Winston Churchill Fellowship

01. Learning from International examples

The Churchill Fellowship allowed James Davidson to investigate best practice flood-resilient design principles for mass-produced affordable housing in a range of different contexts. In travelling to the USA, The Netherlands and the UK, he examined completed building designs and interviewed local architets and other built environment professionals involved in the design and planning of flood-resilient housing. 

He also interviewed different local government officials in each location so as to understand the refiments that were made to planning laws to cater for changes in building typologies as a result of flooding. The over-arching objective of this study was to return to Australia with valuable lessons in contributing to better and more resilient housing design in our local context. 

Below are the key findings of the fellowship.

02. Two distinct approaches to flood-resilient design

Design for flooding principles tended to separete into two distinct approaches: those that seek to keep water out, and those that allow it to enter the building, or at least to prepare for this eventually. 

Accepting the passage of water allows a changes relationship between people and flooding events, and even if designed correctly can lessen the anxiety associated with future events. No one strategy can hope to achieve the best possible outcomes for flood-prone environments, but a combination of wet and dry flood-proofing methods is essential. 

03. Need to balance affordability with best practice princples

While good design at the detail level of the dwelling is a key component of successful flood mitigation, it is important to recognise that a range of solutions are required to achieve the best possible outcomes, in order to ensure that the practices are accessible to large-scale mass housing projects. 

Cost often reflects factors that are unique to different locations, such as cost of labour, rather than design principles per se. This underpins the need for a planning and regulatory framework which supports innovative, contextualised solutions to site-specific problem. 

04. Need for good planning

Sites need to be seen within their larger physical context, and anticipation of the effects of climate change is crucial. Reactionary planning exacerbates the personal and financial burden already faced by disaster-affected home-owners, while designed resilience assists in mitigating these impacts.

Knee-jerk reactions by planning authorities in the wake of natural disasters (e.g. the exuberant raising of existing buildings above arbitrary flood datum levels) can impose restrictive and prohibitive guidelines for post-disaster reconstruction and recovery which can have long-term financial consequences on those who can least afford it - the victims of disaster. There is thus a clear need for statutory regulation and the embedding of flood-resilient design principles in legislation governing construction, before building construction begins, and it’s too late to incorporate important flood-design principles into the design. 

05. Need for a synthesis between financial institutions, the insurance industry and Government

Good flood-resilient design  can meet the priorities of Government in better protecting and housing families during extreme weather events; can assist in limiting the exposure insurance companies are exposed to during such events; and better protect the mortgage assets of financial institutions. From this research, this idea requires the support of major financial institutions and insurance industry peak bodies in working together with Government in the development of legislation and regulation that encourages innovative building technologies, practices and materials development.