Flood management: Prediction of microbial contamination in large-scale floods in urban environments

Jonathon Taylor*, Ka Man LAI, Mike Davies, David Clifton, Ian Ridley, Phillip Biddulph

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


With a changing climate and increased urbanisation, the occurrence and the impact of flooding is expected to increase significantly. Floods can bring pathogens into homes and cause lingering damp and microbial growth in buildings, with the level of growth and persistence dependent on the volume and chemical and biological content of the flood water, the properties of the contaminating microbes, and the surrounding environmental conditions, including the restoration time and methods, the heat and moisture transport properties of the envelope design, and the ability of the construction material to sustain the microbial growth. The public health risk will depend on the interaction of these complex processes and the vulnerability and susceptibility of occupants in the affected areas. After the 2007 floods in the UK, the Pitt review noted that there is lack of relevant scientific evidence and consistency with regard to the management and treatment of flooded homes, which not only put the local population at risk but also caused unnecessary delays in the restoration effort. Understanding the drying behaviour of flooded buildings in the UK building stock under different scenarios, and the ability of microbial contaminants to grow, persist, and produce toxins within these buildings can help inform recovery efforts. To contribute to future flood management, this paper proposes the use of building simulations and biological models to predict the risk of microbial contamination in typical UK buildings. We review the state of the art with regard to biological contamination following flooding, relevant building simulation, simulation-linked microbial modelling, and current practical considerations in flood remediation. Using the city of London as an example, a methodology is proposed that uses GIS as a platform to integrate drying models and microbial risk models with the local building stock and flood models. The integrated tool will help local governments, health authorities, insurance companies and residents to better understand, prepare for and manage a large-scale flood in urban environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1019-1029
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironment International
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Science(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Flood
  • GIS
  • Hygrothermal
  • Modelling
  • Pathogen


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