Learning Beyond the Classroom: The Opportunity Within Flood Houses

By Alan James, May 3, 2016 - Restoration & Remediation magazine

Water Restoration Technicians are dependent on a wide range of tools on a daily basis, ranging from moisture meters and infrared cameras to dehumidifiers and heat drying systems. One underestimated, but essential tool is knowledge and this is gained through both industry training and hands-on experience. Unfortunately, many individuals believe simply owning the tools to do the job makes them an expert in that field, the result of which can be disastrous to not only the individual, but the restoration industry as a whole.

Around the world, flood houses are being specifically manufactured to support an industry’s thirst for knowledge; whether they be single rooms or entire houses, the structures offer an opportunity to not only learn the science of drying, but also the practical knowledge required to effectively function in the field. But surely the theory is enough? Well, quite simply the answer is no.

How many of you have sat through a training course that was pure theory only to go home and forget a substantial amount of what was taught? According to a Dartmouth College study, on average, we retain approximately 10 percent of what we see; 30 to 40 percent of what we see and hear; and 90 percent of what we see, hear, and do.

In November 2015, DBK Group successfully completed the construction of its first flood house in the U.S. The property, although relatively small in comparison to other houses in existence, has the benefit of being a free-standing property which is fully exposed to the elements. This is important as it means that throughout the year, the building is exposed to substantial swings in external climate conditions; all of which have an impact on the drying regime that could be employed. 

The property is approx. 12’x26’, built on block wall foundation with concrete footers and walls, roof and flooring framed with lumber. The roof has been constructed using standard shingles and the exterior captures five different coverings: wood siding, vinyl siding, block and stucco, brick and hardi-plank. The interior is built using drywall and plaster, painted to a standard finish with two walls being wood frame and two metal frame. Additionally, we have included one wall with plaster and wood lath as well as one painted block wall. The floor consists of four flooring types: tile on backer-board, hardwood, carpet and pad on OSB and carpet and pad on plywood. 

When in use, the house is typically flooded to IICRC recommended standards:

A minimum of 75% of the structure is affected.
The house is flooded 18 to 24 hours before the beginning of the training.
There is a minimum of a quarter of a gallon of water per two square feet, on two separate occasions, a minimum of six hours apart, ensuring that the carpet, cushion and subfloor are thoroughly saturated.
The house is then flooded a third and final time the morning before the training begins.
Finally, the building is closed up and left stagnant until the training starts.

Flood houses are unique in that they are often manufactured using a wide range of building materials, enabling the trainee to observe how a broad scope of materials behave under the stress of a flood. In what other scenario could an individual experience a wide variety of materials, drying equipment and drying methodologies in a single property, in a single week?

Typically, a flood house is manufactured to serve three key purposes:

Train technicians how to apply their knowledge.
Teach insurers and adjusters how to challenge the industry.
For manufacturers to enable practical training on the equipment they produce.

As a manufacturer, it is essential that you understand both the needs of your customer and integrate those needs in to the future development programs of your organization. DBK developed this facility to not only support product training but also to provide an essential research and development tool for the future, enabling us to develop and test the next generation of flood restoration equipment. We want to know:

How can we dry specific materials faster without secondary damage?
How can we improve the ways in which we measure, monitor and control our drying chambers more efficiently?

These are just some of the questions that a facility such as this will help us answer. 

Flood houses provide an opportunity for restoration contractors to gain access to a variety of challenges that may not have crossed their path… yet. Technicians can use the drying science they had previously been taught and maybe even use drying methodologies previously foreign to them. For example, flood houses enable the practical use of moisture meters, allow users to log drying data and install drying equipment, potentially for the first time.

Now, imagine you are a technician and the water damaged property is your customer. The property has very specific needs and you need an appreciation of how to cater to those needs. How better to learn to cater to those needs than through a hands-on training experience, in a controlled environment where it is okay to make mistakes.

Alternatively, adjusters or insurers can use flood houses to educate themselves on mitigation, understanding the process, and therefore understanding the breakdown of bills and claims.

Flood houses are designed to support the theory-based educational programs available around the country through certified schools. Attendance at a training facility such as a flood house helps to develop the practical skills required to enable the theory taught throughout the syllabus. Flood houses also open up the opportunity for colleagues and competitors to share information, network, and improve skills. Creating open dialogue, and often stimulating competitive nature only leads to the industry evolving and continuing to grow in a very constructive way.