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7 Reasons to Check Flood Risk in Urban Design and Planning

In this article, readers will learn about


  • Reasons to Check Flood Risk in Urban Design and Planning
  • Urban Design and Floods
  • Prevention of Property Damage
  • Enhancing Public Safety
  • Economic Sustainability
  • Environmental Protection
  • Legal and Insurance Implications
  • Community Confidence and Resilience
  • Future-Proofing Urban Areas

Assessing flood risk is often overlooked in the urban design and planning ecosystem. The truth is that places and regions have a terrible habit of going all Atlantis in seconds. Floods are the most widespread natural disaster globally. There are multiple reasons for this, including rapid urbanization and climate change. The following article will examine the phenomenon and underscore the importance of incorporating check flood risk assessments into urban design and planning.

In doing so, we can safeguard property, enhance public safety, and ensure economic sustainability. We can also protect the environment, foster community resilience, and future-proof urban areas.

Urban Design and Floods 

Floods account for 40% of all-natural disasters—approximately 250 million people are affected globally annually. In the UK, for example, 5.7 million properties are at risk.

And why is that? What makes floods so pervasive?

Well, several factors have galvanized the issue over the years:

  • Climate change—phenomena like “El Niño” and others of its type are expected to increase the frequency and severity of flooding events.
  • Rapid urbanization—inadequate drainage systems, faulty urban planning, and a myriad of other issues—exacerbates the impact of flooding in urban areas.
  • Low-lying coastal regions—everyone wants a room with a view. But that view, particularly if it’s aquatic, comes with an added risk factor. 
  • Deforestation—removing trees and other vegetation reduces a land’s natural ability to retain water. This, in turn, increases surface runoff and soil erosion.
  • River channelisation — dredging, straightening, or altering river channels in any way can disrupt the land’s natural flow patterns and increase the water’s velocity.
photo of a building during rising water levels

Urban design and planning are pivotal in shaping the landscapes of our cities. Planning is crucial to finding the right balance between what is and what we want. Nevertheless, a sad fact is that most urban planners rarely have the time or predisposition to consider or check flood risks due to a series of inconveniences and tight deadlines. 

Right now, we are facing new challenges due to climate change and the escalating risks of natural disasters associated with it. The biggest hurdle is floods. As floods become more frequent and severe, it’s imperative to integrate flood risk assessment into the early planning stages. 

Floods cause billions in property damage and pose a significant risk to human life, public health, and infrastructure. For example, they can contaminate water sources, leading to waterborne diseases and vast public health emergencies. 

7 Reasons to Check Flood Risk in Urban Design and Planning

Prevention of Property Damage

One of the prime reasons for flood risk checks in urban design and planning is to prevent property damage. Floods account for billions in property damage, from structural damages – such as roads, bridges, and other infrastructure – to negatively impacting a region’s real estate values. By understanding the flood-prone areas within a city, planners can implement measures to mitigate risks. They can employ strategies – such as elevating structures, constructing flood barriers, or implementing green infrastructure  – to absorb excess water. By embracing proactive measures like these, planners can save millions in property damage costs and alleviate the distress caused by flooded homes and businesses.

Enhancing Public Safety

Public safety is paramount in urban planning — floods pose massive health and safety risks. It’s not only an issue of the immediate consequences of a flood but of the lingering aftermath, such as mould growth, contamination, and pollutants. By checking flood risk, cities can identify vulnerable areas where populations may be at risk during flooding. Implementing early warning systems, evacuation routes, and designated shelters can significantly reduce the risk of casualties during floods. Prioritising public safety protects lives and fosters a sense of security and well-being within the community.

Economic Sustainability

Did you know that one of the most significant financial losses of floods isn’t felt in an area immediately? It takes years to understand the impact and how it has adversely affected the community. For example, properties located in flood-prone areas experience a rapid decrease in market value and elevated insurance premiums. This has a negative effect on resale values and investment returns and deters potential buyers and investors, which, over time, starts to impact surrounding businesses negatively. 

One domino striking another and so forth. Floods can wreak havoc on local economies, disrupting businesses, infrastructure, and essential services. By checking flood risk in urban design and planning, cities can safeguard their economic sustainability. Investing in resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable development practices, and incorporating flood risk checks into land use regulations can minimise financial losses and ensure long-term prosperity for urban areas.

Environmental Protection

Unchecked flood risk can have devastating environmental consequences, leading to habitat destruction, water contamination, and biodiversity loss. By incorporating flood risk check assessments into urban planning, cities can protect vital ecosystems and natural resources. Green infrastructure, such as wetlands and vegetative buffers, can help absorb floodwaters, mitigate erosion, and enhance overall ecological resilience.

Legal and Insurance Implications

Understanding flood risk check assessments is essential for navigating legal and insurance landscapes. By conducting flood risk assessments, cities can comply with regulatory requirements and mitigate liability risks. Moreover, homeowners and businesses can make informed decisions about insurance coverage based on accurate flood risk data. By proactively addressing flood risk, cities can reduce legal disputes and insurance premiums, saving time and money in the long run.

illustration of flooding of a residential area

Community Confidence and Resilience

Building community confidence and resilience is critical to weathering the challenges of floods. By involving residents in the flood risk assessment process, cities can foster a sense of ownership and empowerment within the community. Providing education, training, and resources on flood preparedness can enable individuals to take proactive measures to protect themselves and their property. Strengthening social cohesion and community networks can enhance resilience and recovery efforts in the face of adversity.

Future-Proofing Urban Areas

As climate change accelerates, the threat of floods is only expected to intensify. By checking flood risk in urban design and planning, cities can future-proof their infrastructure and built environment against rising floodwaters. Implementing adaptive strategies, such as resilient building designs, green infrastructure, and intelligent flood management technologies, can help urban areas adapt to changing environmental conditions and prosper amidst unpredictability.

Urban Planning and Flood Risk Checks

The importance of checking flood risk in urban design and planning cannot be overstated. From preventing property damage and enhancing public safety to promoting economic sustainability and environmental protection, the benefits are manifold. Urban planners, developers, and policymakers must prioritize flood risk management in their projects. By working together, we can build resilient, sustainable cities that are prepared for future challenges.

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Argemiro Rivera, <b>BEng(Hons) MSC CEng MICE MCIWEM C.WEM CEnv</b>
Argemiro Rivera, BEng(Hons) MSC CEng MICE MCIWEM C.WEM CEnv

Passion for Water, Flood Risk & Sustainability
I love to dig into complex flood risk and water engineering projects and deliver them. I focus on delivering reliable flood risk information to protect livelihoods and the environment.

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