FEMA floats new construction regulations for flood areas

Flooding in Miami Beach in 2013
Flooding in Miami Beach in 2013

A newly proposed regulation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency has the potential to raise construction costs for federally funded projects in flood-prone areas.

The rule, proposed Monday, would require companies and homeowners to build on higher ground: two feet above the 100-year floodplain level for standard projects; three feet for hospitals, nursing homes and other “critical action” buildings; and build to the 500-year floodplain or other scientific models, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Current regulations require that buildings be at or above the elevation where a flood is predicted to rise once in 100 years.

FEMA’s proposal would affect buildings, roads and other federally funded projects, but private developments would be unaffected. Some South Florida municipalities, which are already dealing with the effects of sea level rise, have enacted their own laws for new construction. In Miami Beach, all new construction greater than 7,000 square feet must be Gold Leed Certified, and the city is investing at least $400 million in raising street heights and installing water pumps throughout the barrier island’s most flood-prone areas.

A report released earlier this month shows Miami stands to lose up to $3.5 trillion in assets by 2070 due to sea level rise. Miami has the largest amount of exposed assets, beaches included, of any coastal city, according to the National Wildlife Federation. [WSJ] – Katherine Kallergis