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Counting the cost of increased flood risk

The British have a reputation for talking about the weather – and with good reason.

Not only do we get plenty of it, but it’s temperamental and unpredictable, which can make planning and budgeting for flood risk on construction sites a very inexact science.

And the problem is getting worse.

Assessing risk

While assessing flood risk used to be a fairly straightforward matter of researching whether the site was in a known flood area, weather patterns over the past few years have made almost any area susceptible to flooding because the water table has risen so significantly.

Moreover, this is no longer a seasonal risk.

In recent years, we’ve seen some of the heaviest flooding in the spring and summer with prolonged periods of heavy rain combining with already saturated ground to increase the speed and frequency of flooding.

What’s really creating the perfect storm on construction sites, however, is the drive to reduce overheads, for example by reducing the number of pumps on hire or on standby, despite the increased risk of flooding.

Underestimating

And, unfortunately, while the Environment Agency is working hard to tackle the issue of flood alleviation and defence across our most vulnerable flood plains, the construction industry could be underestimating the flood risk in traditionally low-risk areas.

What this means in practice is that project teams are equipping sites with the minimum number of pumps that they think they can get away with.

Unfortunately, in the event of flooding, additional pumps may not be available for immediate despatch and rising water can, therefore, cause costly programme delays and damage to materials and plant on site.

Putting a contingency plan in place can enable the site team to assess the level of risk and ensure that appropriate pumps can be brought onto site quickly if and when they are required.

Expertise

The location and accessibility of the site should form an important part of this strategic planning, as more remote or hard-to-access sites may not be able to deploy additional pumps as quickly as they are needed, even if the equipment is available.

Contractors can tap into a pump specialist’s expertise to assess the site, understand the level of risk and specify the most appropriate pumps in advance of that need.

For those managing tight construction programmes, being prepared for whatever the weather might bring at any time of year is the only way to ensure that pumps will be available when demand is as high as the rising water table.

Chris Graham is a director at Sykes Pumps

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