

Figure 5. Graphic illustrating combined resistance and resilience measures (Dhonau & Rose, 2016 ).

Aperture technology has evolved from simple wooden boards held up by sandbags to an industry creating innovative, ready-made door guards, smart air bricks, non-return valves, etc. These products have been subjected to laboratory testing, particularly in the United Kingdom as a result of the establishment of kite mark standards defining the acceptable leakage rates of barriers (BSI, 2016 ).

In short-duration flooding, blocking apertures may be sufficient, but in long-duration flooding water will potentially permeate through the building fabric itself. This has led to the increased use of “tanking” technology to increase the water tightness of walls, led in the United Kingdom by the knowledge derived from waterproofing basements. Membranes and assemblages to improve water-tightness of walls have also been tested in the United Kingdom by Escarameia and Tagg (Escarameia et al., 2006 ) and in the United States, showing that combinations involving sprayed and sheet-applied water-resistant membranes, insulated concrete formwork, and metal structural insulated panels were suitable to exclude water up to 1 m (Perkes, 2011 ). Work has also been carried out by CSIRO in Australia and by Branz in New Zealand. Further research in the United Kingdom on Silane-based products show that coating walls and regrouting with admixtured grout can reduce ingress to levels that can be controlled and expelled by pumps (Beddoes & Booth, 2015 ).

Once water enters the building, a wide range of building elements, fixtures, and fittings become vulnerable to damage. Approaches to limit damage (as illustrated in Figure 6 ) within a building mirror building-level approaches, avoidance, water-resistant materials, water-resilient materials, and speedy recovery (Lamond et al., 2016a ). The efficacy of avoidance measures is self-evident, subject to the height to which building elements, fixtures, and contents may be raised. Items may be permanently raised above the height of expected flooding—for example, electrical sockets, wall-mounted cabinets, meters, control panels and boilers, etc. Dropping electrical services from above and isolating circuits likely to be affected from the rest of the wiring are in line with current electrical practice, and modern cabling and piping within walls and floors are usually well protected (Lamond et al., 2016a ).

Alternatively, items such as carpets and reasonably lightweight furniture may be moved in anticipation of an impending flood, if a suitably high storage space is available or one that can be raised temporarily on trestles. In these circumstances, construction should allow for ease of removal (e.g., easy-remove hinges for doors and cabinet doors) and also allow easy access to upper levels for removal (avoiding steep, narrow, and winding staircases).

Research on Water Resistant and Resilient Materials

Advice on the properties of materials in relation to flooding is provided in some guidance; for example, the Hawkesbury-Nepean guidance (Hawkesbury-Nepean Floodplain Management Steering Committee, 2007 ) contains tables of material absorbency and of suitability of materials for 96-hour immersion. This information is based on research carried out in the 1990s by Cole for CSIRO. This information is also provided by UK publications (Bowker et al., 2007 ) based on work carried out for CLG in 2003–2005 .

Research on materials subject to hydrostatic pressure, which might be experienced during deep flooding, demonstrates that the porosity of construction materials can affect both ingress and drying properties. Properties can be constructed of materials such as engineered bricks in an effort to limit water ingress into and through walls (Escarameia et al., 2006 ). Different types of plaster and plasterboard have also been studied. The instability of gypsum-based plasters is well documented, as they absorb large quantities of water and are vulnerable to deterioration and salt transport (Environment Agency & CIRIA, 2001 ; Bowker, 2002 ; Drdácký, 2010 ). Therefore, lime-based or cement-based alternatives are often recommended. However, gypsum is quick to dry out and may be suitable in circumstances where short-duration floods are expected. Solid plaster directly applied to walls or on battens on top of masonry represents an example of a traditional construction method that is increasingly being replaced by alternatives such as “dry lining” with pre-prepared boards made of gypsum and a light layer of skimming plaster. Standard gypsum boards suffer from similar issues to gypsum plaster (Lambert, 2006 ; Escarameia et al., 2007 ). However, an increasing range of moisture- and water-resistant boards are available, and some have been tested for performance under flood conditions. Aglan et al. ( 2004 , 2014 ) found that water-resistant boards (Fiberock) were suitable for floods of up to three days’ duration. “Splash proof” board (Fermacell) was found to resist water penetration by Escarameia et al. ( 2006 ), although it was distorted due to hydrostatic pressure. Cement-based boards and fully waterproof boards (for example, made of magnsium oxide) have been recommended by professionals but no independent testing evidence is yet available (Lamond et al., 2016a ).

The role of insulation materials in property level resilience is complicated, because it is often inaccessible, being situated within the cavity, under floor structure, or behind other finishes. Therefore it is important for insulation to retain integrity when flooded and not slump within a cavity, dry quickly and retain thermal performance, and not impede drying of adjacent materials. Experimental evidence and experience suggest that fiberglass, mineral fiber (aka mineral wool/rock wool/stone wool), and blown-in mica can slump and degrade during wetting (Escarameia et al., 2006 ). Although recent tests on mineral batt insulation shows that it can dry out without degradation when sufficiently supported and drained (Sanders, 2014 ), it is slow to dry out, particularly within a cavity. Closed-cell insulation is more rigid and is therefore often recommended, but there are very few tests that demonstrate the post-flood thermal performance. Waterproof insulation materials have been tested (Technitherm), and as they can be demonstrated to resist penetration by floodwater, their thermal integrity is retained (Gabalda et al., 2012 ; CORDIS, 2015 ). Considerations of insulation and drying are covered in the section on repair and reinstatement.

flood strategy case study

Figure 6. Examples of resilient materials in situ: a) Marine Ply Kitchen has survived a flood, tiled floor; b) hydraulic lime plaster with salt resistant additive over a wire mesh to provide air gap; c) Concrete floor with removable carpet tiles, sump and pump to control flow; d) Tiled floor and well-seasoned, varnished, and painted hardwood stairs and skirting has survived several floods.

Timber is another commonly used building material that under some circumstances can be regarded as highly resilient. Solid, dense, and well-seasoned wood building elements, fittings, and furniture can survive inundation (Lambert, 2006 ; O’Leary, 2014 ; Lamond et al., 2016b ). But more modern, lighter-density, and fast-treated wood is less resilient; such wood can be made more resilient by surface treatment with varnish and paints on all surfaces and renewed as necessary.

Composite wood products, for example paneling and veneers and MDF/particleboard, are not regarded as resilient, with the exception of highest-grade marine ply (e.g., compliant with BS1088). The type of timber framing used in modern UK buildings requires specialist treatment, and panels will usually need to be removed for restoration after a flood.

Table 2 shows an example of guidance helpful in selecting suitable materials for long-duration flooding (over 96 hours’ immersion). This demonstrates how the research can be made highly relevant in assisting competent building professionals in selecting materials and assemblages. However, it needs to be considered in a whole-building context and also in the light of occupant capacity and preference, availability, and cost of materials and skilled workers and the reinstatement protocols that may be followed in the event of a flood.

Table 2. Example of guidance for selecting materials suitable for 96-hour immersion (adapted from Hawkesbury-Nepean Floodplain Management Steering Committee, 2007 ).

SUITABLE: these materials or products are relatively unaffected by submersion and flood exposure and are the best available for the particular application .

MILD EFFECTS: these materials or products suffer only mild effects from flooding and are the next best choice if the most suitable materials or products are too expensive or unavailable.

MARKED EFFECTS: these materials or products are more liable to damage under flood than the above category.

SEVERE EFFECTS: these materials or products are seriously affected by floodwaters and have to be replaced if inundated.

Resilient Repair and Considerate Reinstatement

As an alternative or as a complement to designing a property to be resilient, it has to be recognized that when a flood event occurs there will be a need to dry, clean, and perhaps repair the affected buildings as quickly and sympathetically as possible. The trauma faced by flood-affected occupants is well documented (Whittle & Medd, 2011 ), and the desire to return quickly after a flood is widespread (Soetanto et al., 2008 ). Faster recovery can even limit psycho-social symptoms from flooding (Lamond et al., 2015 ). Considerate reinstatement as advocated by Woodhead ( 2011 ) and the sensitive and professional handling of the recovery process are represented in guidance such as PAS64.

Fast and effective drying of flooded buildings is therefore a key criterion in recovery, and the avoidance of trapped water, slow-drying material, or water vapor between building layers and behind finishes is desirable. The potential exists for secondary damage to occur if drying is delayed or badly controlled, and therefore the choice of resilience approaches should be contextualized within a recovery/reinstatement plan.

Resilient materials that are slow to dry out—for example, lime plasters (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2003 )—can slow recovery, even though they can be retained. Solid plaster of any kind that remains in situ has the potential to slow the drying of the underlying masonry (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2003 ), so to avoid delay the option of removing the plaster, an air-gap method such as plastering over a metal mesh, can be considered (Sheaffer, 1960 ).

Another consideration in the retention of resilient materials is the need to decontaminate them. There is very little evidence available on the scale of the contamination issue in a post-flood situation. However, professionals generally should provide drying and decontamination certificates (PAS64), and biocidal cleaning agents are widely available for occupants to use if professionals are not required for other purposes. Heat-assisted and speed-drying techniques can accelerate the reinstatement of property, and there are a wide variety of specialized tools to aid cleaning and drying and to access voids where water may be trapped. In planning a resilient property scheme, it may be important to select materials that will not be damaged by the cleaning and drying processes. However, there is very little research into the impacts of cleaning and drying that can guide building occupants in these choices.

Future Developments in Flood Resilient Construction and Adaptation

It is clear from the above that the materials and technology to create and retrofit properties that are more resilient to flooding already exist. However, the adoption of such measures is limited by a number of factors, underlying which are important limitations that indicate the need for future developments in resilient technologies and construction (Proverbs & Lamond, 2008 ).

Recommended adaptations are often rejected on aesthetic or familiarization grounds because they make properties look different (Harries, 2008 ; Thurston et al., 2008 ) or are designed to be functional without adequate consideration of good design. In the United Kingdom, recently developed flood doors are designed to look more conventional and potentially enhance the appearance of homes. Further development of flood resilience technology that enhances the aesthetic appeal of adapted property would support uptake of measures.

Cost of adaptation is also a consideration (Thurston et al., 2008 ). Future developments that reduce cost or that offer other aesthetic or functional advantages may also reduce the barriers to uptake (Lamond et al., 2017 ). For example, better understanding of the link between resilient insulation and thermal tightness might lead to the development of multi-purpose flood resilience products or protocols.

Performance standards for resistance products exist, at least in the United Kingdom, but performance standards for resilient materials and designed schemes are not available. Lack of confidence in the performance of measures is a barrier to uptake, and therefore future developments should aim to establish standards or performance indicators to enhance belief that measures will limit damage and reduce disruption.

Breathability is also a major consideration that limits the specification of measures by professionals concerned not to create moisture issues inside properties. Further developments in technology may need to build on the vapor-permeable coatings already existing (Beddoes & Booth, 2015 ). Mold inhibition through biocides or assemblages that can be easily dismantled for cleaning and drying are alternative routes to circumvent moisture trap problems.

As kitchens are typically the costliest area damaged in domestic flood incidents, there is further scope to develop the science and resilience of white goods and appliances. The design of kitchens that can easily be adapted or protected is useful. Practical steps using off-the-shelf products can make real improvements to the resilience of kitchens. Again, recent research involving flood-affected communities has highlighted the importance of aesthetic considerations, as people prefer to keep to norms in design and appearance.

Lastly, much of the discussion here and in the literature generally relates to traditional construction types typical for residential and small business premises. A greater focus on modern construction types and commercial premises will be needed in order to meet adaptation challenges in the 2020s and beyond.


Increasingly, flood resilient construction has become an important component of an integrated approach to flood risk management. This largely underresearched area has become more important in recent years due to development pressures and planning regulations and a general acceptance of the need to live with flooding. The design and construction of new buildings as well as the adaptation or retrofit of existing buildings to make them resilient to flooding can play an important part in mitigating the damage caused by flooding and in speeding up the recovery process. The concepts and principles of flood resilient construction date back centuries, but the scientific study of construction and building technologies in this context is a much more recent development, prompted by a growing realization that flooding cannot be prevented, the advancements in building technologies and materials, and the development of property level resilience and resistance measures.

Flood resilient construction strategies are categorized into three types as avoidance, water exclusion, and water entry, with the avoidance approach being the most commonly adopted, mainly through elevation and landscaping systems. Other approaches include buildings that are designed to permanently float or to float in flood conditions. Water exclusion involves steps to keep water out of a property, and recent interest in this has led to the development of many new products designed to be installed at the individual property level. Water entry technology or flood resilience approaches which assume water will enter the occupied space is an underresearched area, but one that is gaining interest, especially in the United Kingdom, due to the nature of flooding and the vernacular characteristics of buildings which lend themselves to this approach.

Advancements in the domain of flood repair and reinstatement have been witnessed especially in the United Kingdom, where much research followed the critical Pitt Report. This has led to the introduction of more guidance and the development of standards which have improved our understanding and raised awareness. Increased recognition of the importance of the repair and reinstatement process has given rise to the need to dry and restore buildings as quickly as possible. The need to avoid materials that can take a long time to dry out and the avoidance of water traps and the need to decontaminate materials have also been highlighted.

The state of the art in flood resilient construction stems from the principle that construction on the flood plain should be avoided wherever possible, in line with “making space for water.” However, despite planning restrictions and guidance, other developmental pressures, and the desire to be close to waterways, result in many buildings still being constructed within floodplains. Flood resilient construction is therefore needed to minimize the impacts of the main flood actions on buildings, including hydrostatic pressures and damages caused by debris and erosion. The emergence of a hybrid approach to flood resilience which restricts the amount of water entering a building while limiting the damage caused by water that does enter is gaining recognition, especially in Europe. This hybrid approach involves a combination of water exclusion measures together with some resilience measures to address the residual risk. Developments in the technologies and products designed to keep water out of buildings have advanced significantly, and standards are now in place to provide some assurance of the efficacy of these to the extent that they are now becoming more commonplace. There has been much research around the properties of materials under the effects of water, and this has led to a better understanding of the need to consider material specification as part of the overall strategy. This includes materials such as plaster, dry lining, water tanking, insulation, and timber, with guidance now available to help select materials.

Future developments in the field of flood resilient construction and adaptation have been highlighted; they include the need to develop a better understanding of the preferences of property owners and the need to develop more affordable solutions. The importance of resilient construction is likely to continue to increase with the demands for new housing, increased likelihood of flooding, and continuing urbanization. There is much scope for further research to improve the science around materials and new technologies as well as some of the less technical themes linked to behaviors and preferences of property owners. A more scientific understanding to the measurement of resilience at the property level would help to gauge improvements and understanding around residual risk and the likely costs and disruption to be expected.

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  • v.11(2); 2019

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An assessment of flood vulnerability and adaptation: A case study of Hamutsha-Muungamunwe village, Makhado municipality

Rendani b. munyai.

1 Department of Geography and Geo-Information Sciences, University of Venda, Thohoyandou, South Africa

Agnes Musyoki

Nthaduleni s. nethengwe, associated data.

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.

This study assesses flood vulnerability, levels of vulnerability, determinants of flood vulnerability and coping strategies for flood hazards. The vulnerability and resilience of the local communities are key concepts in this study. Most households are vulnerable to flood hazards. It is therefore important to measure their levels of vulnerability and assess their responses for current and future planning. A flood vulnerability index was used to measure the extent of flood vulnerability. Key informant interviews, field surveys and household questionnaires were used to collect the data. The results show that vulnerability to flood in this community is determined by the nature of soil, dwelling type, employment, education and amount of rainfall in a season. Social and economic components scored higher than the physical environment, while social factors are higher than the economic factors. Contextual coping strategies in this community were temporary relocation, evacuation to a safe area and waiting for government and neighbours to help. The study recommends that public awareness campaigns, early warning systems and improved disaster management strategies must take into consideration differentiated levels of vulnerability and community coping mechanisms and preferences.


Floods are among the most devastating natural hazards and cost many lives every year (Dilley et al. 2005 :43). To reduce the damage of floods, both structural measures, such as the building of dams and dikes, and non-structural measures, such as forecasting and education, are often employed (Jelmer 2013 :1). Drogue et al. ( 2004 :355) postulated that the frequency of floods has been rising every year. An increase in the frequency of floods resulted in loss of people’s lives, damage to property and infrastructure, as well as the destruction of the natural environment.

The number of people at risk has been growing each year and the majority are in developing countries with high poverty levels, making them more vulnerable to disasters (UN/ISDR 2004 :95). However, communities and societies have specific ways of responding to floods, which has resulted in various ways of coping with the flood phenomenon. Cardona ( 2003 :7) noted that individuals and communities are differently exposed and are vulnerable to floods because of the socio-economic factors, such as wealth, education, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, class, disability and health status. This is because flood vulnerability and adaptations are firmly related to the context of the natural environment and socio-economic factors of a specific area. The assessment of both vulnerability and adaptation are of great importance globally.

In South Africa, the annual risk of flooding is 83.3% and the level of vulnerability is high because of economic factors and geographical location (Zuma et al. 2012 :127). According to Prevention Web (PRW 2011 ), ‘[i]n Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, the North-West and Limpopo provinces of South Africa; 77 flood disaster events were recorded in between 1980 and 2010’. This means that of all natural hazards, floods are the most frequently experienced disaster. Losses have been experienced by various communities around the world because of floods. Flood hazard is not only a local or regional issue but also a global issue, which should be planned and prepared for at international, national, provincial and local levels. Every year the World Health Organization (WHO) records various events of flood disasters in various regions of the world.

Floods can be caused by the natural environment through heavy rainfall, storms and cyclones, yet human activities such as development and settlement planning are key attributes. Nevertheless, climate change has become one of the important causes of floods, as it is believed that the rise in global temperatures will result in severe floods in several regions of the world. These changes are associated with the variability of weather and climate, such as the El-Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

The aim of this study was to assess flood vulnerability and adaptation strategies of the Hamutsha-Muungamunwe rural community. To achieve the objective, the study set out to answer the following research questions: ‘what are the contextual determinants of flood vulnerability?’, ‘what is the extent of flood vulnerability?’ and ‘how do communities cope with floods in Hamutsha-Muungamunwe village?’

This study adopted the conceptual framework of Turner et al. ( 2003 :3), which illustrates that vulnerability is a function of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity (see Figure 1 ).

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Object name is JAMBA-11-692-g001.jpg

The conceptual framework of Turner et al.

Exposure, sensitivity and resilience are the key factors of vulnerability. Exposure refers to the alteration of the operational system, operating out of its normality operation. Judy et al. ( 2011 :6) stated that it is the state and change in external stresses that a system is exposed to. The system is now predisposed to harm; these are also the present natural conditions and societal aspects.

Susceptibility is the potential or the likelihood of a hazard to have impacts in the system. According to Samuels et al. ( 2009 :1), susceptibility is the probability of negative consequences of floods to the environment and society. Both socio-economic and the natural environments might be susceptible to a hazard. Resilience is the capacity of a community to adapt to changes in a hazardous area by modifying itself to achieve an acceptable structural and functional level (Galderisi et al. 2005 ). This means that the system must bounce back after disturbances, that is, the ability to retain the operation and function of the system is resilient.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2007 :881), ‘[S]ensitivity refers to the degree to which a system is affected, adversely or beneficially, by a given exposure’. Socio-economic and environmental systems have different sensitivities. Sensitiveness is mostly concerned with impacts of floods. A system can be sensitive to direct (physical) impacts (e.g. a given change in rainfall which affects the water supply of a city) and indirect (socio-economic) impacts (e.g. age structure of a population which influences the degree to which mortality increases during a heatwave) (Judy et al. 2011 :6).

Vulnerability is therefore the degree to which a system is susceptible and unable to cope with adverse effects of climate change (IPCC 2007 :21). Adaptation is the adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities (IPCC 2007 :867). Literally, the definition of flood vulnerability is firmly rooted in how people or societies are likely to be affected by flood phenomena – that is, the sensitivity of the community or people to flooding considering the socio-economic, environmental and physical components. These components can be understood through an assessment of flood vulnerability components and factors.

Flood vulnerability is influenced by personal or group characteristics in terms of their capacity to anticipate and cope with the impacts of flood (Scoones 1998 :8). Vulnerability quantifies the associated risks within the context of environmental and socio-economic capacity to adapt to flood events. Different social groups or classes within a society are differentially at risk, both in terms of probability of occurrence of an extreme flood event and helping different classes to recover (Cardona 2003 ; Nethengwe 2007 :2). Ngie ( 2012 :52) postulates that for vulnerability to exist, the capacity of the population to absorb, respond and recover from the impacts must be taken into consideration. This study therefore assessed the vulnerability of a community in a rural setting – Hamutsha-Muungamunwe community in the Vhembe district of the Limpopo province.

Methods and materials

Qualitative and quantitative research designs were implemented in this study. Qualitative methods seek to better understand respondents’ own perceptions of vulnerability and capacities to cope with and adapt to possible threatening climatic events, as opposed to quantitative modes of inquiry (Jean-Baptiste et al. 2010 :48). In quantitative research, the design is more deterministic in methodological approaches with fixed basics, determining what strategy or design the research should implement.

The target population included community leaders and members of the Vhembe District Disaster Risk Management Centre who were purposively selected. The total number of households was 810, and 60 were sampled through systematic random sampling and questionnaires were administered. Qualitative key informant interviews, questionnaires and field observations were used to collect the data. The key informant interviews were held with two community leaders and one member of the Disaster Management Centre. Babbie and Mouton ( 2001 :476) postulated that the basic objective of a questionnaire is to obtain facts and opinions about a phenomenon from people who are informed on a specific issue. The questionnaire covered flood vulnerability determinants; indicators of flood vulnerability; impacts of flood on socio-economic status such as education, agriculture, health, infrastructure, housing and properties and water. Census (2011) provided useful information on flood vulnerability indicators such as population density, total population, types of sanitation and dwelling types. Meanwhile, the South African Weather Service (SAWS) provided rainfall data.

Data were entered into an Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) spreadsheet wherein cross-tabulation was performed to interlink various variables in order to deduce any relationships between them. Descriptive statistics were applied (mostly frequencies) to enable the comparison of results either in percentages or in frequencies. The data were then grouped and presented in the form of tables, charts (bar or pie) and bar graphs.

A flood vulnerability index (FVI) was applied to measure the extent of flood vulnerability. The FVI method uses three factors of flood vulnerability, namely, exposure (E), susceptibility (S) and resilience (R). Exposure and susceptibility positively influence vulnerability, whereas resilience negatively influences vulnerability. Because of exposure, susceptibility and resilience have an influence on flood vulnerability. Indicators belonging to exposure and susceptibility increase the FVI; therefore, they are placed in the numerator. Indicators belonging to resilience decrease the FVI; therefore, they are placed in the denominator (Quang et al. 2012 :103).

There are four major components of flood vulnerability, namely, social, economic, environmental and physical components. The three factors of vulnerability index are aligned with the components to reveal indicators. The general formula for FVI is calculated by classifying the components into three groups of indicators, namely, exposure, susceptibility and resilience (Balica et al. 2012 :68). The formula for FVI is as follows:

where E is exposure, S is susceptibility and R is resilience.

Pilot surveys, questionnaires, key informant interviews, Census 2011 and field observations were useful sources of indicators. The first aspect in the selection of an indicator was the provision of predetermined indicators, such as the level of income, type of house and questionnaires. Predetermined indicators were adopted from the study of Balica ( 2012 :53). These indicators were then reviewed and merged to suit the study area. Table 1 presents the analysis and interpretation of the FVI. The index gives a number from 0 to 1, signifying low or high flood vulnerability.

Interpretation of flood vulnerability index.

Source: Balica et al. ( 2012 ).

Factors that determine flood vulnerability

Five factors that determine flood vulnerability are identified in Hamutsha-Muungamunwe village. These include the nature of soil, dwelling type, employment status, education and rainfall. All these factors were ranked according to their importance by using a five-point ranking scale, from most important to second, third, fourth and least important. The nature of the soil was ranked as the most important factor, followed by dwelling types. Respondents’ rankings were influenced by the collapsed and cracking of their houses that occurred during the flood event. The majority of respondents have experienced house collapse (see Figure 2 ). Employment status was ranked third, while education was ranked fourth and rainfall was ranked as the least important factor in determining flood vulnerability.

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Object name is JAMBA-11-692-g002.jpg

(b & c) Collapsed houses and (a & d) cracks in Hamutsha-Muungamunwe village.

Source: (a - b) Photographs taken by Rendani B. Munyai, at Hamutsha-Muungamunwe village, unkown date, published with permission from Rendani B. Munyai

The extent of flood vulnerability

Flood vulnerability index was applied to the Hamutsha-Muungamunwe community to measure the extent of their vulnerability to floods. Table 2 shows all indicators selected, components, factors of flood vulnerability, function and relationship with flood vulnerability. Fourteen indicators were identified from household level; the researcher used a deductive approach adopted from Balica ( 2012 :58) and Jelmer ( 2013 :8).

Vulnerability indicators, components, factors and relationship with vulnerability.

CH, cultural heritage; WS, warning system; FI, flood insurance.

where A/P: awareness/preparedness; ED: education level/literacy; PD: population density; CH: cultural heritage; EM: emergency service; and WS: warning system.

where UM: unemployment rate; QDI: quality of dwellings or infrastructure; LU: land use; FI: flood insurance; DSC: dam and storage capacity.

where FO: frequency of flood occurrence; T: topography; HR: heavy rainfall; and DSC: dam and storage capacity.

The FVI results of Hamutsha-Muungamunwe village are presented in Table 3 . Social and economic components scored higher vulnerability to floods than the physical environment, whereas social factors are specifically higher than economic factors in terms of vulnerability. This means that socially Hamutsha-Muungamunwe community has a very high vulnerability to floods. This is because of the high population density, lack of early warning systems for flood and poor or slow emergency services. Economically, Hamutsha-Muungamunwe community has a ‘high to very high’ vulnerability to floods. The physical environment contributes the least, with ‘small vulnerability to floods’ because of fewer days of heavy precipitation and plain landscape.

Hamutsha-Muungamunwe flood vulnerability index results.

FVI, flood vulnerability index.

Coping strategies

Considering all impacts of floods, all coping strategies were assessed. Figure 3 presents the coping strategies implemented against floods. The most preferred coping strategy was temporarily relocating, as confirmed by 44% of respondents. The second coping strategy was relying on neighbours and government help to withstand flood impacts, as indicated by 32% of respondents. The third strategy was evacuation, which was stated by 20% of the respondents. The remaining 4% of respondents stated other strategies, including making a small furrow to redirect flood water and planting lawn grass in and around the constructed houses.

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Object name is JAMBA-11-692-g003.jpg

Coping strategies adopted by the community in Hamutsha-Muungamunwe.

In this section, we discuss the flood vulnerability determinants, namely, nature of the soil, dwelling type, employment status, education and amount of rainfall. These determinants do not function independently but are interconnected with each other. Pelling ( 1997 :202) found that income level, dwelling type, health and resource accessibility are factors that determined flood vulnerability in Georgetown, Guyana. However, the result of this study is different because instead of income level, health and resources accessibility as the determinants of flood vulnerability, the nature of soil, employment, education and rainfall were apparent. The only similarity is the presence of dwelling type; however, it was ranked as the second important factor determining flood vulnerability in this community.

The nature of soil is identified as the most important factor determining flood vulnerability in Hamutsha-Muungamunwe village. This is because of the dominance of clayey soils in this area. The topsoil is composed of sand, while the bottom part is clay and can hold water preventing any permeability process to take place. The exposure to flood is also directly related with flood flow (Karmaka et al. 2010 :129). Clayey soil influences the probability of flood occurrence and vulnerability of people to floods. More permeable soil has more infiltration capacity and therefore reduces surface run-off, whereas less permeable soil has less infiltration capacity and is more prone to water logging (Grosshans et al. 2005 :40). The findings of this study revealed similarities with the study conducted by Karmaka et al. ( 2010 :129), where the nature of the soil was found as one of the major factors determining vulnerability to floods. A small downpour of rain can cause floods because of the nature of soil in this area.

Studies conducted by Balica ( 2012 ), Jelmer ( 2013 ) and Samuels et al. ( 2009 ) showed that rainfall and education level rankings are among the most important factors that determine flood vulnerability; however, in this study, they are found the least. This proves that vulnerability is rooted within the context of the socio-economic characteristics and the physical environment. The study of flood vulnerability should not be generalised because findings of a certain area might not be relevant to another area. The Hamutsha-Muungamunwe community should be aware of the nature of soils in their area and this should always be considered always in any construction and settlement processes. It also applies to the type of dwelling that should be built in this area because a poor type of dwelling increases the vulnerability to hazards.

Social factors influenced the vulnerability to floods more than economic and physical environments. The total vulnerability of the study community is within the parameter of ‘high vulnerability to floods’. Even though social factors increase vulnerability than both economic and physical environments, there is sufficient evidence to recognise the contribution of economic factors in their vulnerability because the value of FVI social is 0.801, while the value of FVI economy is 0.752. This means that socio-economically, this area is highly vulnerable to floods.

However, the incorporation of flood vulnerability designations is probably the most difficult of all variables to include in the vulnerability index (Balica et al. 2012 :45). A very high vulnerability to floods is associated with high extreme potential for loss in both the socio-economic and physical environments. This kind of vulnerability can also result in catastrophic phenomenon. High vulnerability indicates that there is high potential for damage to properties and loss of life, and this is normally based on the indicator of the lack of flood warning system. High vulnerability is assigned to a case where there is a high chance for loss of life, while medium vulnerability is allocated in a case where medium potential of harm to people’s lives and properties is apparent. A small vulnerability is assigned if there is only small potential of harm and damage to the socio-economy of a place, while very small vulnerability is concerned with a very small potential damage and harm upon various systems within a particular place. These losses and damages occur in both the socio-economy and the physical environment. The existence of quantifiable data is important for flood vulnerability measurement.

The high vulnerability of Hamutsha-Muungamunwe village is closely associated with the community’s capacity to cope with floods; however, poverty also plays a significant role.

From the above discussion, it is clear that vulnerability is not only a physical condition but also that people are significantly exposed to hazards socially. The most critical part about these socio-economic characteristics is that they are very contextual (Balica 2012 :68). Vulnerability of a certain place cannot be generalised to other settings; otherwise, the results will be misleading.

Balica et al. ( 2012 :14) found that social and economic components are more significant than the physical environmental component, which is similar to the findings of our study. This reveals that levels of social and economic vulnerability are important because of the ability of these factors in assisting people to resist and return to their normal state of operations. Stronger socio-economic characteristics of a specific area influence better resilience to floods. However, the similarities between the findings of these two studies do not mean that every FVI would result in higher social and economic indices than the physical environmental factor. This is because flood vulnerability is rooted within the parameter of scale and time, and it is dynamic to change in space, time and place (Balica et al. 2012 :74).

The main problem associated with these indicators as listed in the literature is the availability of the data. Groundwater level was not included in this study, although significant, because of their unavailability. Any future studies would have to take them into consideration. This study found that exposure, susceptibility and resilience influence flood vulnerability in the study area.

Various coping strategies were assessed based on the respondents’ capability of living and resisting floods. Socio-economic characteristics of the respondents play a key role in determining their ability and capacity to respond during flood events. Various studies have identified different coping strategies; for example, Ngie ( 2012 :62) found that relocating to a safer area and evacuation were the most practised coping strategies in the study that was conducted in Diepsloot. The present study has similarities with Ngie’s finding because it revealed that evacuation and relocation are part of the coping strategies in Hamutsha-Muungamunwe community. In addition to similar findings, ‘waiting for government and neighbours to help’ was also part of the coping strategies practised in this community.

High rate of unemployment and low income among the respondents have contributed to the lack of resilience of Hamutsha-Muungamunwe community. This is because resource availability influences the level of resilience and recovery. Adequate resources lead to lower vulnerability, whilst a lack of them makes people more exposed and vulnerable to floods because it would take a long period for people to recover from damage. Temporary relocation was the most adopted coping strategy because of good communication and interconnection between neighbours and relatives. This coping strategy is rooted within the parameter of relationships between people, meaning that where there is a lack of communication and interconnection, this coping strategy is not possible. A person cannot temporarily relocate to a neighbour’s or relative’s house without any good relations with them.

However, some respondents prefer to wait for the government and neighbours to help. This is unadvisable because the municipality has insufficient resources for recovery and responses during flood events. Sometimes they are unable to access relief funds because of a lack of capacity for assessing flood impacts to lodge a declaration of disaster with the National Centre for Disaster Management. The majority of the respondents therefore did not receive any help from the municipality. With the very high vulnerability to floods by the community, there is a need to develop a strong resilience system to meet these high levels of vulnerability to flood.

Tsi-Hamutsha, a community organisation, helps in recovery and response. The critical point is that few respondents have interacted with this organisation. Most of the members rely on neighbours and relatives for relocation when their houses collapsed and inform the community leader. Even though the organisation is not made specifically for flood support, it is quite helpful because most of the respondents are not aware of other disaster risk management options available to them.

Conclusion and recommendation

The main objective of this article was to assess flood vulnerability and adaptation strategies of Hamutsha-Muungamunwe village. The findings articulated the following factors that determine flood vulnerability, in order of importance: soil nature, dwelling type, employment status, education and amount of rainfall. The present socio-economic characteristics of Hamutsha-Muungamunwe village have influenced the vulnerability of this area. The findings also revealed that this area is socially, economically and environmentally vulnerable to floods at different levels. Meanwhile, the physical and environmental components have minor contribution in the vulnerability of this area to floods. The overall finding of Hamutsha-Muungamunwe village’s vulnerability to flood indicated that the area has high vulnerability to floods. The main reason of this high vulnerability to floods is the lack of resilience.

There are many coping strategies that the community is using and intends to use against floods. Of all the identified strategies, temporary relocation to safer places such as houses of relatives and neighbours, doing nothing and waiting for neighbours and government to help and evacuating to a safer area were among the most practised coping strategies.

To build resilience against floods, the following initiatives are recommended:

  • There is a need for public awareness campaigns, particularly the development of efficient early warning systems. The availability of an early flood warning system will assist households in the expansion of their knowledge. Indigenous knowledge systems should be taken into consideration when developing these systems.
  • The community needs to develop strong collaboration with traditional leaders, municipal officials, Makhado municipality, Vhembe district and households.
  • The municipality should commit more funds for disaster reduction activities.
  • It is important to build dwellings with durable materials, which requires channelling of extra funding to the community for housing.
  • Community leaders should not allocate plots in the floodplain area. Hence, there is a need for floodplain mapping.
  • The community leaders should develop response and recovery mechanisms by setting aside money for flood response and recovery.


This paper was presented at the first National Conference on Disaster Risk Science and Management in ‘South Africa’s Response in a Changing Global Environment’, 02–04 March 2015, at the Ranch Resort, Polokwane, South Africa. The conference was jointly hosted by the School of Environmental Sciences, University of Venda, South Africa and the National Disaster Management Centre (representing the Department of Cooperative Governance), South Africa. Mr Tendayi Gondo, Prof. Agnes Musyoki and Mr Edmore Kori were the faculty collaborators.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

Most of the data collection, analysis and write-up was done by R.B.M., and A.M. provided guidance throughout the study whilst N.S.N. reviewed a draft version of the paper and provided useful comments.

Funding information

Funding for this study was provided by the National Research Foundation of South Africa.

Data availability statement

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.

Ethical consideration

The ethical clearance was obtained from the community leaders in the study area.

How to cite this article: Munyai, R.B., Musyoki, A. & Nethengwe, N.S., 2019, ‘An assessment of flood vulnerability and adaptation: A case study of Hamutsha-Muungamunwe village, Makhado municipality’, Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies 11(2), a692.

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flood strategy case study

  • Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) research reports

Case studies and lessons learned in the strategic planning of flood risk management

This research used a case study approach to assess how Lead Local Flood Authorities should approach managing flood risk through strategic planning.

Taking a strategic approach to Investment in FCERM - technical report (1.2MB) PDF

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Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs), together with their partners, are critical to managing all sources of risk for flooding. Their success requires developing their strategic and investment skills to develop effective local strategies.

This research used a case study approach to establish capacity and skills in LLFAs. This was to:

  • demonstrate how local flood risk strategies must consider risk from all sources and the partners on which local funding will rely
  • explore how funding can be adjusted to reflect real and perceived appetite for risk
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Internet Geography

UK Floods Case Study November 2019

flood strategy case study

The UK experienced an extreme weather event in November 2019 when exceptionally heavy rainfall caused flooding in parts of the UK. Heavy downpours across large parts of northern England led to surface water and river flooding in parts of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Greater Manchester, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.

According to the Met Office, on Thursday 7th November 2019 over half of the average rainfall for the whole of November fell in parts of the Midlands and Yorkshire.

If you have images and/or videos of flooding or an eye witness account that you would be happy to share on an interactive flood impact map we are developing please send them [email protected]

What caused flooding in the UK in November 2019?

A large area of prolonged rainfall fell on parts of the UK in November 2019. Some areas experienced the whole of Novembers average rainfall over a period of 24 hours. Sheffield experienced 84mm of rainfall. The rainfall was caused by an area low pressure stalling over the UK.

Further reading/watching: 

BBC Weather Overview 

What were the effects the extreme weather in November 2019?

About 500 homes have been flooded in Doncaster with more than 1,000 properties evacuated in areas hit by the floods.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said it had declared a major incident on the evening of Friday 8th November and firefighters rescued more than 40 people from the Fishlake area, near Doncaster. Residents of Fishlake said it was the first time the village had flooded in 100 years.

Empty coffins were seen floating inside the workshop of a flooded funeral parlour in the village.

Some villagers had to spend the night at a nearby pub, where staff said they had seen people crying because of the devastation.

The village church is collecting food to distribute to residents and roast dinners were delivered on Sunday to those who had remained in their homes.

Reseidents have complained that the River Don has not been dredged recently.

According to the BBC, Adrian Gill, a flood manager at the Environment Agency, said did not currently dredge the River Don “because we don’t think that’s the right thing to do” but the situation could be reviewed in the future.

Water sports enthusiast and teacher Mark Ibbotson, from Doncaster, said he, along with his 13-year-old son Logan, had rescued more than 30 people – including two babies – from a number of streets using his inflatable boat in Bentley where homes have been hit by flooding.

One of the most severely hit areas has been Bentley in Doncaster, where flooding affected many homes 12 years ago.

One resident told BBC Radio Sheffield: “The worry is our insurance policies are expensive as it is because of the 2007 floods, so now we’re all worried whether we’re going to get reinsured.”

Extensive flooding affected Rotherham , where residents were told to stay at home and not leave unless asked to do so by emergency services. Some have been taken to safety by boats.

Dozens of people were forced to spend the night in the Meadowhall shopping centre .

In Derbyshire, the River Derwent at Chatsworth reached its highest recorded level and council workers put up sandbags around Matlock and Matlock Bath, where the river was “dangerously high” .

A number of properties in Derby city centre were flooded, however, a full evacuation was not ordered as the River Derwent didn’t burst its banks to the extent emergency services believed it would.

The A52 – the main road route into Derby – was closed westbound between the city and the M1 along with a handful of smaller roads in the county.

Residents from 12 homes in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, were unable to return home after a mudslide on Thursday led to 35 properties being evacuated .

In Nottinghamshire, residents living in mobile homes close to the River Trent in Newark were urged to move to higher ground.

On Friday, the floods claimed the life of a woman who was swept into the River Derwent at Rowsley in Derbyshire. Her body was found about two miles away in Darley Dale. She was named earlier as Derbyshire’s former High Sherriff Annie Hall .

Trains were cancelled in Yorkshire and parts of the East Midlands as rail routes were flooded.

BBC reporter Richard Cadey said some roads around Fishlake had been closed and the village was “effectively cut off because of flooding”. He said people on the ground had told him 90% of the homes there had been flooded.

The River Don, which flows through Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster, hit its highest recorded level at just over 6.3m (21ft), higher than it was in 2007 when it also flooded.


England flooding: River warnings and rail delays continue

Flooding in pictures/videos

Torrential downpours flood parts of northern England – BBC

Flooding in Yorkshire – In Pictures – The Guardian

England flooding: A tour of a flooded house in Fishlake

River Derwent Flooding – Drone Video

Helicopter captures footage of flooded South Yorkshire

What were the responses to the UK floods in November 2019?

More than 100 flood warnings were put in place across England. The Environment Agency (EA) urged people to take them seriously.

flood strategy case study

The Environment Agency took to social media to warn people about the potential impacts of flooding.

AMBER warning for flood risk today ⚠️- rain will rotate over north and north midlands bringing heavy rain on already sodden ground – take care – flood warning updates here — John Curtin (@johncurtinEA) November 7, 2019

The Environment Agency worked day and night to reduce the impact of flooding. The Environment Agency responded to the flood risk by working closely with police, fire and rescue, local authorities and partners to reduce the risk of flooding and keep communities safe. On the ground, Environment Agency field teams worked through the night to operate flood storage areas and pump away flood water.

A major incident was declared in South Yorkshire,

Some residents were “angry and frustrated” at Doncaster Council – claiming it had not provided sandbags early enough to prevent properties from flooding, the station reported.

Political leaders visited areas affected by floods. On the campaign trail Boris Johnson promised over £2 billion to improve flood defences.

South Yorkshire Police said it had extra officers out on patrol to “protect the evacuated areas and support those affected by the floods”.

Following a meeting of COBRA, the government’s emergency committee, Prime Minister Boris Johnson anounced the following measures :

  • An extra 100 Army personnel deployed from Wednesday to support the recovery effort in South Yorkshire
  • Funding for local councils where households and businesses have been affected – equivalent to £500 per eligible household
  • Up to £2,500 for small and medium-sized businesses which have suffered severe impacts not covered by insurance

Six days after the heavy rain, army personnel provided support to flood-hit communities .

Environment Agency warnings

Environment Agency working day and night to reduce flood impact

How effective were the mitigation strategies introduced since the 2007 floods?

Flood defences put in place in South Yorkshire managed to significantly reduce the impact of Thursday’s floods, the Environment Agency (EA) has said.

River levels in parts of the county rose overnight to almost the same as they were in June 2007, when two people died in Millhouses and the Wicker.

Despite a major incident being declared on Thursday, the EA said the area was protected by new walls and flood gates.

The river levels around Meadowhall were high, but the EA said its defences, as well as the ones put in by Meadowhall, had lessened the damage.

Elsewhere in South Yorkshire, £3m was spent by the EA to repair and improve defences running along Ea Beck , in the villages of Toll Bar and Bentley near Doncaster.

However, people living in settlements downstream of Sheffield have complained about the impact of the recently constructed defences.  In Bentley, a low-lying neighbourhood on the north side of the River Don, forlorn terraced streets are still knee-deep in water. “You don’t have to be a hydrologist to see what’s happened,” said one man interviewed by a Guardian journalist . “Sheffield built flood defences in 2015-16. They spent about £20m protecting the lower Don. So the water has nowhere to go than the next place, Rotherham and then Doncaster.” He went on to say that residents received a “red alert” on Thursday night that there was a risk of flooding. He phoned an emergency number and requested sandbags. He was told that the council was not going to distribute them because the River Don’s banks had not been breached.

When the sandbags eventually arrived the community worked together to distribute them.

South Yorkshire flooding: Defences ‘reduce impact’

Related articles:

How do you stop flooding? 

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Strategic Stability and the Ukraine War: Implications of Conventional Missile Technologies

The Russia‑Ukraine war marks the first instance of a major inter‑state war involving the large‑scale deployment and use of conventional ballistic and cruise missile technology. As a result, the Ukrainian theater has become a test bed for missile technology and strategy and has revealed the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary missile forces and doctrines. The implications of the deployment and use of offensive conventional missile capabilities and defenses against such capabilities in Ukraine extend beyond the battlefield and affect the broader strategic competition between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This paper explores those implications, asking how the deployment and use of long‑range strike weapons and missile defense systems in Ukraine affects Russia‑NATO strategic stability.

In this analysis, long‑range strike weapons include Russian, Ukrainian, and Western conventional cruise and ballistic missiles as well as conventional long‑range drones that have been used by both sides to engage targets at standoff range, including deep inside the adversary’s homeland territory. The meaning of standoff range is context dependent and relates to the distance between adversaries. In the context of the Russia‑Ukraine war (and in the broader European context), standoff implies the ability to engage targets several hundred kilometers behind the front line. In terms of missile defense, this analysis considers Russian, Ukrainian, and Western nonstrategic air and missile defense forces that have been deployed around the front line and deeper inland to protect military and civilian targets.

The paper is structured as follows. In section one, we briefly discuss the concept of strategic stability, conceptualizing it in terms of crisis and arms race stability. We also draw attention to the effect of long‑range strike weapons and missile defense on strategic stability and outline the implications that the deployment and use of conventional missile technology in Ukraine can have for strategic stability. In section two, we analyze offensive and defensive developments in the missile domain in Ukraine. We then briefly describe the different long‑range strike and missile defense systems that have been employed by Ukraine and Russia and assess their effectiveness (and lack thereof) in the war so far. Section three analyzes the medium‑to long‑term implications of the deployment and use of long‑range strike weapons and missile defense systems in Ukraine for strategic stability. Demonstrated levels of effectiveness and ineffectiveness of these weapon systems shape the prospects of crisis and arms control stability as well as the general likelihood of strategic nuclear exchanges between NATO and Russia.

Approved for public release. Unlimited distribution.

  • Document Number: IOP-2024-U-037683-Final
  • Publication Date: 2/22/2024

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Computer Science > Computation and Language

Title: leveraging domain knowledge for efficient reward modelling in rlhf: a case-study in e-commerce opinion summarization.

Abstract: Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF) has become a dominating strategy in steering Language Models (LMs) towards human values/goals. The key to the strategy is employing a reward model ({$\varphi$}) which can reflect a latent reward model with humans. While this strategy has proven to be effective, the training methodology requires a lot of human preference annotation (usually of the order of tens of thousands) to train {$\varphi$}. Such large-scale preference annotations can be achievable if the reward model can be ubiquitously used. However, human values/goals are subjective and depend on the nature of the task. This poses a challenge in collecting diverse preferences for downstream applications. To address this, we propose a novel methodology to infuse domain knowledge into {$\varphi$}, which reduces the size of preference annotation required. We validate our approach in E-Commerce Opinion Summarization, with a significant reduction in dataset size (just $940$ samples) while advancing the state-of-the-art. Our contributions include a novel Reward Modelling technique, a new dataset (PromptOpinSumm) for Opinion Summarization, and a human preference dataset (OpinPref). The proposed methodology opens avenues for efficient RLHF, making it more adaptable to diverse applications with varying human values. We release the artifacts for usage under MIT License.

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Quantifying flood risk using InVEST-UFRM model and mitigation strategies: the case of Adama City, Ethiopia

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  • Published: 26 February 2024

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  • Bikila Merga Leta 1 &
  • Dagnachew Adugna 1  

Adama, the second largest city in Ethiopia, faces regular flash floods. These floods severely impact the city dwellers’ livelihoods due to unplanned urbanization in flood-prone low-lying areas surrounding deforested mountains and ridges. To address this issue, the current study employed the Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs-Urban Flood Risk Mitigation (InVEST-UFRM) model as a tool to quantify adaptation-planning strategies for the study area. The InVEST-UFRM model effectively analyzed urban watersheds and spatially represented flooding, providing a comprehensive understanding of the flood risk scenario in the city. The model was run four times with different rainfall scenarios based on an intensity–duration–frequency curve specific to the study area to assess the impact of varying rainfall depths. These scenarios produced significant findings in terms of increased runoff retention and highlighting the varying capacities of micro-catchments in the study area for retaining runoff and generating floods. The study also emphasized the suitability of the InVEST-UFRM model in quantifying trade-offs associated with structural and non-structural flood mitigation measures. It underscored the importance of integrating multidisciplinary fields such as hydrology, remote sensing, geographic information systems, and natural capital assessment tools in urban planning strategies to achieve flood resilience and sustainable urban development. Overall, the InVEST-UFRM model proved to be a valuable tool for urban planners and policymakers for adaptive strategies to cope with urban flood events.

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The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the U.S Geological Survey for providing us with access to the Digital Elevation Model, the Environmental System Research Institute for granting us access to the land use and land cover map, the Ethiopian Water & Land Resource Center for supplying us with soil data of the study area, the Ethiopian Meteorology Agency for sharing rainfall data, and the Adama City Administration for providing the Shapefile of the Administrative boundary of the study area. We are also grateful for the invaluable inputs and assistance from experts and local communities, which greatly contributed to the success of this research.

The research did not receive any funding from public, commercial, or non-profit sectors.

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Bikila Merga Leta & Dagnachew Adugna

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BML: conceptualization, formal analysis, investigation, methodology, software, writing—original draft. DA: conceptualization, validation, writing—review & editing, supervision.

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Leta, B.M., Adugna, D. Quantifying flood risk using InVEST-UFRM model and mitigation strategies: the case of Adama City, Ethiopia. Model. Earth Syst. Environ. (2024).

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