Over the past two weekends we have seen tragic images from many parts of the UK of homes and businesses that have been inundated with flood water. Last weekend it was storm Ciara that brought devastation to places like West and North Yorkshire. Areas that have seen major flooding on numerous occasions over the past few years. This weekend it was storm Dennis that wreaked havoc on South Wales, the Scottish borders and many other places.

The winds have been ferocious with both, but its been the vast amounts of rainfall that have caused the most damage and disruption to people’s lives. Indeed, claiming some lives in the process.

Whilst tens and hundreds of millions of pounds can be spent on flood defences in vulnerable areas, we have to take a closer look at homes and property as well. Flood defences won’t always keep nature at bay, so protection for homes is the next line of defence, and that means quality and genuinely flood-proof windows and doors.

Keeping the water at bay

The images online and on TV over the past couple of weekends have been heartbreaking. Watching them, you know the kind of upheaval that sort of devastation will cause. It will keep businesses closed for a long period of time, and keep people out of their homes for far too long. Those of us who aren’t affected by this sort of thing should count ourselves lucky.

With any building, its the windows and doors that are the key elements to keeping the outside from getting in. And as climate changes intensifies and increases the strength of extreme weather events, our industry, as well as others, have to adapt to a much more demanding landscape.

To begin with, I would stop building homes on flood plains for fields used for flood water run-off straight away. I appreciate demand for good land is high, but to build in areas that are at risk of flooding is pure stupidity in my eyes. With the frequency of flooding increasing, and the amount of rainfall going in the same way, no amount of insurance is going to recompense a home owner who looses everything to a flood.

Next, its time to look at how we build houses and the the products that go into them, so in our case the windows and doors. There are flood-proof or at least flood-resistant products out there in the marketplace already. However, after Storm Desmond in 2015, a report from the BBC which I featured on DGB in 2019 reported that one of the companies tasked with fitting new flood-resistant doors to homes that were damaged had gone under, whilst at the same time leaving a number of home owners with problematic doors due to poor installation. You can catch up on that article here.

The climate appears to be rapidly changing, becoming more extreme as it does so. We can expect more major flooding events every year. If this turns out to be the case, then as an industry we have to up our game when it comes to flood-resistant windows and doors. Home owners are relying on products from our industry to help keep the water at bay and their homes dry. They are also relying on us to make sure they are fitted properly. You can have the best door or window in the world, but if it’s not fittec correctly, then it doesn’t matter. Quality matters on this issue, both with product and installation.

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Changing demands

Whilst flooding is very much in focus right now, its not the only extreme our industry has to ensure it can fight against. In recent years we have had heatwaves that have broken records, fierce winds during storms, record amounts of rainfall, long spells of unbroken sunshine. The sun and the heat might sound good, but it puts an immense amount of pressure on doors, especially the darker coloured ones.

Indeed, the prolonged heatwave from a couple of years ago was a major problem for the entrance door market in the UK, with bowed doors a particular problem. It can all be traced to how we build homes in the UK in general.

Its assumed that the UK rarely sees temperatures above 30 degrees and months of sunshine at a time. However, as experts have warned and is now coming to fruition, the risk of more hot, dry summers is coming good. Our homes cannot cope. They’re made of red bricks with dark coloured tiles with no AC. The heatwaves of the past few years in both our old house and our new one has been horrific. We actually had to keep the windows closed as it was the only way to keep the relatively cooler air inside the house!

My old front door used to stick whenever it had some sunlight on it. We weren’t south-facing on that side of the house, but a few hours of decent sunshine and it would be guaranteed to swell.

Think about it. In Spain so many regions paint their homes white to reflect the heat, and have more windows on south-facing sides to make the most of the sun during the winter months. They have adapted the way they build homes to the conditions around them. We haven’t. Less than 2% of homes built in the UK do not have AC. There are windows on all elevations, without thought as to where to make the most of the sun. The building materials soak up heat and keep homes warm for far too long during the warmer months. We’ve built ovens, not homes, especially the new-builds.

The issue of flooding and windows and doors is a serious and immediate issue we have to address. There needs to be a better supply of quality flood-resistant windows and doors for home owners to easily access. But more than that, we need to have a wider conversation about how we build homes, where we build them, and what products we can use to help homes become more adaptable as the climate around us changes.

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