McGill prof says he's found a better, faster way to flood-proof your home

According to Dr. Amar Sabih, a mechanical engineering professor at McGill, all you need to flood-proof your home is synthetic plastic tarp made of Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and metal barriers commonly seen at outdoor events in the city.

Dr. Amar Sabih says all you need is synthetic plastic tarp and metal barriers commonly seen at outdoor events

Dr. Amar Sabih said he was motivated to find a solution after seeing many flood victims suffer because they were unable to save their homes. (Antoni Nerestant/CBC)

After last spring's devastating floods across Quebec, one McGill University professor has pitched a new solution to the City of Montreal — one that he says is a faster and cheaper way to protect people's homes.

Thousands of Quebecers surrounded their homes with sandbags last spring to brace themselves for floodwaters. This was the go-to protection method advised by the city.

But many people's homes, especially those near bodies of water, were still damaged — so badly that nearly one year later, 77 families across the province are still being accommodated by the Red Cross.

'Very easy' flood-proofing method

According to Dr. Amar Sabih, a mechanical engineering professor at McGill, all you need to flood-proof your home is synthetic plastic tarp made of Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and metal barriers commonly seen at outdoor events in the city.

"[Setting up the barrier] can be done in 10 minutes for 20 feet," Sabih said. "So imagine we have a house. It can be done in less than two hours. Very easy."

That's much less compared to the time and effort needed to fill and stack hundreds of sandbags.

Sabih said the tarp will do a much better job of containing the water.

Sabih has reached out to the city administration, who told him they're open to the idea. (CBC)

When put in front of houses along a residential street, he said the barriers would allow water to flow down the street without touching anyone's property.

"It will make the street look like a big swimming pool," Sabih said. "You'll just stay at the side, watching the flood water rise every day, but you'll be safe."

'Think out of the box'

He said he was motivated to find a solution after seeing many flood victims suffer because they were unable to save their homes.

In 2013, when McGill's downtown campus was hit especially hard by flooding, Sabih advised his students to use snow bags, not sandbags to stop the water from entering.

"I kept it in my mind that we should think out of the box and find new ways to deal with the flood and not to go to the traditional method of using sandbags," he said.

City open to the idea

Sabih has reached out to the city administration, who told him they're open to the idea, and that they've purchased thousands of metal barriers that are only used when a big event comes to town.

"I think we'll have plenty enough to save the city if we need," he said.

Using his method, it's possible to re-use the materials, unlike using sandbags. But municipal funding to run tests would be a big help, Sabih said.

With files from Antoni Nerestant