The Lego Flood House: from vulnerable to flood resilient

Designed by Dr. Edward Barsley and Blue Heart, the Lego Flood House aims to help highlight the impacts of flooding and benefits of adaptation and resilience.

Lego Flood Resilient House

Co-designer of the 2024 RHS Chelsea Flower Show ‘The Flood Resistant Garden‘, Dr. Edward Barsley is determined to help people protect their gardens and homes against extreme weather and show them how increase their flood resilience, from the ground up.

A specialist in environmental design with a Cambridge PhD in architecture, he founded the Environmental Design Studio (TEDS), a social venture, which works on climate-specific design projects, research, training and behaviour change initiatives.

Even in the first five minutes of our conversation, it’s immediately evident that Barsley is on a passionate mission to highlight the causes and consequences of flooding, and showcase adaptation and resilience strategies for communities, landscapes and buildings against the threats. His new book, Retrofitting for flood resitstance (RIBA) offers advice on the nature of flood risk, but is also an impressive practical and highly visual guide to adapting built and natural environments, as the threat posed by flooding continues to rise.

To spread the message, Barsley is working on a myriad of projects, which besides his new book, include research projects such as Flood fundamentals, the Climate Creatives Challenge, ‘Our Flood Resilient Home‘ & ‘Our Flood Resilient Business‘ TV series, ‘Flo’ the converted electric VW campervan promotional tour, the 2024 RHS Chelsea Flood Resistant garden with Naomi Slade for Flood Re, and the rather novel concept design for a new Lego set; the Flood House.

Flood smarts through Lego

The Lego Flood House Set, designed in collaboration with Blue Heart, aims to showcase the impacts of flooding on a home and the benefits of making a property more flood resilient. Blue Heart is a 6-year project as part of the Environment Agency’s Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme (FCRIP).

The set is conceptual at this stage, awaiting support on the LEGO Ideas platform until it attains the required 10,000 votes to be put forward to Lego HQ for consideration. A cunning marketing tool by Lego, as not only do they receive innovative ideas but also a captive audience for new products. Listed ideas for new Lego sets on the Ideas Platform are intriguing, ranging from sets of the Orient Express, to sustainable architecture models, insect collections and even a motorised beating heart.

The Flood House set consists of a pair of terraced houses, one that is vulnerable and damaged by the flood water and one that is flood resilient. Showing both sides was important to Barsley as feels there is educational value in showing the adaptation and comparison.

“The house is actually two terrace houses back to back, one is a house that’s flooded while the other shows how Property Flood Resilience (PFR) measures can really help to reduce the impacts on the building and family. You’ll spot flood barriers, raised fuse boxes and a wide variety of flood resilience measures that can minimise flood damage and speed up flood recovery. Throughout the design process we’ve reached out for feedback from many ‘at risk’ communities and experts throughout the flood industry and education sector”, explained, Barsley.

The LEGO set demonstrates how flood resilient design can make all the difference in protecting the home from the elements – shown in yellow to make it clear which elements are helping to change the consequences the family and their home endures. The set includes both Property Flood Resilience (PFR) strategies and a selection of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS).

  • Included PFR measures: flood door, non-return valve, deployable flood barrier, automatic air brick, flood-resilient kitchen units, tiled floor, raised fuse box, sump and pump, solid floor, raised sockets, sentimental items upstairs, wall-mounted TV, Raised bookshelf / valuables, Modular furniture, Raised fridge, Foldable table and Closed cell insulation.
  • Included SuDS measures: rain garden, disconnected down-pipe, water butt, permeable paving, flood-tolerant lawn, tree and planters.

Flood literacy

When we questioned the climate expert, as to whether this was an appropriate topic/toy for children, Barsley explained that Lego has an uncanny ability to bridge boundaries and language. He, more than most is acutely aware of the terrible mental and physical trauma associated with (recurring) flooding – which by means of his work he is trying to prevent. “Children can learn through play about the occurrence of floods, the associated risks and building resilience”, he added.

An especially urgent message, as Barsley explains that a staggering, one in four houses in the UK is at risk of flooding. New research by Flood Re also showed that despite that, people in the UK are not taking the crucial steps needed to protect their homes and gardens – with only 9% of homeowners planning to add flood resilience measures in the next year.

Barlsey and Blue Heart hope that if realised, the set will not only increase awareness of flood risks and resilience, but also spark an interest in STEM, as the set introduces children to various concepts related to subjects such as science and engineering, to hopefully inspire the next generation of much needed engineers.

For those keen to support the idea of the Lego Flood Resilient House you can vote for the set, and find more information here.