Beyond the floodgates: Uncovering the impact of flooding on built assets

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  • Beyond the floodgates: Uncovering the impact of flooding on built assets
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Nick Constantine


Nick Constantine


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Flooding poses significant challenges and risks for property owners and tenants alike, with profound impacts on infrastructure and communities.

Nick Constantine, Director – Built Asset Consultancy at Rider Levett Bucknall, sheds light on the underlying causes of flooding in this typically arid region. Nick also delves into why the ramifications of water damage on built assets may surpass initial expectations if not investigated fully, offering valuable insights and recommendations on this topical issue.

What causes flooding in the Middle East?

Flooding in the Middle East is often triggered by irregular rainfall patterns, exacerbated by the region’s semi-arid climate. Extensive urbanisation here has also altered natural drainage systems and led to the expansion of impermeable surfaces. The result: a reduction in natural infiltration and an increase in surface runoff, rendering areas even more susceptible to inundation. This vulnerability is especially pronounced in low-lying coastal regions, as evidenced by recent events in the UAE.

The geographical landscape of the Middle East also presents unique challenges, such as the occurrence of sandstorms, whose sediment can obstruct drainage systems and compound flooding during periods of heavy rainfall.

Add to this the spectre of climate change that looms large, exacerbating existing risks and potentially ushering in a future marked by more frequent and severe flooding incidents.

One often-overlooked aspect of flooding is the potential for hidden defects and subsequent damage within affected properties.

The consequences for built assets

Flooding can have devastating consequences for built assets.

Water infiltration can cause extensive property damage, including the deterioration of building materials and the growth of mould. Properties may even suffer structural damage that compromises the integrity, safety, and habitability of the building.

For asset owners, flooding can lead to significant financial losses, property devaluation, and insurance complications. Tenants can face displacement, loss of possessions, and challenges in accessing basic amenities and services. Businesses are also affected with many experiencing loss of revenue due to property damage, interruption of operations, and decreased customer footfall.

The inconvenience and cost to multiple stakeholders can therefore be substantial.

Hidden defects – the problem can be larger than it seems

One often-overlooked aspect of flooding is the potential for hidden defects and subsequent damage within affected properties.

Even after floodwaters recede, properties can still harbour hidden issues. Severe water damage has the potential to compromise building foundations, weaken structural components, and corrode electrical and plumbing systems. Moisture trapped within walls, floors, and ceilings provides an ideal breeding ground for mould spores, posing health hazards to occupants – a scenario no asset owner wants to be faced with!

Asset owners and tenants must therefore be vigilant in inspecting their properties for signs of potential hidden defects and post-flood damage.

In response to the severity of water damage, comprehensive measures are necessary, such as conducting meticulous moisture inspections, scrutinising the integrity of electrical and plumbing systems, and evaluating the structural soundness of buildings. Seeking guidance from qualified professionals, such as Chartered Building Surveyors, is vital for pinpointing potential hazards and formulating appropriate remediation strategies.

Regrettably, I have often encountered situations where attempts at repairs were both subpar and inadequately executed, or where incorrect diagnoses led to ineffective solutions. These scenarios waste money, resources, and lead to redundant work. Unfortunately, building defects are often underestimated and overlooked and this complacency comes at a cost – usually to the asset owner.

Who’s responsible?

The responsibility for managing flood risk and minimising the impact of flooding on properties is a shared one.

Developers are responsible for developing flood-resilient buildings and communities that include proper drainage systems, elevation of critical infrastructure and, where required, installation of flood barriers.

Asset owners are responsible for undertaking regular maintenance and inspections to ensure that properties remain resilient to flooding after handover.

Tenants also play a crucial role in flood risk management by taking proactive measures to protect themselves and their belongings. Tenants should always report any signs of water ingress or drainage issues within the property, even when these issues are minor, to prevent more severe consequences when conditions are worse.

In the face of escalating flood risks across the Middle East, the imperative for asset owners and tenants is crystal clear. Through a keen grasp of the roots and repercussions of flooding, coupled with proactive risk management strategies, all stakeholders can mitigate the devastating effects on properties and communities alike. But the true strength lies in collaboration – a united front among developers, asset owners, and tenants is the cornerstone for building and sustaining flood-resistant properties, safeguarding livelihoods as well as ensuring the safety and wellbeing of occupants.


Nick Constantine
Nick Constantine

Director – Built Asset Consultancy