Living with Water

Living with Water: Flood Resilient Housing for Hull

In July 2019, Harper Perry took First Place in Hulls Living with Water design competition to deliver new flood resilient residential housing along two riverside sites in Hull.  The competition was set to create new forms of housing on sites owned by Hull City Council and the Spencer Group that addressed rising water levels and increased flood risk of both the sites and the City.


Addressing a site of this scale requires thinking of short term goals as well as longer-term, future challenges. Questions about the future of urban centres, changing lifestyles and transport habits, and most critically for Hull, how to live with rising water levels and increasing flood risk require solutions for now as well as strategies for the future. This site is an opportunity to think strategically: to develop solutions that promote a future model of urban living that is sustainable, resiliant and adaptable to changing needs and dynamic climate challanges.

At this scale, housing is landscape and landscape is infrastructure. Our proposal sets out an integrated strategy in which building form, streetscape, drainage, water attenuation, transport and services are essential and interdependent.

There are three main elements to the proposal; landscape, housing and infrastructure.

Infrastructure – Living with Water

Addressing rising water levels and increasing flood risk is critical to developing sustainable and enduring new neighbourhoods. Water attenuation (holding water) and allowing it to be released slowly following peak run-off is the principle underpinning our landscape and housing strategies.

At a macro level sunken basements beneath the residential ‘blocks’ provide large floodable basins. Intended for car parking and cycle storage, these spaces are designed to be ‘sacrificial’, holding flood waters over extended periods of time, slowly releasing back into the local drainage or the Humber. The underground basins supplement a series of basins incorporated into the promenade landscape. Sunken ballcourts, amphitheatres and play spaces are designed to fill and hold rainwater on the site – making water and flooding a visible and familiar experience on the site.

At the smaller scale, marshy planter beds and sunken channels are woven through the streets, providing additional surface attenuation, and making visible the flow of water into the larger holding chambers during periods of heavy rainfall.

Client: Kingston Upon Hull / Spencer Group

Location:Kingston Upon Hull 

Award: First Prize

Site: Humber Quays West (1.7 ha) and Hull Arena (1.5 ha)

Dwellings: ~380 Homes

Competition: Two Stage + interview

Housing is landscape and landscape is infrastructure

New housing typologies are required to tackle climate change and flood risk in Hull. Higher density, city-centre living is increasingly seen as the most viable future for urban centres and will be essential to facilitate new infrastructure (hard and soft) needed to mitigate flooding.

Our proposal is based on hybrid urban blocks comprising terraced houses with apartment buildings. All new housing in Hull is required to be raised at least 600-800 mm above existing flood risk levels. This impedes level access. Using the perimeter block layout enables level access to be provided via shared residential courtyards at the centre of the block, whilst streets are potted with characterful steps that animate the street. The houses have private roof terraces that are sheltered by the dog-tooth profile.

Corner plots and the water front are ideal locations for apartment buildings both to increase the site density to make the site infrastructure viable, but also to respond to the scale of the vast Humber estuary. The apartments have been designed to cater for young and old, with good space standards, dual or corner aspect and large balconies.

The dwellings would be highly insulated, adopting a ‘fabric-first’ approach, with a simple form to maximise energy efficiency. Site parking caters for current needs but could eventually be re-purposed as the city moves towards more sustainable transport habits.

Living with Water_Connected Streets

Landscape Strategies

i) Connected streets

The streetscape is the backdrop against which the life of the new neighbourhood plays out. A simple grid is proposed, extending from the existing main road, and establishing a network of streets defining urban blocks with semi-private, residential courtyards at the centre.

ii) Urban grain

A clear hierarchy of streets is created, with on-street parking removed to create pedestrianised residential streets between blocks and an active waterfront promenade.

Living with Water_Height
Living with Water_Attenuation

iii) Parking / Below-grade attenuation

In the longer term Hull (along with other UK cities) will move away from car-dependency. However, in the short term, on-site parking is required to support the new residences. These parking basements double as floodable tanks, holding back flood water as part of a wider attenuation strategy.

iv) Landscape / Surface attenuation

Landscape features: sunken ball-courts and amphitheatres and shallow water channels make visible the water levels on the site and, during times of flooding, hold water as part of the site attenuation strategy.

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Living with Water_Surface Attenuation
Living with Water_Typologies

v) Typologies

A mix of housing typologies help to support a diverse residential community. Family-sized housing forms the main residential blocks, with apartment buildings along the waterfront enabling increased height to respond to the vast scale of the Humber estuary.

Perimeter blocks with private courtyards at the centre allow site levels to be mitigated by ensuring level access to rear entrances where front doors are raised above flood levels.


A critical density of residents is needed to support the infrastructure required for flood resistance as well as transport provision, shops, nurseries and other services.

Living with Water_Density

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