In terms of truly momentous updates in the kitchen industry one is soon to happen that will represent a seismic shift that will, I believe, shake up and wake up an industry that’s for too long concentrated it’s efforts on the aesthetics of products rather than their substance, function and performance. The subject of the update? A flood resilient kitchen.
In February 2017, an initiative funded jointly by the Building Research Establishment, (BRE), and AXA insurance, will see a Victorian style terrace property, built for the purpose at the BRE Innovation Centre in Watford, become subject to an average flood level whilst the test examines the resilience of a series of products fit for the purpose of withstanding water ingress and it’s after effects.
Among the products, the kitchen chosen for the flood test is the Puustelli Miinus range and the results will send out a signal that will, I predict, see performance and provenance becoming the primary factor for a person’s future buying decisions. Sustainability and water resilience becoming the functions that will top that list.
We’re all now growing more familiar with TV News footage showing evacuations and rescues in the wake of flash floods. Rescue teams in boats helping to evacuate townsfolk and villagers across vulnerable and vast swathes of the British countryside now known more commonly as flood risk areas.
Places where sea or river defences have proved inadequate and have failed to prevent the long term devastation reaped on businesses, residents and commuters across the country. It’s a sad fact that increasing rainfall levels brought about by Climate change will continue to wreak havoc despite the best efforts to strengthen flood defences. It became clear a different approach had to be addressed.
Chief Executive of the BRE, Dr Peter Bonfield, OBE, was asked by Rory Stewart, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs to bring commercial interests together in a Roundtable to consider how collectively we could best enable and encourage the use of property level resilience measures for buildings at risk of being flooded.
Published in September 2016, the Flood Resilient Action Plan has ambitions that go beyond the strengthening of water defences to focus more on the resilience of building materials to the damaging effects of water ingress in the event of a flood.
What impact will this have upon the future of kitchen manufacturers, designers and installers?
Recommendations for a flood resilient kitchen within the plan include: good design can create attractive kitchens and incorporate flood resilient features.These can include raising appliances above likely flood levels, use of appropriate materials for cabinets and resilient floor tiles.
The Association of British Insurers, among the members of the Roundtable group, in their Flood Resilient Homes leaflet, which outlines a series of recommendations, goes a step further by defining a solution for homeowners in flood risk areas : “Replace chipboard/MDF kitchen and bathroom units with plastic equivalents”.
It’s clear that the implications for the kitchen industry selling to buyers in a flood risk area are major and when you consider the Environment Agency’s ‘A National Assessment of Flood Risk’ 2009 publication estimates that around 5.2 million properties in England, or one in six properties, are at risk of flooding, the industry must adapt in all sectors to counter the flood threat.
Actions such as locating electrical supplies above perceived flood levels in a home are obvious but a radical rethink on the design and the material composition of kitchens must also enter the equation.
Washing Machines, Dishwashers, Ovens, Fridges and Freezers are all typical examples of appliances that would become submerged and damaged in a flood. It will become a new challenge for designers whose initial questionnaires should now include “Will your kitchen be installed in a home in a flood risk area?” Then there’s the countermeasures – a raised level washing machine?
On the subject of “appropriate materials for cabinets” the advice of the ABI to replace chipboard and MDF with plastic equivalents becomes an even greater challenge. Where are these plastic equivalents? If they exist, are they safe, environmentally friendly, recyclable, sustainable?
The Pusstelli Miinus range is all of the above and with it’s excellent water resistant qualities, it’s easy to see why it fits the brief and was chosen for the flood test for the Flood Resilient Home.
The test home will be flooded to an average height level and in theory, if the resilience of some materials can be proved, it could lead to them being adopted and supported by insurers as a more cost-effective refurbishment method.
The results will be interesting and will, I’m sure, have kitchen manufacturers scrambling over one another to discover materials that can combat the risk in flood areas.
To discover more about Puustelli Miinus checkout the range here
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