Flood-resilient design is making Brisbane homes like Margherita’s ready for the next big soak

 In Home News Section, Uncategorized

Margherita Gellel moved into her Rosalie home not long after Brisbane’s ’74 floods and subsequent inundations have left the 82-year-old Maltese-Australian on edge.

“I’ve had so many floods it’s not funny,” Ms Gellel told ABC Radio Brisbane.

“Every time it rains, I get scared because I don’t want to go through all of that again — losing everything, starting from scratch.”

During the 2011 floods Ms Gellel woke to find her possessions floating through her home and not long after the water was up to the roof.

“It’s sad because you don’t know what to do,” she said.

“You panic.

“You see the water, you don’t know what to save first and I couldn’t save anything last time because the water was too fast.”

But for her and many of her neighbours, moving has never been an option.

“Where would I go?” she said.

“Some neighbours are lifting their house up because they’re sick of getting flooded but it would cost a fortune to lift the house up and rebuild underneath.”

But Ms Gellel is nothing if not resilient.

“If you fall off your horse, you’ve got to get up and try again,” said.

This time around, part of Ms Gellel’s home has been renovated free of charge to better withstand flood events, thanks to Brisbane City Council’s Flood Resilient Program.

It’s not a silver bullet but it has given Ms Gellel greater peace of mind.

James Davidison Architect (JDA) is the Brisbane-based firm behind the initiative, which began through pro bono work to uninsured homeowners in Ipswich in the wake of the 2011 floods.

Ten years on, JDA has carved a name as an industry leader in flood-resilient design and was the Queensland winner of the 2020 Resilience Awards for business.

JDA also developed the state government’s guide to rebuilding flood resilient homes in Queensland.

‘Easier to deal with’ design

The firm’s founder, James Davidson, said after the 2011 floods his team wanted to look at other ways residents could protect their homes.

“A lot of people I work with go, ‘Look, we love our neighbourhood, we love living here and, yeah, a bit of water comes in every so often’,” Dr Davidson said.

“So let’s just design it to make it easier to deal with.”

Often that means elevating homes but Mr Davidson said that wasn’t an option for everyone.

“We’ve found out that that becomes a difficult thing to do if you’re an older person or if you don’t have the money,” he said.

Instead, JDA developed an approach to building homes so they could be washed out without being ruined.

“It’s really just a recognition of the fact that we will never really be able to stop all the water that we’re seeing now if we want to continue living in a floodplain like we do in Brisbane, or elsewhere around the state,” he said.

“We have to accept a certain level of risk.”

He said wet proofing was essentially rebuilding with materials that could withstand floods without having to be replaced.

“From a sustainability point of view, given that people don’t have to rip everything out and start again, we’re significantly reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill over the life of the house,” he said.

“The worst form of house in a floodplain is essentially a slab on ground, brick veneer, plasterboard house with a pine frame construction.”

The flood resilient homes feature large open spaces that are easy to clean and often include materials like hard timbers and concrete.

Risks and rewards

Mr Davidson said taking on the pro bono work as a business had risks but gave his team the chance to develop ideas.

“You kind of take a risk, don’t you, when you have a company, and you have to generate clients and pay your staff,” he said.

“I think everybody who works here gets a real sense of purpose out of what we do because we’re not just making money, we’re actually helping people at the same time.

“My advice for somebody would be, don’t wait for somebody else to come along with the idea.”

The Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience’s awards recognise outstanding contributions in community, business, local government, schools and photography.

Nominations for this year’s awards close on Friday, June 18.

By Edwina Seselja (Original ABC Article)

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