At Arup, we endeavour to support the recovery process after catastrophes. After the severe floodings in Germany in July 2021, rapid structural assessments were needed in order to kick off refurbishment process. While governmental organisations had the means to pay for our services, we also offered pro bono services to less solvent organisations in need.

Our services included a site visit, a subsequent structural assessment and technical advice to the client in order to declare the buildings as safe to use and ensure a timely recover from the recent flooding. 

Arup in Düsseldorf supported two projects in Leverkusen: a school with 1200 pupils, as well as a care home for people with mental disabilities and office spaces for care workers. The later did not possess a storm and tempest insurance since the building was not located in a flooding area. 

Since the flooding, which exceeded even predictions of centennial extreme weather conditions, literally happened right in front of our own door, we as Arup were looking for ways to get involved in order to support the recovery process. The school complex building services were destroyed, and the water washed in a lot of oil, mud and faeces. In the care home, the water level rose to a height of 1.70 m above the ground floor, and hence, the basement as well as half of the ground floor were completely flooded for several days. The amount of destruction was beyond what anyone imagined, and both buildings needed to be assessed immediately with respect to their structure stability. 

In such situations, a structural assessment is a crucial first step that needs to happen as soon as possible since subsequent works can just start after the buildings are declared as safe to use. We worked closely with the project partner to assess the stability of the building and make recommendations to help with the repair of the building, so that a solution could be found as quickly as possible to bring the affected parts of the building back into use. While the school was thankful for the immediate response of our team, the care home appreciated that our service was conducted pro bono. 

The challenge in such situations is not just the technical evaluation, but also the overwhelming demand that constitutes a stark mismatch with available capacities on the market. While the decision to get involved was agree on immediately, the organisation resembled a super fast-track project. In order to allow our engineers to take immediate action, we talked to clients if they are willing to accept possible moderate delays on other projects; simultaneously we secured financial resources from the Community Engagement Fund within Arup in order to have the financial freedom to offer our help unbureaucratically. Thanks to Arup´s many technical experts from different regions, the technical preparation for the inspections itself were undertaken swiftly. 

A visual inspection of all buildings was conducted in order to provide an initial assessment of the structural stability. Our reports concluded that, fortunately, no impairment of the inspected building structures or the building ground existed, even though monitoring the structure with respect to propagating cracks was necessary in order to rule out that foundations have been undercut. 

A swift action was particularly important, since the inhabitants with mental disabilities constitute a vulnerable part of society and finding alternative accommodation is particularly difficult, since their special needs are usually not met by commercially available alternatives. Arup’s quick response enabled the 21 residents to return to their homes and the refurbishment works of a school with approx. 1200 pupils began as soon as possible.