BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2016 - 27
None of the codes took, or currently take, into
account sea-level rise or give any flexibility for
sites located in the 500-year flood zone.
Even if we were to plan adequately for "the next
Sandy," the next disaster will not be exactly like the
last. Sandy provided tremendous storm surge, but
the amounts of wind and rain were not excessive.
Along with storms, we should also be thinking about
earthquakes, heat events and man-made disasters.
POST-SANDY TASK FORCE
Less than a month after Sandy, I was asked
to co-chair the "Housing Group" of the PostSandy Task Force organized by the AIANY. One
of our first tasks was to look for best practices.
We reached out to major AIA, American Planning
Association, and American Society of Landscape
Architects chapters, and received only one landscape
architecture best practice study from New Orleans.
FEMA had two excellent manuals on how to floodproof one- and two-family houses, but nothing on
multifamily. We also had discussions with those at
the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP), who
realized they needed to quickly update the Zoning
Resolution. We worked with DCP to organize a daylong charrette, with 80 participants and observers
from many public agencies, to study various options.
The presentation of the Post-Sandy Task Force,
including a slide show of the material developed at
the charrette, can be viewed at
We developed a number of inventive ways to deal
with flooding (see figures 1 and 2), and new questions
emerged with respect to each new strategy. For
example, raising a building five to ten feet above
grade created major urban design issues at the
street level. We developed solutions to lessen the
impact of buildings on stilts or pilotis, which required
emergency short-term revisions to the Zoning
Resolution by the Department of City Planning.
These revisions included a combination of provisions
for stair switchbacks, plantings, porches and decks
to be required in the zoning changes.
FEMA standards required egress from
dry-flood-proofed buildings, but not wet-floodproofed buildings (see figures 3 and 4). FEMA's
expectation is that everyone would be evacuated
before a flood; however, in a dense urban
environment such as New York City, full evacuation
is unlikely if not impossible. It is therefore important
to have a way for people to get out of a building
during a flood from a wet-flood-proofed building (see
We also looked at the need for insurance
programs to recognize partial compliance. Floodproofing new construction is relatively easy, with
limited cost implications. Flood-proofing existing
buildings is much more complicated, since they
typically cannot be raised, and abandoning a floor
of a five-story building can reduce building income
by 20 percent (based on a loss of 20 percent of
the housing units). Changes to the Federal Flood
Insurance Program will mean that buildings that do
not fully comply with FEMA standards will lose their
insurance subsidy, which, in some cases, will raise
rates tenfold. Until recently, there was no discussion
of partial compliance reducing insurance rates.
FIGURE 3 AND 4.
FIGURE 5. EMERGENCY
EXIT SLIDES FROM A
COURTESY AIANY AND THE
NESEA.ORG * 27