MPs present sustainable housing report co-authored by Durham University geographers

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Durham University has co-sponsored a report which recommends nature-based solutions to make new homes in England resilient to climate change.

Following up on a 2018 inquiry on the impact of water infrastructure on existing housing, ‘Bricks and Water’ calls for a government rethink to its plans to build 1.5 million new homes by 2022. According to the report, urgent action is required to ensure that new homes are water-efficient, resilient to flooding and can sustainably dispose of surface water.

“England could run out of water by 2050”.

Co-Chaired by Conservative Peer Baroness McIntosh of Pickering and Labour’s Angela Smith, Member of Parliament for Penistone and Stocksbridge, Bricks and Water has many co-sponsors, including Durham University.

Professor Louise Bracken was one of the Durham university Geographers that helped construct the report. The Geography professor and Deputy Vice-Provost (Research), said: “It is crucial that we take action to mitigate flooding and reduce our water consumption before our daily lives become more severely impacted by water-related risks”.

The report warns that England could run out of water by 2050 because of falling supply from climate change and increasing demand from new homes. Currently, the daily national average stands at 143 litres per person. ‘Bricks and Water’ propose mandatory water labels for fixtures and fittings to help reduce water consumption below 90 litres a day, saving consumers billions in utility bills and achieving net-zero water use by 2030.

Flooding has been outlined to be another growing problem.One in six properties in England are at risk of flooding, and since 2013, 85,000 new homes have been built within areas of high flood risk.

Durham is one area of the country that has increasingly experience flooding. Image via Durham Weather. Dated July 2009.

To reduce the impact of flooding, the report proposes a “rapid acceleration of property flood resilience measures” and protection of green spaces to manage surface water runoff.

The report concludes that increasing green spaces will also improve air quality which will mitigate the impact of climate change. They also carry a psychological benefit as people are relying on green spaces to help support their physical and mental wellbeing, especially since the lockdown measures imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Bracken expressed her “hope that these proposals are embraced by government and we start to make changes to help us lead more sustainable lives.”

Large water companies such as Thames Water, South West Water and Yorkshire water support the report’s recommendations. According to Yorkshire Water it “sets out a pragmatic and sensible set of policy proposals which, if enacted, could make a significant difference in helping developers, landlords and owners to improve the water efficiency, flood resilience, and drainage arrangements of their homes.

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