New Research Reveals Some Gulf Coast Property Elevation Levels to Be Dangerously Low

As Claire Wilkinson of the III brought to my attention the other day, a new study from the Institute for Business & Home Safety has revealed some disturbing realities about how vulnerable the Gulf Coast remains to flood risk. The study details the destruction that Hurricane Ike cause last year.

According to the report:

it is possible to build homes that can withstand extreme hurricane conditions, but also points out that steps must be taken to improve building standards and products in order to better protect coastal properties. The key findings and recommendations stemming from the research conducted by the IBHS engineering team are supported in the following pages through examples of construction failures and successes and comparisons between building code-plus and traditional construction techniques. The research also led to recommendations for strengthening the built environment through public policy and building code changes.

Three specific proclamations are also laid out: (1) Current elevation requirements in surge-prone areas are not high enough, (2) new research is needed to assess actual performance of roofing products and systems in order to improve material production and installation specifications, ad (3) Water intrusion must be better managed – through a combination of structural improvements and more realistic testing.

Claire succinctly offers some more insight into the report’s results:

As well as providing flood insurance, the NFIP establishes base flood elevation (BFE) levels for properties. All but a handful of properties located closest to the coast on the Bolivar Peninsula, Texas and even built to the highest elevation requirements, were washed away during Hurricane Ike. By contrast, the study found that 10 homes on the Bolivar Peninsula designed and built under the IBHS Fortified…for safer living program, survived the storm with minor damage. The Fortified homes had outdoor decks at 18 feet that were destroyed, but the homes themselves which were elevated to 26 feet, survived. According to IBHS, most homes in coastal areas are built to or slightly above 100-year BFEs.

Hopefully, these structures will not be tested with hurricane-force winds and storm surges this hurricane season. Still, such findings make it all the more necessary for those on the Gulf Coast — including businesses, legislators, regulators, engineers and scientists — to remain vigilant and continually strive for better protection.

Hurricane Ike Study

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