Storm Ciara had barely blown over the UK in early February before Storm Dennis was announced, bringing another weekend of wet and windy weather to much of the country.
This might feel like a pattern in recent years, when crisp, cold, snowy winter days have been relatively few compared to blustery weather and prolonged downpours.
And we could be set to see weather events like Storm Ciara and the Beast from the East become more commonplace, based on a major study published in the journal Nature in 2019.
Flooding on the rise in Europe
The research pulled together data for thousands of rivers across Europe from academic sources including the University of Bath and the University of Liverpool.
It found flooding due to burst riverbanks has increased in northern Europe in the past 50 years, while decreasing in southern Europe.
For those working in engineering and construction in the UK, this trend is unavoidable, with the potential to cause significant disruption if you’re not well prepared.
Dr Thomas Kjeldsen of the University of Bath said: “Incorporating the evidence of increasing flood risk into engineering design and general flood management would ensure we are better prepared for future changes.”
Dr Neil Macdonald from Liverpool University’s Department of Geography & Planning added: “Flood management must adapt to the realities of our changing climate and associated flood risk over the coming decades.”
How to adapt?
One simple way to do this on building sites at relatively low cost is through the use of timber bog mats, which can quickly and easily cover over wet and muddy ground.
Stacking bog mats in an H-formation, similar to laying railway lines over sleepers, can raise walkways and temporary roads above the level of waterlogged land, allowing work to proceed uninterrupted.
At Timbermat we’ve been supplying bog mats for sale and hire for many years, including for use on marshland, beaches and other tidal locations.
Timber bog mats are relatively cheap, with little to no impact on site insurance costs, and are manufactured from completely sustainable timber – minimising their environmental impact.
Responsible forestry can even have benefits for the environment, as trees are a natural store of carbon, making timber mats an all-round positive solution to the future challenges of climate change and increased risk of flooding on construction sites across the UK.
Bog mats are a versatile way to protect delicate land against damage during heavy works, excavations and demolitions, but these ground protection mats also help to protect the wider environment in a very real sense.
During use, they provide a physical barrier against any unexpected spills, for example oil, fuel spills or other potentially harmful fluids that can be cleaned up more easily from ground protection mats than from the exposed ground surface.
Timber mats are a sustainable resource, manufactured from several species of European hardwood and tropical hardwood that can be replenished through careful forestry and responsible stewardship.
And because producing or importing these woods into the UK is governed by strict regulations, you can always feel confident that any bog mats for hire or for sale from Timbermat will not contribute towards deforestation anywhere in the world.
In fact, farming timber for the purposes of producing new timber mats has a positive impact on the number of trees in the world, because sustainable practices mean there are always new trees being planted to create timber stocks for the future.
End-of-life timber mats
It’s not only during their manufacture that bog mats can have beneficial effects on the environment; their disposal can also help to close that loop even further.
Again, because timber is a natural product, it can be recycled in many different ways, and will biodegrade much faster than artificial materials like plastic bog mats.
By opting for durable tropical hardwood mats, you can get many years of good service life out of the bog mats you buy, so there should be no environmental impact at all for as long as you keep them in good condition.
Likewise when you hire bog mats from Timbermat, you are helping to reuse a resource many times before its disposal – we only supply timber mats that are still in good condition, but equally we only retire worn mats when it’s necessary to do so.
This balance is a best of both worlds solution, ensuring that our bog mats for hire also have a long service life, and are disposed of in an appropriate way when they are no longer in usable condition.
Piling mats can help to allow work to continue on heritage buildings, both protecting the existing building while work is completed, while also enabling essential piling and underpinning to support any new additions to the building fabric.
A great example of this kind of approach is the London Screen Academy, a post-16 free school currently under construction at Ladbroke House in Islington.
Preserving history, promoting progression
Once completed, the new 16-19 school will teach specialist skills relating to the screen industries e.g. film and television, so students can progress into employment or higher education.
The project is being overseen by the government-owned property company LocatED, on behalf of the Department for Education, and the site itself presents numerous challenges.
For example, the original 1920s exterior is being retained for heritage reasons, while the new school is essentially built from scratch within its footprint. Adjacent public roads and party walls complicate matters further.
In a recent progress update, LocatED show a time lapse video of demolition work within the building as the central space is hollowed out to create new studios.
Timber mats can be seen throughout the video for a range of different applications, from creating temporary platforms for work to continue, to their use as ground protection mats on each level of the building during demolition.
In buildings such as this, piling and underpinning is often required in order to support alterations to the structure above ground – and piling mats help to allow piling rigs to be used safely.
Versatile, reliable shape and size
One of the advantages of Timbermat piling mats is that they can be taken into the building through a relatively small opening, but can be lifted and moved easily and joined to create a near-seamless working platform.
This is especially crucial in buildings with basements or cellars, or other voids below ground level, as a piling rig platform helps to spread the weight of the heavy equipment above so it does not break through any weak spots.
In this way, buildings can be renovated and significantly altered structurally, while retaining their outer facade so that the heritage of the premises remains intact, especially in historically significant locations or conservation areas.
The new ruling is aimed at prohibiting the placing of illegally produced wood products in to the EU market to help combat the unlawful felling of trees. The authorities hope the new measures will help combat climate change and deforestation of rainforests.
Illegal logging not only deprives governments of tax revenue, but encourages corruption and bad practice. It has a negative impact on social infrastructures and human well-being and causes the loss of long-term security and income for forest-based communities. All this while causing the degradation and clearing of forests and consequent loss of habitats for plants and animals.
John Roberts, Managing Director of Timbermat Ltd, one of the largest stockists of timber mats in the UK, said his company is already ensuring its imported wood meets the new EU Timber Regulations. These changes have been put in place well ahead of March 2013 deadline and Timbermats can produce certificates of origin for all of its ground protection solutions to show they meet all regulations and legal requirements.
For years contractors have used the African wood Ekki for outside construction because it requires no preservative treatment and is therefore entirely benign to the environment, the worker and the public, making it ideal for temporary road and pedestrian surfaces. ‘Unfortunately due to the new EU Timber Regulations, companies may have to seek alternative materials to Ekki for
their work,’ said Mr Roberts.
‘Ekki will still be imported into the UK but in much smaller quantities and this is likely to impact on its price.’ ‘Our wood experts are well aware of the new EU Timber Regulations
and their implications. We have long been anticipating the demise of Ekki as the new regulations are introduced because of the implications on tropical timber.
That is why we have been researching alternative woods which have similar qualities to Ekki. These are more sustainable species and are more widely available with no threat to the environment. For more information contact Timbermat on 08000 12 1231