In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously approved stricter building code regulations for new homes built within the floodplain.
The regulations, which go into effect Jan. 1, require all-new construction in the 100-year floodplain to be built at least 24 inches above the 500-year floodplain elevation. Structures in the floodway must be built at least 36 inches above the 500-year floodplain elevation.
Previously, Harris County mandated that structures in the 100-year floodplain be built 18 inches above the 100-year floodplain.
A floodplain is an area at risk for flooding from a bayou, creek, or other waterway overflowing during certain flooding events, according to the Harris County Flood Control District. Areas in the 100-year floodplain have a 1 percent chance of flooding and areas in the 500-year floodplain have a .2 percent chance of flooding every year.
The regulations come three months after Hurricane Harvey caused flooding in 30,662 homes and businesses in unincorporated Harris County. The flood is the third 500-year flood in Harris County in three years.
"After the regulation we adopted today, Harris County will have the stiffest building code regulations in the country," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. "So if those floodplain maps are wrong, we need to err on the side of caution going forward.”
The Harris County Engineering Department developed the regulations after hosting a series of workshops with local builders, including the Greater Houston Builders Association, American Institute of Architects, and Houston Real Estate Council.
Commissioners adopted the regulations with the understanding that the regulations may need to be revisited when FEMA adopts new flood maps.
“These regulations are made on the assumption that the maps we have are not suitable,” said John Blount, director of the Harris County Engineering Department. “If they are revised, and we feel that they are suitable, we will need to come back and address [the regulations].”
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