Resilience Rd: Suncorp's new initiative to protect homeowners against natural disaster

Suncorp plans to help ensure the homes in every street, neighbourhood and community can stand up to every storm — not just recover from them. Welcome to the Resilience Rd project.

 

GALLERY  

 

Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent in Australia, especially in the tropical state of Queensland. Cyclones, bushfires and floods ravage the northern state on a more frequent basis. This is only expected to increase with the effects of climate change. “Climate change is something that’s happening, and I don’t think anyone would be denying that as we see extreme weather impacting our communities,” says Rockhampton mayor, Tony Williams. Currently, Australia spends 97 per cent of its disaster funding on recovery.

By contrast, only three per cent goes towards resilience and mitigation efforts. These efforts have the potential to prevent devastation and displacement in the first place. With more resilient building practices and design, there may be new ways to help homeowners beyond disaster recovery. It was through this ethos that Suncorp’s Resilience Rd project was born.

Resilience Rd

Resilience Rd Street Sign Rockhampton

The Resilience Rd project has taken an average suburban street in the severely weather-affected area of Rockhampton and upgraded five family homes using everyday, affordable additions to improve their resilience in the face of a major climate event.

“We know that Rocky is now a place where the extreme weather is going to keep coming,” says Lyn Thomas, who lives in House No. 6 with her partner Steve. Brad Dixon, who lives in No. 10, agrees. “It doesn’t rain all the time, but when it does, it buckets down. You want to protect the things that you love, so adding protection to the home is always a good thing.”

Suncorp’s 2021 “One House to Save Many” partnered with industry experts, CSIRO and James Cook University, to create a new house design that can stand up to extreme weather. And in this second evolution, Suncorp has put its learnings into practice by improving the homes on Resilience Rd.

“Resilience Rd is about taking what we learnt from One House and applying it to real homes and real families on a real street,” says Bernadette Norrie, executive manager for Suncorp Insurance. The upgrades to each home on Resilience Rd are chosen to help withstand extreme weather events such as bushfires, floods and cyclones.

“It is great to see and encourage people to become more resilient about how they prepare, even before an actual disaster,” says Mayor Williams.

Building resilience

Resilience Rd House with boat and car

Each resident of Resilience Rd has felt the profound impact of the country’s increasing severe weather and natural disasters. By uniquely upgrading each of their homes, Suncorp and the team were able to provide peace of mind, knowing they will be safe and prepared for future events.

The Miller family from House No. 2 had their roof torn off in the 2015 cyclone (cyclone Marcia). “The best way to describe what happened to our roof is that it peeled back like a sardine can,” recalls Kim Miller. As part of the project, Suncorp upgraded the Millers’ roof to more storm-resilient materials while relocating external electricals to safer parts of the home. This would help the family feel more confident in the event of a future cyclone.

“We made the roof carport more resilient for the storms,” says Phil Schott from Australian Building and Construction Group. “We’ve gone for a thicker material and cyclonic screw assemblies are in the roof so it’s storm-resilient.” Along with this, the air-conditioning unit is now underneath the house; for protection in the event of a storm.

“I do really feel as though, with the work that has been done, if a cyclone was to come, that would be ok. We wouldn’t suffer what we suffered in 2015,” says Kim.

Brad Dixon’s home, House No. 10, is upgraded to withstand more severe storms and fire impact with Crimsafe shutters. A storm enclosure to protect outdoor furniture and louvred awnings was also added to help protect the house from flying branches. “Basically, anything that hits, such as flying debris, will just bounce off,” says Brad.

The Thomas family from House No. 6 suffered major hail damage from a previous storm. Suncorp and the team upgraded their old Queenslander with new gutter guards to prevent water ingress. “Probably the biggest thing we had done is have the gutter guards put in and I think that has made a real big difference, because when those drains are blocked, water actually does come into the house,” says Steve Thomas. The surrounding trees were also trimmed and maintained to further help protect the house.

“Generally, you should always be maintaining your home. Like we’ve said, you’re servicing your car, you should service your house,” says Phil Schott.

How you can protect your home

 

As the frequency of natural disasters increases, so does money spent rebuilding communities. This also includes insurance. Suncorp’s commitment to resilience not only sparked the “Resilience Rd” project, but also extends to its insurance products and inclusions. Suncorp’s goal is to address the issue at the onset and make communities stronger by encouraging them to improve the resilience of their homes.

“It is about protecting our way of life and improving the way of life, not just in Queensland, but for all Australians,” says Bernadette Norrie.

Build it Back Better, an Australian first for home insurance, will help customers with homes that are substantially damaged in a natural weather event (over $50,000 or 10 per cent of the sum insured) rebuild their house stronger, with additional recommended resilience options designed to withstand severe weather.

* Disclaimer: Cover applies to claims with building damage over $50,000 or 10% of sum insured, whichever is highest. Resilience improvements are tiered according to level of cover up to $10,000. Limits, conditions and exclusions apply, see suncorp.com.au/insurance/policy-documents.html. Before buying insurance issued by AAI Limited trading as Suncorp Insurance read the PDS at suncorp.com.au. TMD is also available. 

Suncorp is also looking at further ways to build resilience in the future by rewarding homeowners with reduced premiums for investment and preparation. Researchers at James Cook University in partnership with Suncorp are conducting innovative research analysing insurers’ policy and claims data. This data is being used, in combination with CTS findings on damage investigations and full-scale house testing, to highlight mitigation options to reduce the risk of damage from cyclones.

Suncorp, along with other insurers, is incorporating these learnings to actively promote mitigation/retrofitting strategies to reduce damage from cyclones as well as to reward homeowner with reductions on their insurance premium for mitigation work undertaken.

The benefits are not only for older “pre-code” housing; they can also improve the performance of new construction especially by reducing the damage from wind-driven rainwater ingress. “After having seen what’s been done to the other [Resilience Rd] homes, we like to think that their house is better for that upgrade they had,” says Steve Thomas.

Kim Miller agrees. “My recommendation would be for people to embrace the idea, have the builders come through, do that assessment [and discover] what improvements can be made to your home to make it more resilient.”

Learn how to build resilience into your home by searching resilience.suncorp.com.au

 






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