The traditional Queenslander could soon become a threatened species. Photo: Glenn Hunt
Residents may be looking to flood-proof their homes, but building properties high on stilts could be out of reach for many Queenslanders.
The merits of raising homes above the council’s 8.5 metre roofline limit has been questioned in the wake of Brisbane’s devastating flood.
Residents are now looking to build higher homes, with the focus on vertical planning rather than horizontal.Advertisement: Story continues below
Architects Kerry and Lindsay Clare’s Buderim home, built in 1991.
The higher home would accommodate cars underneath it, with the main living areas confined to the top level, similar to the historic Queenslander.
Award-winning architect of Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art, Kerry Clare, has suggested flood-resistant “sacrificial spaces” could be created in the home with the use of stronger material that can be hosed down after a flood.
“I would recommend this rather than making blanket changes to planning laws,” she said.
She agreed houses could be better positioned to avoid flooding, just as she designed a residence in Buderim in 1991.
“It’s an older home, but the principles of design apply,” she said.
But Queensland Master Builders Association director of housing policy Paul Bidwell said construction costs could blow out $20,000 should residents look to raise new homes above the flood mark. It would cost even more to lift existing homes.
“That’s an extra $70 per square metre in a new home, which is not a small cost,” he said.
One design touted as flood-friendly in weekend newspapers would cost $550,000 to build, compared to the average cost of $315,000.
But heritage architect Robert Riddel said home owners with short memories would build and renovate for their immediate needs, rather than a one-in-100-year flood.
He said home owners will not be able to resist the urge to build downstairs sitting rooms, studies and bedrooms in the future.
“There will always be the temptation to build in downstairs,” he said.
“Just like people built in verandahs when the they needed more rooms, they will build in downstairs.”
Mr Riddel said plans to raise houses were flawed, in light of figures showing Queensland homes rank among the largest in the world.
“The solution has been around for a long time, but I don’t think it’s a long-term solution,” he said.
Queensland has the second largest houses in the nation behind New South Wales, with an average size of 253 square metres.
He said he would prefer homes were never built on floodplains.
“Flood-prone areas should be left as parkland,” he said.
Lord Mayor Campbell Newman indicated at the weekend height restrictions could be negotiable if residents applied to raise their flood-affected properties.
“If people come to us now and want to raise their house in these flood-affected areas, even though the City Plan has this 8.5 metre rule, we will look very favourably at arguments for relaxation,” he said.
Urban Development Institute of Australia state president Warren Harris said the cost of raising flood-prone houses would be better absorbed in new developments, rather than existing areas.
“There will be a great cost in raising flood-affected properties,” he said.
“But we all need to keep a calm head.”
Mr Harris urged residents not to turn their backs on floodplains.
“We should not leave them as hollow chunks in our city, because some of these flood-prone areas are actually in ideal locations close to infrastructure and the CBD.”
He said he was confident future design could mitigate flood risks to houses.
“There are many ways to treat a flood plain,” he said.