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Investing for a rainy day of biblical proportions

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A recent report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) estimated that if no further precautions are taken by 2050, floods are likely to affect between 1.66-3.64 million people in the UK. Emma Websdale caught up with Dan Montagnani, director of environmental risk analysts GroundSure, to get advice on how residents can protect themselves against increased flooding.

Towards the end of 2012, thousands of people across the country were hit head on with extreme flooding. A threat usually associated with more tropical parts of the world, in many cases, residents were not prepared for the unexpected and rapid floods that engulfed large parts of the UK.

Evacuations from areas near bursting riverbanks, massive standstills in rail and road services and over 170 high-level flood warnings provoked fear among the public. Even those who watched water levels creep frighteningly close to their doorsteps around Christmas struggled to shrug off the thought of the seemingly never-ending rainfall.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) stated that incurring costs to the economy from flooding can reach £3 billion in England. This is a statistic we shouldn’t ignore. For starters, house insurance premiums for those located in areas with flooding risks will increase.

The British public needs educating on how to effectively stave off the worst effects of flooding. But luckily, help is on hand.

GroundSure is a company designed to “support people in the property industry in the UK, in regards to environmental risk issues” associated with contaminated land, flood risk and ground stability.

We have a vast database of geospatial information for the whole of Great Britain, which we are constantly working on to update, improve and enhance”, says managing director Dan Montagnani.

In addition to third party and proprietary data sets we provide risk advice to clients in support of commercial and residential property transactions.

Our information sources include the Environmental Agency, the British Geological Survey, the Health Protection Agency and local authorities from across the country. We also have unique historical archives of 1.3m historical and survey maps which go back to 1840.”

The Met Office declared that 2012 was the second wettest year since recordings began over 100 years ago – a record that is likely to be beaten in the coming years.

Montagnani provides an explanation as to why there has been increased flooding in the UK: “Flooding is becoming more of an issue because of two reasons. Partly because our climate is changing. Our climate is becoming more extreme, and we’re seeing prolonged droughts followed by heavy periods of rainfall and so we have to adjust as a society to that type of situation.

It is widely acknowledged that climate change is in part driving the need for greater understanding of flood risk and mitigation of its effects where appropriate

Also, many areas of the UK historically have been developed in the flood plain making them more susceptible to flooding when it happens.”

Flooding is not just a result of rivers bursting their banks or tidal surges, lots of the flooding we are experiencing at the moment is a result of surface water flood risk – that’s when we have instantaneous heavy rainfall events and as a result the urban drainage infrastructure capacity is unable to cope with that degree of heavy rainfall.”

A recent report entitled Flood Risk Management in England by Defra stated that flooding will become a major threat for the UK. It estimated that if no further precautions were taken by 2050, floods were likely to impact between 1.66-3.64 million people across the country.

With such an alarming number of residents predicted to be affected by flooding, Montagnani explains just what precautionary measures UK landowners could take to protect their properties against flooding.

He says, “When purchasing a property you should absolutely get a flood risk report. That report will consider all different types of flooding from flooding from the sea, rivers and surface water flooding.

If your property comes back with an identified high risk of flooding there are things that can be done to address the risks. Flood resistance and flood resilience measures can be incorporated into buildings and some of these are very simple and low cost.

For example, flood barriers, relocation of air bricks in building structure and, non-return valves on pipes connecting the property to the sewer are all relatively low cost solutions. A lot of these measures can be incorporated into a property for just a few thousand pounds and as a result can provide a pretty good form of defence against flooding.”

When purchasing a property you should absolutely get a flood risk report

But will people invest in greater flood protection given the recent increases of rainfall?

Ideally, people need to do this before it floods”, responds Montagnani.

I think that what we have seen up until now is that flood risk searches are undertaken as an exception rather than possibly the norm, with people relying or hoping that the issue can be addressed through insurance. That behaviour is changing with uncertainty over the future availability of insurance, greater public awareness and lenders and conveyancers who are alert to flood risk issues and are seeking to proactively manage it in their workflow.

Public awareness is growing with continued media coverage and it is worth noting that there are a range of solutions to the problem – if one is identified.”

Companies like GroundSure that are seeking to address flood risk through the provision of conveyancing search solutions act as a stepping stone to reducing consumer exposure to flood risk and its impact on society.

Montagnani adds, “It is widely acknowledged that climate change is in part driving the need for greater understanding of flood risk and mitigation of its effects where appropriate.”

With an environmental science degree, 18 years’ experience at an environmental consultancy business, including work at Barclays’ environmental risk management unit, Montagnani is just one of the many dedicated staff members at GroundSure.

The ability to serve up property specific risk data regarding flooding enables GroundSure to provide house purchasers with advance warning of exactly what degree of risk they are exposing themselves to in any one transaction.

This in turn means that nobody should be buying a house without advance knowledge that a problem may exist and therefore having some contingency to address that before it floods.

To understand more about what the company can offer in regards to flood protection you can visit its website.

Further reading:

Extreme rainfall is increasing in UK

Environment Agency: climate change means we need to adapt to extreme weather

Is our weather getting worse? In short, yes

Flood defences in England improved by local knowledge

Britain braced for flooding during festive period

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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