The social value of flood infrastructure design

Fitton, Sarah L. and Moncaster, Alice (2014). The social value of flood infrastructure design. In: ATINER Conference Paper Series, Athens Institute for Education and Research, Athens, article no. PLA2014-1083.



The argument presented in this paper calls for an approach to flood infrastructure design that considers not only the need for a technical perspective in design but a social perspective also. As a result of climate change and changing weather patterns, it is predicted that more intense rainfall will be experienced as well as rising sea levels resulting in a greater number of people across the world vulnerable to flood events. The need for flood defence infrastructure is only going to increase. However, industry professionals responsible for design and construction have often neglected to see flooding as a social problem and consequently only develop technical and cost-effective, not social end user orientated solutions. This paper presents the preliminary findings from research that seeks to understand how the social value of a UK flood defence scheme is interpreted and discussed by both the local community and those responsible for the design, delivery and construction. The results are taken from a pilot case study, the Didsbury Flood Storage Basin Improvements scheme, conducted between April and August 2013 in Manchester, UK. A series of semi-structured interviews were conducted with both the community and those responsible for the design, delivery and construction of the scheme. The findings presented demonstrate how social value is articulated and where a difference in interpretation exists between the communities it is designed for compared to those responsible for the design, delivery, and construction. The conclusions drawn support the argument that adopting a social perspective in flood infrastructure design and construction produces not only a technically successful scheme, but also a considered and socially acceptable one. Adopting a socially as well as technically considerate approach for future flood infrastructure design is critical as more communities around the world are exposed to the very real risk of flood events.

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