Carbon footprint of restoring a flooded home can be equivalent to six and a half return transatlantic flights

Aviva calls for urgent action in creating climate-ready homes

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  • Analysis from Aviva’s claims data, in its latest Building Future Communities report,  shows restoring a flooded home can create 13.9 tonnes of CO2 emissions1 - equivalent to six and a half return flights from London to New York.
  • Emissions could be reduced by 64% through installing basic property flood resilience measures but only a third (35%) of residents have installed such measures2.
  • The carbon impact is the unseen cost of a flooded property, in addition to the financial and emotional distress.
  • Strengthened planning regulations, collaboration across all stages of the building process and incentivising resilience measures are among Aviva’s calls for change in the new report.

New analysis from Aviva shows the significant carbon impact of restoring a flooded home and calls for homes to be retrofitted and built resiliently to withstand a future of extreme weather.

Drawing on models from its claims data, Aviva’s second Building Future Communities report shows that the carbon cost of restoring a flooded home can be equivalent to six and a half return flights from London to New York or 55 car trips from Land’s End to John O’Groats1.

In its report, Aviva argues that building and restoring resilient UK properties is essential to tackling climate change and reducing emissions associated with flood damage. It calls on Government to introduce stronger planning regulations with resilience factored in, increase collaboration during all stages of the building process, and take steps to encourage and incentivise property resilience.

The carbon cost of a flood

Aviva calculated the carbon cost of a river flood event on a UK home - a three-bed, semi-detached, pre-1930s property. The insurer compared the carbon emissions due to the flood event in two different scenarios: one when the property had no flood resilience measures and the second with simple measures installed such as flood doors, sealed brickwork and raised electrical points. The outcome was very different, depending on whether resilience measures were in place.

Without any property flood resilience measures in place, Aviva found the carbon cost of restoring the flooded home was 13.9 tonnes of CO2 emissions.  In addition, a home without resilience measures installed could lead to homeowners having to move out of their home for a considerable period.

Putting in place simple property flood resilience measures is projected to lead to a 64% reduction in the carbon cost of a flood and decrease the depth of flood water to 20-30mm. In turn, this means residents can remain in their homes which can help to lessen the emotional toll of a flood.

Adam Winslow, Aviva CEO of UK & Ireland General Insurance, calls on national and local government, planning authorities, the construction industry and insurers to work together to help strengthen the resilience of UK homes in the face of increasingly extreme weather events, as has been seen in the past year.

Winslow said: “Last year was a stark reminder of the very real impacts that climate change is having on the UK, with severe storms, record-breaking temperatures, wildfires and drought. It is clear that these weather patterns can no longer be called unusual.

“This new analysis underlines the link between protecting homes and reducing carbon emissions. Climate adaptation and mitigation can no longer be dealt with in silos. They must be addressed as two sides of the same coin. Failure to adapt buildings to cope with extreme weather could lead to more damage and a higher carbon cost in repairing that damage.

“It is critical that we work together to be climate-ready in all aspects of our lives, and that includes the regulations that stipulate how and where we plan, design and build homes, as well as how we restore them after a flood.

“As the government prepares to meet ambitious building plans, rightly to replenish our housing stock, it is essential that this is balanced with the need to focus on sustainable, low emission and resilient properties. Embedding resilience into new properties and restoring existing buildings with property flood resilience measures is vital if we are to minimise the emotional, financial and carbon costs of flooding.”

Impacts

Home without resilience measures

Home with resilience measures

Carbon cost

13.92 tonnes CO2e

4.95 tonnes CO2e

Financial cost (buildings and contents)

£67,663

£24,000

Total drying time

77 days

10 days

Time residents spent in alternative accommodation

210 days

0 days

Waste volume

24m3

12m3

In the Aviva analysis, the biggest savings in carbon emissions from property flood resilience measures were in building restoration, with a saving of 5.2 tonnes CO2e, largely due to lower water levels, which led to less damage in the home. In turn this meant fewer materials were needed to replace fixtures and fittings and less waste was produced.  Emission savings were also made on the home contents (2.6 tonnes CO2e), as many items could be repaired rather than replaced.  Importantly, carbon emissions associated with alternative accommodation – whereby a resident needs to move to temporary accommodation – reduced by 100% when resilience measures were installed because people were able to stay in their homes.

Household sentiment

The extreme weather of 2022 appears to have made people more aware of the threats of climate change.  Research commissioned by Aviva found that 45% of people think climate change will impact their home in the next year, compared to 38% in 2021, rising to 65% in 10 years (2021: 57%).2 And although 80% of UK residents think homes should be resilient to extreme weather, the majority (67%)2 have not installed resilience measures in their homes.

Aviva’s calls for change

From the seven calls for change in its first Building Future Communities report, Aviva is calling for:

  • Strengthen planning regulations to protect UK properties:
    • including strengthened policy to avoid development in high-risk areas and the requirement to embed resilience measures where developments are granted
  • More collaboration and research across all stages of the building process to combine sustainability with safety:
    • including the alignment of building standards and planning policies with the UK’s Net Zero strategy
  • Encourage and incentivise property resilience to aid recovery:
    • including a role for incentives and other initiatives to boost UK household resilience

Winslow added: “With ambitious government plans to build new homes, it is crucial that any housing developments built on flood plains benefit from dual protection; flood defence systems to help prevent flooding in whole communities and resilience measures to minimise disruption. Unless more urgent action is taken to make our homes climate-ready, properties will be exposed to multiple threats from extreme weather, be it flooding, subsidence or over-heating. We simply cannot continue with the current status quo.

“Now is the time to act to make existing and future properties fit and prepared for the climate threats they will face in future.”

-ENDS-

Media enquiries:

Diane Mangan

General Insurance Lead

Peter Thain

General Insurance & Broker

Footnotes:

1 - The homes modelled, and their contents, are theoretical, but based on a real claim made on a property insured by Aviva. In modelling the carbon emissions associated with a flood in these theoretical properties, best estimates of the Aviva claims team have been used, as both actual figures and national average figures are unavailable.

2 - Research commissioned by Censuswide for Aviva in July 2022

 - Impacts calculated based on Aviva claims team estimates

Notes to editors:

  • We are the UK’s leading Insurance, Wealth & Retirement business and we operate in the UK, Ireland and Canada. We also have international investments in India and China.
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