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Reducing Flood Risk Through Building Code Enforcement. Tom Leatherbee, CFM City Planner, City of Del City Vice-Chair, Oklahoma Floodplain Managers Association ASFPM 2010 May 18, 2010. Overview.

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Reducing flood risk through building code enforcement l.jpg

Reducing Flood Risk Through Building Code Enforcement

Tom Leatherbee, CFM

City Planner, City of Del City

Vice-Chair, Oklahoma Floodplain Managers Association

ASFPM 2010

May 18, 2010

Overview l.jpg

  • Incorporating floodplain management into building code enforcement provides for a seamless approach to ensuring compliance with NFIP minimum standards.

  • Such an integrated approach has positive impacts on a wide variety of stakeholders, including developers, home/business owners, and government officials.

  • Using building codes as the basis for floodplain management provides opportunity for implementation of higher regulatory standards.

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Floodplain Management Provisions of the 2009 I-Codes

  • NFIP minimum standards have been included in I-Codes since 2003 editions.

  • Floodplain management provisions are contained in the IBC, IRC, IMC, IFGC, IPC. IPSDC contains a higher standard related to installation of sewage disposal systems in areas of flood hazard.

  • IPMC does not contain specific floodplain management language, but contains language critical to removing structures that have been substantially damaged.

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2009 IBC / 2009 IRC

  • The 2009 International Building Code incorporates the NFIP minimum standards.

  • Requirements are made for lowest finished floors to be elevated (or floodproofed, for non-residential structures) to the design flood elevation, for determinations of substantial damage/substantial improvement, and for utilities to be elevated or made safe from flooding.

  • The 2009 International Residential Code applies these same provisions to one and two family residential structures.

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2009 IPC

  • The 2009 International Plumbing Code incorporates the NFIP minimum standards:

    • Section 309 contains several provisions relating to flood hazard resistance.

      • 309.1 General. Plumbing systems and equipment in structures erected in flood hazard areas shall be constructed in accordance with the requirements of this section and the International Building Code.

      • 309.2 Flood hazard. For structures located in flood hazard areas, the following systems and equipment shall be located at or above the design flood elevation.

        • Exception: The following systems are permitted to be located below the design flood elevation provided that …

      • Section 309.3 prohibits plumbing from being mounted on breakaway walls (V Zones).

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2009 IFGC AND 2009 IMC

  • The 2009 International Fuel Gas Code and 2009 International Mechanical Code incorporate the NFIP minimum standards:

    • IFGC Section 301.11 Flood Hazard. For structures located in flood hazard areas, the appliance, equipment and system installations regulated by this code shall be located at or above the design flood elevation and shall comply with the flood-resistant construction requirements of the International Building Code.

      • Exception: The appliance, equipment and system installations regulated by this code are permitted to be located below the design flood elevation provided that they are designed and installed to prevent water from entering or accumulating within the components and to resist hydrostatic and hydrodynamic loads and stresses, including the effects of buoyancy, during the occurrence of flooding to the design flood elevation and shall comply with the flood-resistant construction requirements of the International Building Code.

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2008 NEC

  • 2008 NEC does not directly address floodplain management.

  • Provisions in the IBC, IRC and IEBC do require that electrical systems be protected to NFIP minimum standards.

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2009 IEBC

  • The 2009 International Existing Building Code incorporates the NFIP minimum standards but also provides for a higher standard relating to additions.

  • Section 302.2, 303.2, 304.5, and 308.2 mirror the requirements contained in 44 CFR 60.3.

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2009 IPSDC

  • The 2009 International Private Sewage Disposal Code goes beyond the minimum NFIP standards.

  • Minimum standards, per 44 CFR 60.3, require that “new and replacement sanitary sewage systems be designed to minimize or eliminate infiltration of flood waters into the systems and discharges from the systems into floodwaters” and that “onsite waste disposal systems be located to avoid impairment to them or contamination from them during flooding.

  • The 2009 IPSDC provides specific standards that are more restrictive than the minimum:

    • Section 303.1 prohibits soil absorption-type systems from flood hazard areas (although an exception is provided for properties with no suitable site outside of the flood hazard area).

    • Section 303.2 requires that tanks be anchored to resist buoyant forces associated with the design flood. This section also requires that the vent termination and service manhole be located at least 2 feet above the design flood elevation or be fitted with protective covers.

    • Section 303.3 prohibits mound systems from flood hazard areas.

  • Consideration should be given to prohibiting all private sewage disposal systems from areas of special flood hazard.

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2009 IPMC

  • The 2009 International Property Maintenance Code provides minimum standards for property maintenance and applies those standards to owners and occupants of property.

  • Since this code deals with existing conditions, rather than new construction or changes/alterations to existing structures, no floodplain management regulations were incorporated.

  • What the IPMC does provide is a blueprint for condemning, securing, and ordering demolished structures that are dilapidated or unsafe. These provisions provide a floodplain manager with the ability to deal with substantially damaged structures. Most flood damage prevention ordinances have no specific provision for ordering the demolition of substantially damaged structures.

    • “110.1 General. The code official shall order the owner of any premises upon which is located any structure, which in the code official judgment after review is so deteriorated or dilapidated or has become so out of repair as to be dangerous, unsafe, insanitary or otherwise unfit for human habitation or occupancy, and such that it is unreasonable to repair the structure, to demolish and remove such structure; or if such structure is capable of being made safe by repairs, to repair and make safe and sanitary, or to board up and hold for future repair or to demolish and remove at the owner’s option, or where there has been a cessation of normal construction for a period of more than two years, the code official shall order the owner to demolish and remove such structure, or to board up until future repair. Boarding the building up for future repair shall not extend beyond one year, unless approved by the building official” (2009 IPMC, emphasis added).

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2009 IPMC (cont’d)

  • The 2009 IPMC did add an additional provision that could be very useful in dealing with the aftermath of flooding.

    • 604.3.1 Abatement of electrical hazards associated with water exposure. The provisions of this section shall govern the repair and replacement of electrical systems and equipment that have been exposed to water.

      • 604.3.1.1 Electrical Equipment. Electrical distribution equipment, motor circuits, power equipment, transformers, wire, cable, flexible cords, wiring devices, ground fault circuit interrupters, surge protectors, molded case circuit breakers, low-voltage fuses, luminaries, ballasts, motors and electric control, signaling and communication equipment that have been exposed to water shall be replaced in accordance with the provisions of the International Building Code.

        • Exception: The following equipment …

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Requirement for Lowest Finished Floor Inspections

  • The 2009 IBC, IRC and IEBC provide for lowest finished floor inspections as part of the required inspection schedule.

  • These inspections are conducted after the floor is constructed.

  • This timing is different from the normal requirement for elevation certificates, which are usually required before permit issuance and before occupancy, after final inspections.

  • The codes do not specifically require a separate EC before issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy.

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A Warning Regarding Substantial Damage / Substantial Improvement

  • I-Codes, including IPMC, are so specific with regard to existing properties that they could actually complicate substantial damage declaration due to exclusion for “any project for improvement to a structure to correct existing violations of state or local health, sanitary or safety code specifications which have been identified by the local code enforcement official and which are the minimum necessary to ensure safe living conditions” (44 CFR 59.1).

  • Solution: Implement a “higher standard” to remove this exception from the definition of substantial improvement.

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2009 IBC Grading Provisions Improvement

  • Appendix J, Grading, provides significant opportunity for higher standards.

  • Appendices have no force of law unless specifically adopted.

  • As written, Appendix J requires grading permits for certain earth movement, but makes no mention of development within the SFHA. The exceptions provided for related to the grading permit could lead some to believe that a floodplain development permit is not necessary in these circumstances.

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Adoption of Flood Maps through the Building Code Improvement

  • Section 1612.3 of the 2009 IBC provides for establishment of flood hazard areas – adoption of flood maps. The 2009 IBC contains an appendix that provides for adoption of administrative provisions.

  • While it may be theoretically possible to use the IBC to adopt maps and, in effect, to replace a community’s flood damage prevention ordinance, current language contained within the codes is not sufficient to meet all requirements for NFIP participation.

  • In some states, adoption through building codes would not meet state-specific requirements. For example, in Oklahoma, this method of adoption would be inadequate to meet the requirements placed on Post-80 communities.

  • Communities must be aware of this code section and must make amendment to refer back to the adopted Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance, floodplain board regulations, or other legally adopted floodplain management regulations.

  • The I-Codes, without the appendix, do not provide for a floodplain development permit, instead relying on the individual permits described in each code. This is particularly problematic because of the exceptions contained in each code, another reason that a stand-alone flood damage prevention ordinance that is referenced by the adopted codes is the best approach.

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I-Codes in Approximate A Zones Improvement

  • Based on NFIP minimum standards, developments in A Zones with no BFE provided that do not exceed 5 acres or 50 lots in size are subject to lesser standards.

  • The I-Codes make no distinction between Zones A and AE, requiring that structures and utilities be elevated to the design flood elevation.

  • In effect, this requirement constitutes a higher standard, as the permit applicant must provide BFE data and must elevate to the design flood elevation in order to be compliant with the codes.

  • However, it should be noted that many of the codes provide an exception to the elevation requirement, which could actually cause conflict with higher standards commonly adopted in Flood Damage Prevention Ordinances. The simple solution is to amend the codes to remove the exceptions. In addition, it would appear that a building official would need to require an engineer’s seal in order to document that the criteria listed in the exception have been met, even though this requirement is not explicitly stated within the codes.

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Higher Standards Improvement

  • The I-Codes provide a number of opportunities to implement higher regulatory standards.

  • Some of these higher standards (e.g. stormwater detention, elevation of mobile homes, freeboard) will be contained in a flood damage prevention ordinance and should be mirrored by amending codes.

  • Some standards will be contained solely in the codes, by means of amendment of existing sections (e.g. requirement for engineered fill).

  • Other higher standards will require significant amendment of the I-Codes so that they do not conflict with the higher standard contained in the FDPO (e.g. requirement to elevate mechanical/plumbing systems).

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Caution! Improvement

  • The fact that the I-Codes contain floodplain management standards is good for the overall effort to reduce risk.

  • The fact that minimum standards are incorporated, however, means that floodplain managers implementing higher standards must take special care to ensure that conflict or ambiguity is not created between adopted building codes and adopted floodplain management regulations.

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Questions Improvement