Flood Resistant Buildings

by Harry Richardson on October 25, 2011

The world’s seas and oceans are rising about 1/8 inch per year.   Higher sea levels allow storm surges to inundate coastal areas more frequently.  Can we afford not to design flood resistant buildings?

Flood Resistant Strategies

The strategy is to absorb the water, reduce its velocity, and redirect the water.   An example is a wide park like area that replaces a concrete pathway which acts like a water shock absorber and a bioswale that removes silt and pollution from surface runoff.

One result is less water enters the public drainage  system.  Basic design should allow water to come on-site occasionally, rather than keeping all water out of an area entirely.

A good design principle for buildings is to maintain livable conditions after the loss of  building essential services.   Off the grid energy systems such as photovoltaics, solar water heating, and on-site water collection can help.  The demand for services can be reduced by designing high efficient building envelopes, and using passive heating and cooling techniques.   For further information, please see the National Institute of Building Sciences and their Whole Building Design Guide.

Flood mitigation techniques

Flood mitigation techniques include designing the ground floor above the flood plane elevation, using dry flood-proofing (making the building watertight), using wet flood-proofing (making  noncritical parts of the building resistant to water damage), relocating the building to a higher site, and incorporating flood walls in the site design to keep water away from the building.

Can you think of other flood resistant techniques?


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