Will your house stand in the next storm?

Photo: Jan Erik Heggelund/Scanpix

Will your house stand in the next storm?

The storm Dagmar demonstrated once again how vulnerable we are facing the forces of nature. The amount of compensation paid out by insurance companies for flooding and other damage is rapidly escalating. How can we as homeowners learn more about how to avoid such damage resulting from climate change? A website using new visualisation technology may be the answer.

Researchers and the insurance industry are joining forces to create new solutions for how we can adapt to changes in the climate. A new collaborative project between the Nordic insurance companies If, Gjensidige, Trygg-Hansa/Codan and Tryg Insurance, and the Top-level Research Initiative’s NORD-STAR centre, one of the Nordic Centres of Excellence, is working to develop a web-based tool that homeowners can use to help them to adapt to new climatic conditions.

Growing need for adaptation in the Nordic region

In recent years, many parts of the Nordic region have seen unusually wet summers with flooding and flood damage. “The number of compensation payments has increased considerably, and the prognosis is that they will rise even more throughout the Nordic region in the upcoming years,” says Tom Anders Stenbro, an adviser with Tryg Insurance. “From now on the insurance companies need to work even more actively to prevent damage, both individually and together, as well as in cooperation with researchers and homeowners.”

The new tool will model exposure to climate change in the Nordic countries and recommend measures for adapting to this. The project will begin by collecting data on vulnerability and the impacts of climate change, as well as information about property values and the incidence and effects of weather-related events.

Help for homeowners

“Imagine a family that is considering building a house near a riverbank. We will create a web-based visualisation program that can tell them whether the area is at risk of flooding today and whether it will be in the future. The program will also show whether there are measures that can reduce the risk of building damage due to flooding or erosion, which in turn can have ramifications for the insurance premium,” explains Björn-Ola Linnér, a climate researcher at Linköping University in Sweden.

The computer tool is being developed mainly for private homeowners, but other groups such as land-use planners and property managers can also make use of it. “This is a dual problem in the sense that private homeowners can do a lot to protect their own property, but many types of damage can only be prevented with measures at the municipal level, such as ensuring that drain pipes have adequate capacity. The municipalities, companies and individual homeowners can all build in smarter ways that take the climate into account, and we want to help them do this,” Mr Stenbro concludes.

NORD-STAR is the Nordic Centre of Excellence on Nordic Strategic Adaptation Research funded within the Nordic Top-Level Research Initiative (TRI) sub-programme ‘Effect Studies and Adaptation to Climate Change. For more info about the Top-level Research Initiative, see www.toplevelresearch.org

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Text: Bjarne Røsjø, BR Media adapted for the Internet by Lisa H. Ekli/Translated by Connie J. Stultz and Carol B. Eckmann
Photo: Jan Erik Heggelund/Scanpix

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