In the New England region we have a lot of water – many homeowners with coastal homes. These sites are tricky – FEMA revised their maps in October 2013, raising the flood line in many communities.
What does this mean for you?
How do you determine how this affects your property?There are several issues you need to contend with if your home is in a coastal region, regardless if you have an existing home or are planning on building a new home. The first issue is the cost of insurance. Homes that are below the flood line (more on that later) will have to pay more for their insurance cost (another great way homeowners can be “underwater” /sarcasm mode off…). New homes, or homes that will be raised above the flood line need to conform to requirements (from FEMA, building code and possibly local zoning code, conservation code, etc…). These requirements include the height the building needs to be above the water (depending on the FEMA zone and other code requirements, it may be required to have the lowest floor just above the flood line, or even have the entire structure raised 1, 2 or 3 feet above the flood line). The foundation system is also critical and it’s design is predicated by FEMA’s requirements – they may allow a crawlspace or basement foundation, with provisions for allowing water to flow through (in zones with minor flooding issues) all the way to requiring homes to be raised on piles (allowing water to easily flow through under the home).
At David Sisson Architecture PC, we design homes in all FEMA flood hazard areas identified on the Flood Insurance Rate Map are identified as a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). SFHA are defined as the area that will be inundated by the flood event having a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year. The 1-percent annual chance flood is also referred to as the base flood or 100-year flood. SFHAs are labeled as Zone A, Zone AO, Zone AH, Zones A1-A30, Zone AE, Zone A99, Zone AR, Zone AR/AE, Zone AR/AO, Zone AR/A1-A30, Zone AR/A, Zone V, Zone VE, and Zones V1-V30. Moderate flood hazard areas, labeled Zone B or Zone X (shaded) are also shown on the FIRM, and are the areas between the limits of the base flood and the 0.2-percent-annual-chance (or 500-year) flood. The areas of minimal flood hazard, which are the areas outside the SFHA and higher than the elevation of the 0.2-percent-annual-chance flood, are labeled Zone C or Zone X (unshaded).
In addition to having special structural and foundation requirements, homes that are coastal (or even inland properties that are adjacent to a wetland) have additional requirements for review by local or state conservation boards. In Rhode Island, the CRMC (RI Coastal Resources Management Council) and the RI DEM (Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management) review these projects. In Massachusetts the local conservation boards and also the MA DEM (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management) oversees these projects.
If you have a coastal or wetland property, please contact David Sisson Architecture PC, a Providence, Rhode Island full service Architectural firm. We will assist you with your home or development project. Frequently, you will need an Architect, Surveyor, Wetlands Biologist and possibly a Civil Engineer, Structural Engineer or other consultants depending on the size and complexity of your project.
Solutions may include raising your home, creating a new foundation beneath an existing home, installing flood vents into an existing foundation or building a brand new home above the flood level.