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Attention Builders: New Freeboard Requirement Effective January 2021


The objective of the Community Rating System (CRS) is to recognize communities that are doing more than meeting the minimum NFIP requirements to help their citizens prevent or reduce flood losses. The CRS also provides an incentive for communities to initiate new flood risk reduction activities.

After January 2021, a CRS will be required to enforce at least 1 foot of freeboard for all new and substantially improved residential buildings in its numbered A and V Zones in order to become (or remain) a CRS Class 8 or better community. Communities that do not implement freeboard will be limited to a CRS Class 9 rating.

Freeboard is the elevation of a building’s lowest floor to a height above the minimum base flood elevation (BFE) during the initial construction process. Typical requirements call for an additional 1-3 ft. above BFE. A freeboard mandate can be added in a locality’s ordinances, with height requirements based on zone or level of risk. 

Adding freeboard or installing flood-resistant foundation provides significant protection against flood damages caused by SLR. Stringent freeboard requirements ensure that new development can accommodate storm surge both in the present & in future conditions.

All communities that implement a freeboard requirement will receive CRS credit under Activity 430 (Higher Regulatory Standards), and this is also an opportunity for communities to consider whether a 2- or even 3-foot freeboard standard would be appropriate for them.

Already, almost 80 percent of all CRS communities implement at least 1 foot of freeboard, realizing that elevating structures is one of the best ways to reduce flood damage. In addition,
(1) Property owners receive lower insurance rates when their building conforms to a freeboard requirement, because the extra level of elevation reduces the structure’s flood risk.
(2) Communities earn CRS credit for implementing freeboard, which translates into a CRS premium discount for their policy holders.
(3) Freeboard standards result in reduced flood losses:
▬ Freeboard as credited under the CRS (at least 1 foot) is one of the floodplain management measures found to have statistical significance in reducing flood losses, according to a 2015 study by Texas A&M University;
▬ A study conducted by FEMA Region VIII after the 2013 floods in northern Colorado showed that losses would have been 30 percent higher had existing freeboard standards not been in place, and that the reduction in losses would be even greater in a larger, 100-year flood.
(4) The freeboard prerequisite supports the three goals of the CRS: reduce flood losses, support the insurance aspects of the NFIP, and foster comprehensive floodplain management.

If you would like to learn more about building in a flood zone, please give us a call.