Federal Flood Plain Regulation

Association of Construction & Development
October 24, 2013 — 1,821 views  

The Federal Flood Plain Regulation ,which began with the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, is more than 40 years old now. The main objective was to provide financial protection to the flood prone areas of the country. Most of these areas were located in Texas and Florida.

The main objective is to minimize the effects of flooding by maintaining strict building and zoning laws. The financial losses caused by flooding were to be mitigated by the use of insurance policies.


Construction of buildings in flood plains requires the permit of the NFIP. This is to ensure that only flood proof buildings get built in flood prone areas. Communities are required to ensure that there are no increases in the upstream flood elevations. Any new projects, such as the filling, grading, or construction of new buildings require a review to ensure that flood flows are not obstructed. There should be no increase in the upstream flood heights.

All buildings must undergo an encroachment review. This is to ensure that buildings do not encroach on the flood flow ways. This review is the responsibility of the community. The review should be supported by a certificate. The certificate must be supported by technical data.


The walls of every building are required by NFIP to be watertight. The structural components should be able to resist hydrostatic loads. Certain flood-proofing techniques that require human intervention are discouraged. Several other requirements are specified in FEMA’s Technical Bulletin.

It is required that the buildings should be wholly made of flood resistant materials. Some flood resistant materials are concrete, clay, stainless steel, vinyl, rubber and stone.

All buildings are required to have anchoring which can be in the form of reinforced piers, posts, piles, concrete walls or compacted fill.

Flood prone areas should keep new or replacement water and sewer systems ready at all times. These requirements are to be enforced by the community.

Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act

The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act was passed in 2012. It has made several changes to the building laws and zoning laws in flood prone areas. The rules regarding rebuilding in AE zones and VE zones have been updated to reflect real flooding risks. Several exemptions have been made for historic structures. The responsibility of getting elevation certificates now lie with the homeowners and not the communities. The NFIP’s specific rate guidelines have also been modified.


Many times, it was observed that the insurance payouts were insufficient to pay for the losses caused by flooding. The flood insurance only covers the losses to the owners of the property and not to the renters. Therefore many properties are given away on rent so that the owners can benefit from insurance while the renters suffer the consequences of flooding.

The federal flood plain regulation started out with concrete goals. But in order to achieve those goals, many exemptions, amendments and updates have been made to the law and policy. This has created several challenges for communities, homeowners, planners, architects, and construction workers. All stakeholders must, therefore, study all the changes made to the law over the years. If properly implemented, these policies will help communities in avoiding the real dangers of flooding.

Association of Construction & Development