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Design and Construction of Breakaway Walls

Jeffrey Havelin, PE

This one-hour course is based on the FEMA construction guidelines for “breakaway” walls used below Elevated Coastal Buildings.

In Coastal High Hazard Areas (Zones V, VE, and V1-30), the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) regulations require that communities participating in the program adopt floodplain management ordinances or laws requiring that all new and substantially improved buildings be elevated to or above the base flood elevation (BFE) on foundations consisting of piles, posts, piers, or columns.

These open foundations must be designed to allow waves and water moving at high velocity to flow beneath the building. Local ordinances or laws adopted by participating communities must further require that the area below the lowest floor of the elevated building be left free of obstructions. Walls or other obstructions below the elevated building can significantly increase the potential for flood damage to the elevated building by increasing the surface area subject to wave impact and velocity flow during a coastal storm.

Although obstructions are prohibited, the area below the lowest floor of an elevated building in a Coastal High Hazard Area may be enclosed with open wood latticework, insect screening, or nonsupporting “breakaway” walls. However, each of these must be designed and constructed to collapse under wind and water loads without causing collapse, displacement, or other structural damage to the elevated portion of the building or supporting foundation system. In addition, like all other construction in the Special Flood Hazard Area, any enclosure below the lowest floor of an elevated building must be built with flood-resistant materials and with methods and practices that minimize flood damage. Furthermore, the area below the lowest floor of the elevated building may be used only for parking, building access, or storage.

This course is based entirely on the Technical Bulletin (9-99) as published by the FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY, publication number FIA-TB-9.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of course materials.

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NY PE & PLS: You must choose courses that are technical in nature or related to matters of laws and ethics contributing to the health and welfare of the public. NY Board does not accept courses related to office management, risk management, leadership, marketing, accounting, financial planning, real estate, and basic CAD. Specific course topics that are on the borderline and are not acceptable by the NY Board have been noted under the course description on our website.