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Are flat roofs a viable flood solution?

After the disastrous winter floods that left a huge part of the UK without power and with homes underwater, a discussion has been raised around what measures can be taken to at least try and attempt to reduce the destructive effects of floods, which it is predicted we’ll be seeing more of in the future.

There are a range of issues currently being blamed for the flood problems we continue to experience here in the UK, including lack of dredging, too much construction on flood plains and increased paving over front gardens, and the government is under huge pressure to take action.

One flood solution that has recently been suggested is a simple but effective one; let gravity do the work by designing houses with flat roofs, which can store water temporarily and let it drain away slowly.

Underground storage tanks are a process which is already in place, with specialist flow control regimes which reduce the impact of large downfalls on our drainage systems, but with some stored water needing to be pumped too, this is a costly and sometimes ineffective method.

If new and existing builds had flat roofs with water storage only three inches deep, that would be enough to help attenuate downfall, even from a large storm. Extra overflow drains would prevent the building itself flooding, and, as the weight of water is less than that of snowfall (for which most roofs are equipped to deal with), most existing roofs should be capable of withholding this new system.

This idea provides other environmental benefits too; the water being drained away from the roof could be put to use in the building itself, a method already used by some companies, which creates a low cost system for recycling water as well as helping reduce flood damage. Why waste excessive rainfall by letting it submerge our homes and land, when we could be putting it to practical use?

Flat roofs could also provide a surface for greenery rather than water storage; the presence of soil would help greatly with water attenuation, insulation of the building, and preserving the roof itself, not to mention generating cleaner air for our most built up areas.

As our climate continues to change and become more difficult to live with, it is simple yet innovative solutions like this being incorporated into our design process which will mean we, and our surroundings, are as prepared as possible for whatever the environment throws at us next.

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