An innovative FloodFree Barrier now protects the Everybody’s Precinct in an Auckland CBD heritage building, after floods took out transformer in 2022.
Building owners of a central Auckland heritage office and entertainment building have installed an innovative self-raising flood barrier to prevent a recurrence of the flooding that took the building out of action in 2022.
The FloodFree Passive Tilting Barrier is a permanent flood barrier that automatically rises to block flood water. Installing FloodFree flood protection has been a game changer for the Imperial Building, which includes Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Everybody’s Bar and Restaurant at 7 Fort Lane in the Auckland CBD, says Property Manager, Emma Mountfort.
“I have been involved with the Imperial Building for close to ten years,” says Mountfort. “The March 2022 floods were a 1-in-200-year storm and deluge. We had never seen anything like it. Because the rear entrance to the building is at the low point of Fort Lane, floodwater comes down it like a river. In a king tide, if the council drains block up, water would come into the building and go straight down the ramp into our below-ground floor.”
Mountfort says that the 2022 rain event led to two feet of water entering the basement within minutes, flooding the building’s main switchboard and vector transformer. This caused an immediate building evacuation, ‘completely frying’ the main switchboard. “The disruption to people's businesses and livelihoods was absolutely massive. We needed shipping container generators to power the Louis Vuitton and Gucci stores, costing roughly $15,000 a week while we worked to get a temporary switchboard in place.”
When looking at where to re-install the switchboard following the flood, a proposal to install a new FloodFree self-raising barrier gave the building’s owners and managers the confidence to reinstate the switchboard in the same place, where all the services in the building led to. This allowed for a more cost-effective upgrade with little civil works required. Installation of the new barrier was completed in July 2023.
Watersmart are the New Zealand distributor for FloodFree Barriers. Roger Adlam advised: “The barrier is totally buoyant. It is engineered to withstand the hydrostatic forces applied, so is also extremely strong. The passive tilting flood barrier is designed under the principles of buoyancy to raise, in advance of the rising water level, to protect the entrance from water inundation. A drain in front of the barrier, allows water at the building’s entrance, to drain away. Once the water recedes, the self-actuating barrier returns to ground level, without any human intervention”.
The FloodFree range of Flood Barriers offers a number of self-actuating and manual options, for permanent and temporary solutions. “We are working with other building owners in New Zealand's flood affected areas to design purpose-built solutions, with a current project requiring a 20 meter long flood barrier. Watersmart can also assist to connect the barrier to a camera so the client can visually inspect what’s going on from afar, as well as a range of visual and audible alarm systems.”
Mountfort is reassured to know that the building is now well prepared for future flood events. “Knowing that we are able to hold off any water until the tide goes out, and that this critical element of the building will not be inundated again is a massive reassurance to me. Things can be replaced, paint can be repainted, but you can't just get a new switchboard off the shelf.”