Floodproofing Non-Residential Buildings (Print Version)

Almost everyone lives in a potential flood zone. In addition to the hurricanes and catastrophic floods that make national headlines, a damaging flood is happening somewhere in the U.S. every day, even in desert regions, caused by local heavy rainfall, dam failures, land development runoff, drainage problems, inland remnants of tropical storms and many other conditions. Nationwide, flooding is the leading cause of deaths related to severe weather, and it wipes out businesses, too. According to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), almost 40 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors after a flood disaster, because just a few inches of water can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

In an increasing number of areas around the country, the risk of flood is even more acute. Over 178 million acres have been designated as floodplains by FEMA. These areas are growing steadily, and more people are finding themselves within a floodplain as flood maps are redrawn. The new maps reflect changes in conditions and new development, and also improvements in scanning technology, additional years of climate, flood and topographic data, and more advanced prediction models.

Building in floodplains, or Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) designated by FEMA, is strictly regulated by the NFIP, the International Building Code, ASCE national reference standards, and by local community codes, all of which are discussed in this course. Deciding on a non-residential building’s floodproofing strategy will have a direct connection to the project’s cost, to the safety of the building’s occupants and the survivability of the building itself, and to the risk of liability for the designer and builder in case of flood damage.