Can Homes Be Protected Against Storm Surges?


Hurricane Matthew was a reminder of the devastation that storm surges can cause to buildings and homes. An estimated $4 billion to $6 billion in insured property loss was caused from Hurricane Matthew’s aftermath, according to projections from CoreLogic. But hurricanes may not be the only threat to homes and businesses along the nation’s coastlines. Changes in sea levels could worsen and threaten even more areas.

The Union of Concerned Scientists predicts that sea levels will rise 6 to 16 inches above current averages by 2050 due to climate change. They’re calling for developers to get creative at protecting buildings and homes from flooding.

Some communities and developers are already taking action by raising the height of the land or existing development along the coasts. For example, there are elevated houses in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. New Orleans now requires new or rehabbed housing in levee-protected areas to be elevated either three feet above grade or to FEMA’s base flood evaluation, whichever is greater.

Another way developers are addressing the potential for rising waters is by floating developments. These are structures that float on the surface of the water. Floating homes can be attached to the shore or anchored to the sea floor. A home could be designed to rest on an engineered foundation but in the case of a catastrophic flood, it could then float up to 12 feet while anchored to poles. Places like Seattle and Redwood City, Calif., already have floating homes that are popular in its waterfront. But the type of development could be more widespread among other coastlines or even used for hotels, restaurants, and even floating an airport, like what’s occurring in the Netherland’s North Sea.

Developers are also looking at how to make structures that could withstand flooding or retain stormwater. This could include more retention areas to capture ocean surges or heavy rainfalls. Water is captured and then can be later released. Floodable development is also already widely seen in places like Seattle and Portland and recently some areas in San Francisco now. The developments may include swales or contoured ground, rain gardens, trees, constructed wetlands, green roofs, and permeable pavement.

Source: “Housing Solutions for Rising Sea Levels,” (Oct. 12, 2016) and CoreLogic

Source: NAR – Real Estate News
Can Homes Be Protected Against Storm Surges?

Photo Credit: Liz Henry via Flickr