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New regulations to protect against flooding

A new Executive Order from President Obama establishes construction regulations to protect against flooding.

A new Executive Order from President Obama establishes construction regulations to protect against flooding.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy ripped through the Northeast, leaving $67 billion worth of damage in its wake. This prompted President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan, which called for federal agencies to develop plans to fortify buildings against flooding.

Climate change can bring severe weather, from fluctuating temperatures to violent storms. Global warming can alter the face of the planet, including melting ice caps, rising sea levels and disappearing land area. Flooding remains a major concern with increasing storms, especially once this winter's snow starts melting.

EO provides new flood protection measures
Obama announced in a new executive order that his new federal construction regulations are in place. The document established the "Federal Flood Risk Management Standard," which provides construction companies with three options when building federally funded infrastructures.

One of the following must be met during planning and constructing in order to comply with the standard:

  1. Use data and methods from the best-available climate science sources.
  2. Build 2 feet above the 100-year flood elevation (a 1 percent annual chance of a flood occurring) for standard projects and 3 feet for critical buildings, such as hospitals.
  3. Build to the 500-year flood elevation (a 0.2 percent chance of occurring per year). 

Even with these precautions, sea levels could rise to the 100-year flood elevation in the next 40 years, according to a fact sheet from the Council on Environmental Quality. With more than 50 percent of Americans living in coastal areas, this quick surge could add to the $260 billion in damages the U.S. has already suffered from flooding in the past 30 years.

Proper tools lead to stability
When it comes to building flood-resistant infrastructures, contractors need to use materials that will hold up under pressure. In a series of fact sheets released in 2008, the Federal Emergency Management Agency outlined the appropriate equipment to use that will withstand flooding.

When it comes to choosing materials, the best ones have the lowest corrosive properties, according to FEMA. Avoid alkaline copper quaternary and acid copper chromate, both of which are likely to rust. Instead go with stainless steel fasteners and galvanized bolts, which will withstand the elements.

Spray foam insulation also remains the top choice for buildings' interiors. Not only does it expand to fill every crevice, it's also water resistant. Fiberglass insulation, on the other hand, may be able to deal with some water, but won't be able to hold up against flooding.

Obama hopes his new "Federal Flood Risk Management Standard" lessens the damage caused by severe weather and flooding. With proper materials and precautions, buildings will be able to withstand blows to their structures.