Congress approved a new flood standard for federally funded projects in the 2016 Omnibus Budget Bill, according to Inside Climate News.  Author Katherine Bagley, in her article Congress Actually Dealt with Climate Change in the 2016 Budget Bill. Really., states that “…executive order No. 13690, mandates that all federally funded projects located in a floodplain be built higher and stronger than previously required.”  The mandate applies to both new construction and reconstruction.

Under the existing Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (which was created 38 years ago), buildings within the floodplain were required to have their lowest floor be elevated to the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).  The BFE refers to the elevation associated with the “100-year flood,” which is a flood with a 1% chance of occurrence in any given year. The new flood standard requires federal agencies to choose one of three approaches, according to FEMA.  The agencies can:

  • Utilize the best-available, actionable data and methods that integrate current and future changes in flooding based on science,
  • Add two or three feet of elevation above the BFE, or
  • Utilize the 500-year (or 0.2% annual chance) flood elevation.

Many communities across the nation have already been requiring the additional height above the BFE, called freeboard.  Although raising a structure above the BFE can sometimes pose design challenges, the additional height reduces flood risk and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the NFIP) provides a reduction in flood insurance premiums and the higher the building’s lowest floor above the BFE, the more substantial the savings are.