Mitigation Design Standards & Guidelines

FEMA Study Highlights Benefits on Adopting Higher Building Code Standards

November 19, 2020

FEMA completed a four-phase study on the effects of adopting and enforcing building codes in communities.  The FEMA Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study calculates losses from three types of natural hazards (earthquakes, flooding, and hurricane winds) for each state and Washington, D.C.

Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study on Loss Prevention

FEMA released the “Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study” which highlights and uses big data to show the benefits of constructing buildings at a higher building code standard for natural disasters such as wind, floods and seismic activity. FEMA found that 18.1 million buildings constructed in the United States with high building code standards save the nation about $1.6 billion annually.

This study uses newly available nationwide data on actual buildings and jurisdictional building code adoption to provide a quantitative understanding of the impact of adopting the International Codes (I-Codes) introduced in 2000.  Buildings that adopted the I-Code standards demonstrated reduced damage, resulting in savings to building owners, insurers, the community at large and to the nation.

These savings represent the cumulative losses avoided from property damage associated with using the I-Codes or similar building codes during floods, hurricane, and earthquakes.  FEMA projects that, by the year 2040, the annual savings nationwide will grow to around $3.2 billion.  This adds up to $132 billion in total losses avoided from 2000 to 2040.

With projected savings and losses avoided, these dollar values represent considerable financial reasons for communities to proactively adopt and enforce hazard-resistant building codes.  The study’s results fully support FEMA’s mission to help people prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from natural hazards, specifically through programs and efforts that promote using hazard-resistant building codes.

A 15-page summary, Protecting Communities and Saving Money – The Case for Adopting Building Codes, as well as the full study detailing the four phases of this project, methodology, results, and conclusions are available on FEMA’s website.

Natural Hazards and Sustainability for Residential Buildings (2010)

Cover photo for the document: FEMA P-798, Natural Hazards and Sustainability for Residential Buildings (2010)

FEMA P-798 examines current green building rating systems in a broader context. It identifies green building practices—the tools of today’s green building rating systems—that are different from historical residential building practices and that, unless implemented with an understanding of their interactions with the rest of the structure, have the potential to compromise a building’s resistance to natural hazard events.

This document discusses how to retain or improve natural hazard resistance while incorporating these green building practices. While most common green building practices provide sustainability advantages with little or no effect on structural performance or durability, others require reevaluation of the building’s structural design or detailing to retain its integrity during natural hazard events. Often, only minimal design modifications are required to maintain natural hazard resistance.

Download the Natural Hazards and Sustainability for Residential Buildings.


Engineering Data Fact Sheet

While the project type determines the specific engineering data requirements, typical engineering data needed is included in this fact sheet and divided into a variety of project types.  The Fact sheet outlines Drainage projects, Elevation projects, Building elevations and Wind retrofit projects.   Link to the Engineering Data Fact Sheet.

Minimum Design Standards for HMA Projects in Flood Hazard Areas

FEMA will use the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Flood Resistant Design and Construction or its equivalent as the minimum design criteria for all HMA funded structure elevation, dry floodproofing, and mitigation reconstruction projects in flood hazard areas. 

Flood Resistant Design and Construction, ASCE/SEI 24-14, provides minimum requirements for design and construction of structures located in flood hazard areas and subject to building code requirements. Identification of flood prone structures is based on flood hazard maps, studies, and other public information. This standard applies to new structures, including subsequent work, and to work classified as substantial improvement of existing structures that are not historic. Standard ASCE/SEI 24-14 introduces a new concept, Flood Design Class, that bases requirements for a structure on the risk associated with unacceptable performance.

The standard includes requirements for the following: basic siting and design and construction requirements for structures in flood hazard areas; minimum elevations for the lowest floor, flood damage-resistant materials, and floodproofing measures, each tied to a structure’s Flood Design Class; structures in high risk flood hazard areas subject to flooding associated with alluvial fans, flash floods, mudslides, erosion, high velocity flow, coastal wave action, or ice jams and debris; flood damage-resistant materials; dry floodproofing and wet floodproofing; attendant utilities and equipment, including electrical service, plumbing systems, mechanical/HVAC systems, and elevators; building access; and miscellaneous construction, including decks and porches, concrete slabs, garages and carports, accessory storage structures, chimneys and fireplaces, pools, and tanks. A detailed commentary containing explanatory and supplementary information to assist users of the standard is included for each chapter.

Standard ASCE/SEI 24-14 updates and replaces the previous Standard, ASCE/SEI 24-05. It provides essential guidance on design and construction to structural engineers, design professionals, code officials, floodplain managers, and building owners. The standard is adopted by reference in model building codes.

Engineering Principles and Practices for Retrofitting Flood-Prone Residential Structures 

January 1, 2012

The third edition of Engineering Principles and Practices is intended to further aid homeowners in selecting and successfully executing a flood retrofit on their home.  Engineering design and economic guidance on what constitutes feasible and cost-effective retrofitting measures for flood-prone residential and non-residential structures are presented.  Elevation, relocation, dry floodproofing, wet floodproofing, and the use of levees and floodwalls to mitigate flood hazards are discussed.  This edition was updated to be more user-friendly and concise, the overall length of the publication has been shortened.

Subdivision Design and Flood Hazard Areas (PAS 584) 

October 31, 2016

Subdivision Design and Flood Hazard Areas was prepared by the American Planning Association (APA) in partnership with the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM), and it was supported through a cooperative agreement with FEMA.  This report demonstrates the intersection of sustainability, resilience, and climate change in light of changing flood hazards and how these concepts play out in subdivision design.  

The purpose of this report is end the cycle of build-damage-rebuild, and provide communities with sound guidance to bring subdivision design into line with the best of floodplain planning.  The report includes many best practices as well as six planning and design principles; standards for review, inspection, and maintenance; and nine recommendations to keep subdivisions safe from flooding.

Second-Story Conversion – Elevation Project Design Considerations for HMA Applicants

Elevation is a common mitigation method for structures that are at risk of flooding, and is an eligible mitigation project under the FEMA HMA Grant Programs.  Structure elevation activities generally involve physically raising an existing structure in accordance with the 2015 HMA Guidance, or latest edition, and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) standard Flood Resistant Design and Construction (ASCE 24-14), or latest edition. 

ASCE 24-14 includes elevation to the Base Flood Elevation [BFE] plus freeboard, or higher when required by FEMA, local ordinance, or building code.  Structure elevation may be achieved through a variety of methods, including elevating on continuous foundation walls; elevating on open foundations, such as piles, piers, posts, or columns; and elevating on fill.  There are situations, such as structures with a slab-on-grade foundation, where physically raising the building is not feasible or cost-effective.  FEMA conducted research to identify alternative flood mitigation methods to address these types of situations and published this information as recovery advisories.

The purpose of the  Second Story Conversion Elevation Fact Sheet is to identify project design considerations that should be taken into account when developing these types of HMA-funded elevation projects.

Dry Floodproofing – Planning and Design Considerations

April 2018

The purpose of this Recovery Advisory is to provide guidance on the design of dry floodproofing measures to reduce flood damage and limit interruption of building services.  This advisory incorporates observations made by the FEMA Mitigation Assessment Teams (MATs) in Texas and Florida after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  It describes best design practices and successful implementation of dry floodproofing, as well as lessons learned from failures.  The information in this advisory is directed toward existing and new non-residential facilities. 

Download the Dry Floodproofing – Planning and Design Considerations.