Drying times

Flood damage can be devastating and take months to dry out. So what can be done to speed up the process?

Whether you are a believer in climate change or not, the last decade did seem to have more than its fair share of flooding. The UK is notoriously wet and whether flood waters were the result of human impact on the environmental, increasing building on flood plains, or just part of the natural pattern of things, they nevertheless remain extremely unpleasant for those that lose their homes. Insurers estimate they pay out some £1.5billion per year for flood damage and restoration, and they expect that to soon top £2billion. Of course, those that suffer the misery of flood damage want to return to their properties and homes as soon as possible to begin repairs. However, once soaked through, building can take months to dry out, which they must do thoroughly, before people can move back in and begin restoration. Removing the bulk of water is usually easily accomplished with pumps and water naturally receding in just a few days. But it is the residual water and damp embedded in walls, brick work and plaster that causes the most problems. The Challenge: Our challenge this month is therefore to come up with a way of drying rooms and buildings more quickly and efficiently. The solution should not be a way to avoid floods altogether, nor should it involve a pump to remove the bulk of water. The challenge is the best way to remove water and damp soaked in to buildings. Current methods often involve using heaters, dehumidifiers and fans but this is rather inefficient, expensive and generates a lot of CO2 to continuously run them for months at a time. By shortening drying times houses are less likely to suffer from mould damage, families can get back to their property sooner, and in a flood damaged area more properties can be helped in a shorter period of time. You could use desiccants to help in the process, or perhaps invent a special vacuum cleaner to suck the water from the floors and walls? Alternatively, if you are environmentally conscious you could try to harness the sun rays with giant mirrors and direct them where necessary; though you might be there a while... especially in the UK. The device developed is remarkably elegant and simple, is twice as quick as traditional methods and it can easily be deployed. Find out the solution in next month's issue, but in the meantime, see if you can come up with something better. -Solution- Solution to April 2012 Coffee Time Challenge The solutions to this Coffee Time Challenge about how to dry your house after it has been flooded comes from Middlesex based Direct Air Dryers (DAD). The idea came from engineers, Jack and David Elliott, who reasoned that there had to be a better way of removing water and trapped moisture from water damaged properties. They came up with a device that can put air where it is needed, dramatically reducing overall drying time. The system uses inflatable mats which have air blown through them. The mats can be placed on walls and floors, and can be made in all shapes and sizes, to target damp areas. The key to the design is to distribute precise amounts of turbulent air to the damp areas. The DAD mats use a series of intricate air distribution channels and outlet vents to achieve the necessary effect. The air is evenly distributed within the mats by a system of webs and apertures to ensure even drying when the air exits through specially sized holes on the drying side. These holes ensure local turbulence is generated, giving the greatest drying effect.