Reactionary planning exacerbates the personal and financial burden already faced by disaster-affected home-owners, while designed resilience assists in mitigating these impacts.

This presentation builds on work undertaken during my coordination of the Emergency Architects Australia’s (EAA) flood relief project (the subject of a previous presentation I made at the 2011 IDEAS Festival). In assisting over 1000 families, EAA’s project brought together more than 150 volunteers including professional architects, engineers and town planners as well as students and graduates from several academic institutions in southeast Queensland.  These volunteers also participated in partnerships with the Brisbane City Council, Ipswich City Council, the Queensland State Government reconstruction authority and local community groups. The findings arising from this experience informed design decisions undertaken in the private practice of James Davidson Architect. I present three case studies on various solutions to flood resilience with specific attention paid to joinery, window and door detailing and material selections.

All case studies were subjected to Temporary Local Planning Instruments (TLPIs) and I reflect on the design implications of this as well as the extra financial consequences on the client. Often the requirements of the TLPIs were unfeasible, in relation to the floor areas of existing buildings being raised above the minimum habitable level deemed appropriate under the TLPI. The placement of kitchens, floor plans and in some cases exuberant raising of existing buildings were all influenced and complicated by TLPIs.  The residents in these examples come from a variety of financial backgrounds and the method of dealing with resilience reflects their particular circumstance. These examples also outline design alternatives which push the boundaries and challenge the relevance of the imposed TLPIs.

Comparatively, I also present a series of contemporary examples of flood resilient design in an international context, outlining other methods and rationales in response to flood resilient design. These include examples of amphibious housing and alternative materials, those of which would most definitely do not comply with current Brisbane planning.

The discussion of reactionary planning and its consequences has particular relevance in the Asia Pacific, as many regions attempt to recover from flooding and other natural disaster events in recent years. The financial and personal cost of universal planning instruments on affected residents can be extrapolated equally to a developing world context.

Knee-jerk reactions by planning authorities in the wake of the 2011 floods imposed restrictive and prohibitive guidelines for post disaster reconstruction and recovery which will have long-term financial consequences on those who can least afford it – the victims of disaster.  The financial implications of reactionary planning (such as TLPIs) can be overly burdensome in certain contexts.  The correct way to do things is to consider each project on it’s own merits – flood datum lines are subjective – so mandating one height over another will become meaningless in the next flood event as no two events are the same. Good design can save lives and reduce the personal and financial impact on members of our society.

I challenge all decision makers in our society, be they politicians, land and building developers, architects, planners, hydrologists and other related professionals to consider the impacts of their decisions on those people who can least afford another flood event like we had in 2011.

More information on resources and proposals of such a nature can be found on the practice page of my website, the Long-term Initiative for Flood-risk Environments Project, Make it Right and Baca Architects.


Emergency Architects Australia Flood Report

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James Davidson

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