It’s Time to Design Floodproof Homes

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It’s almost like an annual ritual. Every year, some huge hurricane hits the gulf coast and causes massive flooding and total devastation. Thankfully, the death tolls are usually not that high, but the amount of property damage incurred has been staggering.

To get an idea, check out these statistics from FEMA. The graph measures how much money the government paid out for flood relief claims on a year by year basis. This gives us at least some idea of the kind of monetary damage that floods do. On certain rare years, like 1988 and 2014, very little was paid out, as in less than twenty-five thousand for the whole year. 3 years had big spikes associated with them. In 2017 FEMA spent about $90,000. In 2012 it was about $150,000. In 2005 though, all records were broken as FEMA spent well over $200,000 on flood recovery.

Imagine all the better uses that money could have been put to! If only we would quit acting as if floods aren’t going to happen again.

I mean, this happens almost every year! Shouldn’t we be engineering our structures to account for it? Certain methods and technologies already exist to help make a house more floodproof, and in most cases they aren’t being used! Even in places that have experienced catastrophic floods in the recent past, like New Orleans, they are still not much better protected than they were before the storm.

Recently, when I was looking for townhomes for sale in Charlotte, NC, I noticed that most of them did not appear to be designed with flood protection in mind. Now remember, it was only last year that North Carolina experienced some serious flooding. And although it has been awhile since NC was hit by a major hurricane, the last one that hit (Hurricane Matthew in 2007) was no joke.

The old-fashioned method is to build your home up high, suspended on poles. This is a solution that is used in some places, but not enough. In a flood-proof area, I would say that building codes should require it. Another old-fashioned approach is the use of a floodwall. This is simply just a tall, sturdy waterproof wall. This method has been used to protect entire towns and villages from flood waters, so there is no doubt it works. So where are all the floodwalls along the gulf coast? Waterproof doors and windows combined with a simple well pump to pump water out could theoretically be used to make a submersible house. If we can do it with a submarine, we should be able to do it with a house. Imagine if you could just wait out the flood waters in the safety of a nice waterproof house? As long as you had sufficient stocks of food and a way to purify water, you wouldn’t even have to evacuate. A few people have even built houses that can float! Now that’s a great idea!

If you live in an area that is prone to flooding, you really should try to let your leaders know that you want laws in place to make homes as floodproof as possible.