Buying a home
Flood resilience: Building flood resistant homes after the 2011 Brisbane floods
18 June 2019
Australians are no strangers to extreme weather events like flooding. These sorts of events are likely something you’ll experience regardless of where you live. And an important part of being prepared for this is having a plan.
One of the ways to mitigate the effect of flooding is to build or renovate your home so that it’s resilient to it. Here we speak with Suncorp customer Christine Newsome about rebuilding her home following the 2011 Brisbane floods.
In 2011, the Brisbane floods forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people. Three quarters of the local council areas were deemed disaster zones.
Christine Newsome’s home in Graceville was badly affected by the event. Her property is a few hundred metres from the Brisbane River, and the rising water level significantly damaged her home and possessions. To make matters worse, her insurer at the time had sold her policy to a different company. Christine’s new insurance policy didn’t include flood cover.
‘Somewhere in the bottom of the Brisbane River was the insurance document saying that I wasn’t covered for flood. That was the last time I’d spoken to that particular insurance company,’ Christine tells us. It was at this point that she became a Suncorp customer.
Unable to imagine living anywhere else, Christine worked with architect James Davidson to design a flood resilient home.
Christine Newsome (Homeowner): “It was heartbreaking. We lost a lot and I rang my insurance company and I’d been with them for 14 years. I didn’t know they’d sold my policy to a different company and lost the flood cover. Somewhere in the bottom of the Brisbane River was the insurance document saying that I wasn’t covered for flood. That was the last time I’d spoken to that particular insurance company.
We chose to rebuild because before the flood it was worth twice as much as after the flood. And the house is still essentially a good hardwood house. So, with the help of our architect we decided to redesign and lift the house.”
James Davidson (Architect): “The starting point is, in a sense, to realise that we can never control the amount of rain that’s coming out of the sky. We started to think about strategies related to what we do here that could assist the homeowner if it ever happened again so they’re able to live through it and then recover from it really easily. So, using materials that you could easily wash out: polished concrete floors; rendered block walls; cabinets that could be pulled out and put upstairs prior to an event; big doors in each room, each room has two doors to it, so again, letting the water flow; an open riser on the stair to assist water to flow through; all hardwood timber; no cavity construction so there’s nowhere for mould to get in and grow.
Accepting water and living with water is the main point about the design.”
Joshua Kelland (Executive Manager, Product Development and Optimisation): “This is really a great example of a couple of our customers going the extra mile to ensure that their home is going to be more resilient in the future. What we’ve been able to do is assess this property individually and it’s actually led to a 40% reduction in their insurance premium. And this is a great example of a home that we’ve been able to reassess and provide that extra relief for our customers because of the actions they’ve taken. Really simply – if we reduce the risk, we reduce the premium.”
Christine Newsome: “The greatest challenge was seeing the future. It’s no longer as terrifying as the previous version of this had been. I know now we have considered all of the outcomes and all of the things that would need to happen if it came again. I don’t think I would want to live anywhere else.”
How to design a flood proof house
Christine’s architect, James Davidson, has become influential in designing ‘flood acceptant’ homes since the 2011 flood. James approaches his projects with the belief that it’s impossible to control the amount of rain that falls on any occasion. And with this in mind, he considers strategies that will assist homeowners to live through and recover from flooding if it happens again.
To create a home that is resilient to flooding, James selects materials that can tolerate water. ‘Accepting water and living with water is the main point about the design,’ James says. For Christine’s home, he selected polished concrete floors, rendered concrete walls and moveable cabinets that can be shifted to the second floor before heavy rain. There are also large doors in each room to allow water flow if necessary.
The redesign has helped Christine and her family to feel more secure.
Reduce your risk, reduce your premium
Suncorp is committed to supporting our customers. Suncorp Executive Manager Consumer Products Josh Kelland said the redesign of Christine’s home was an example of a customer going the extra mile to ensure their home was flood resilient. Christine’s efforts have even had positive implications on her insurance costs.
‘What we’ve been able to do is assess this property individually and it’s actually led to a 40% reduction in [her] insurance premium,’ Josh said. ‘Really simply – if we reduce the risk, we reduce the premium.”
Don’t forget flood insurance coverage
For more information on how to prepare for extreme weather-related flooding, download our Must-Have Flood Checklist. It’s impossible to control the weather, but you can control how prepared you are if you’re affected by flooding.
- Be prepared for floods
- How to protect your home from wild weather
- 10 tips to protect your home and contents
Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision about this insurance. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.