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Flood protection is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Effective flood protection requires understanding local and larger risks, addressing difficult choices, and investing in long-term community well-being. Without sound flood protection action as it relates to a structure, the safety, financial security, and self-reliance of the structure may be jeopardized.
Five key factors building owners should consider for effective flood protection system include:
Five consultant qualifications facility managers should consider when hiring a consultant to design a flood protection system include:
Flood Protection Basis
Flood protection projects for building owners should start with developing site-specific risk definitions. Knowledge of hydrology, stream hydraulics, and site topography define the potential flood elevations and the associated risks to the improvements and operations of the facility. Structural and building enclosure knowledge determines likely leak and collapse points that may impact the facility improvements and operations considering architectural and/or mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) features. Modifying architectural and MEP features can be difficult because existing features are required for various reasons; the team must understand all the interdependencies to successful design and implement flood protection. This common understanding of risk forms the basis of the design decision-making. The building owner’s direction on risk, cost, and reward, are used to establish the design basis parameters.
Flood Protection Approach
The building owner should understand the differing costs and risks associated between active and passive flood protection. Passive flood protection minimizes the need for human interaction to engage the protection measures, however, this is not always feasible. While active flood protection may have lower costs, it typically requires human intervention to deploy the system. Experience indicates many active flood protection systems “fail” simply because they are not deployed in time or not completely deployed due to operator absence or error.
Alternatively, wet flood protection projects involve applying measures that prevent or provide resistance to damage from flooding by allowing floodwaters to enter the facility. Minimal cleanup is normally required before resuming operations. This is more typically applied to structures such as parking garages.
Flood Protection Selection
The solution is the collaboration between the architect; civil, structural, and MEP engineers; and the building owner’s personnel to establish protection and risk expectations. In many cases with existing buildings, the codes governing the improvements are not well defined. The team collaborates with the vendors of flood protection products to find workable solutions, often working with them to create specific attributes for the unique conditions that exist at the property, and then working with code officials to resolve ambiguities. The solution must meet specific parameters defined by FEMA and local Emergency Management Agencies when they are providing a portion of the funding for the project.
Flood Protection Project Continuum
Proactive building owners address flood risks by assembling a cohesive team that understands the specific flooding concerns of the facility to be protected to deliver a well thought out and properly executed project.
The six basic steps of a successful project follow:
Flood protection projects range from new projects to expansions and retrofits, generally including commissioning testing to prove the system integrity before final delivery.
Doug Coenen is Principal and Senior Project Manager in Walter P Moore’s Civil Engineering Group. He can be reached at email@example.com. Ray Drexler is Principal and Senior Project Manager in Walter P Moore Diagnostics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.