News & Views

The best way to build homes on land exposed to river flooding

07 October 2019

Kabina’s approach is to work with water flows rather than fight them. That means designing a system of ‘landscape plumbing’ that channels water creatively rather than focusing exclusively on flood defences.

Above: Excerpt from the weekly rainfall and river flow summary, 25 September to 1 October 2019, published by the Environment Agency 
Image source

The Romans were brilliant plumbers and developed wonderful waterflow systems across their empire. It seems reasonable to suppose that we could achieve this 2,000 years later.

Modern day ‘SuDs’ (Sustainable Drainage Systems) use channels, swales, permeable pavements, wetlands, ponds and lakes, etc. Developers and architects are well aware of SuDs and they can be used to manage flood water.

Kabina has taken this a stage further by developing a toolkit to enable us to create flood adaptive homes, even taking into account the most aggressive climate change predictions.

The toolkit includes a can-float concrete foundation box (yes, concrete can float!), guiding piles and collars (to keep the house on station), robust gabion walls (steel mesh cubes containing stones to slow water flow rate and trap debris), umbilical utility pipes (yachts and cruise ships use these in port), power generators and independent sewage treatment, and raised access roads.

But it takes more than a toolkit.

Kabina wants to bring imagination and creative flair to designing each specific site. Every site is different and demands a particular solution.

Copyright: Baca Architects and Waterstudio NL

Above: for this lakeside site Kabina proposed deltas and swales to manage flood water and provide visual interest, and recommended three types of home: can-float in the high risk area, ‘resilient’ in the low risk and traditional outside the flood risk area.

The idea, naturally, is to find the best solution for all the stakeholders involved.

Homeowners and renters want to enjoy a privileged lifestyle by the water and have a safe and happy environment. They want to have affordable homes and have good access to shops and facilities. Kabina has designed homes with this in mind and has recommended that flood risk sites in or next to existing towns be used rather than remote sites between towns and in the Green Belt. Kabina plans to use efficient offsite ‘frame and panel’ systems that allow for rapid and cost-effective house construction. 

Local authorities need to meet the housing targets set by central government and so Kabina’s proposed use of low cost, available, flood risk land in or next to Thames Valley towns can help them achieve this.

The local community, often NIMBYs, resist all kinds of development. Yet what if Kabina’s schemes helped them manage their flood risk as well as the flood risk within Kabina sites? Kabina sites could actually be engineered to accept additional flood water from the locality.

Furthermore, what if such flood risk sites, currently private land and inaccessible, were transformed into public open spaces and wetlands for the local community to enjoy? Would that not be a great solution?

The Kabina toolkit and approach can therefore help solve the UK’s housing needs (our population increased by seven million from 2000 to 2017) and create stunning new developments that give families affordable, waterside living and that adapt to climate change.

Isn’t that desirable?

Kabina Ltd
13 Hawley Crescent
Kabina is a registered trademark.

Editor’s notes:
Neil Cheston and Guy Lane founded Kabina, a UK company, to work with water not against it. Our ethos is to deliver economic, social and environmental benefits through intelligent innovation. Kabina’s essence is ‘Of our time’.

Kabina's diverse and expert team includes acknowledged naval architects; real estate professionals; urban planners; offsite housing manufacturers; and environmental specialists.

Kabina® is responding to well-documented and accelerating trends: climate change; unprecedented weather events and their consequences; and the need to build new homes for the UK’s fast-growing population.


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Kabina Ltd

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