Designing homes that accept water on the floodplains of Brisbane River


Feature

Hard decisions were made in the picturesque suburb of Graceville, a few hundred metres from the Brisbane River after the 2011 floods.

As the floodwaters receded and the debris was cleared, homeowners, who still reeling from the rapid and unexpected devastation they had experienced, were faced with the decision of rebuilding their homes, or to leave.

One such homeowner is Christine Newsome, who’s property has prime views of the Brisbane River but also faced the full brunt of the 2011 floods, which damaged her home and belongings extensively.  

Today, Christine is still emotional when she recalls the events that saw her home and worldly belongings swept into the floodwaters of the Brisbane River. But when it came down to making the call to leave her Graceville, simply put, she didn’t think she would like to live anywhere else.

“Instead of leaving, we chose to rebuild in a way that would protect us, should we ever be in the same situation. With the help of our architect, we lifted the home and completely redesigned it so that we could create flood resilience in the design,” Christine said. 

Architect James Davidson has become a leading voice in creating ‘flood acceptant’ homes since the 2011 flood. For the Graceville home and many other homes he has redesigned since, he said the starting point is to realise that we cannot control the amount of rain that’s coming out of the sky.

“Then you create strategies to assist the homeowner should that level of a rain event ever happen again so that they’re able to live through it and recover from it really easily,” James said. 

In creating a flood resilient design James uses materials that can tolerate water. This includes polished concrete floors, rendered concrete walls and cabinets that can be pulled out and taken upstairs prior to an event. In the Graceville home, there are also large doors in each room that can be opened to allow water to flow through.

“Accepting water and living with water is the main point of the design,” James said.

Suncorp Executive Manager Consumer Products Josh Kelland said the case was an example of customers going the extra mile to ensure their home was resilient and their efforts have had positive implications on their insurance costs.  

“What we’ve been able to do is assess this property individually which has led to a 40 per cent reduction in their insurance premium,” said Josh. 

“This is an example of a home we’ve been able to reassess and provide that extra relief for our customers because of the actions that they’ve taken. Simply if we reduce the risk, we reduce the premium.” 

Christine said the redesign has made her family feel more secure.  

“After the flood, the hardest thing was seeing the future. But with the changes we have put in place, thinking about another flood is no longer as terrifying because I know we have considered all of the outcomes and all of the possibilities and built to allow for that.”