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  • Writer's pictureBenny Kuriakose

Constructing Flood Resistant Houses in Kerala

The most important possession of every family is their house. The catastrophic Kerala floods have damaged this asset. Reconstructing the damaged houses is not the ideal solution. Based on my experiences rehabilitating communities following the earthquakes in Latur and Bhuj, the present and future houses must be made flood resistant. Many homes that appear to be in a state of disrepair may be renovated and brought back to life. Disasters are increasing, and the future floods might not be a 50 year or 100-year event. Hence, this blog offers a few straightforward, innovative and cost-effective measures of reducing the vulnerability of houses to floods in future. It explores various flood-resistant building techniques to protect houses from the damage caused by floodwater.

List of Contents

1. Ways to Construct Flood Resistant Houses

1.1 Site Planning

The rising dampness in the building will become less problematic if the land is sloped away from the building. To guarantee that the rainfall drains away from the structure, the ground should slope away from it. Close to the external walls, all dirt and loose earth should be removed. The plinth height should be kept to a minimum of 450 mm.

1.2 Deep Foundations

Shallow foundations can become unstable due to the displacement of soil during floods. The foundation of a flood-resistant house must be deep to stop the movement of the sub-strata and ultimately stop a foundation failure. In addition to matching the standards of a flood-resistant home's foundation, piles or columns are employed to lift the structure above the prescribed flood level. Such elevated development helps in preventing floodwater from entering the building.

Shallow and deep foundations
Deep Foundations Can Withstand Floods

1.3 Plinth Protection

The soil near the foundation may be removed by the receding floodwater. Plinth protection is typically done by laying a 75–100 mm layer of plain cement concrete along the building's border. The plinth must be protected to prevent/reduce water penetration by capillary action from reaching the plinth wall and in turn reaching the floor level. Even in areas, where plinth protection is done, the water might find entry into the foundation and therefore, enter into the soil beneath the floor. This shall be avoided by proper filling around the building.

1.4 Lofts and Balconies

In many houses, floodwater rose to an adult person’s height. Taking advantage of the sloping roof in single-storied homes, a loft may be converted into a short-term flood refuge room in such homes. They can be used to house valuables, persons, and animals until the rains cease. If building a staircase to access it is not feasible, a ladder similar to the one in traditional Kerala houses can be used.

Loft as a flood refuge area
Loft as a Flood Refuge Area

When the entire ground floor of a building is underwater, rescuing trapped people is easier in the case of houses with first floor balconies.