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Resiliency: A Timely Case for Flood Mitigation in Boston

By Nick Parsa 

This winter, Boston was hit with a massive Nor’easter that left water flooding the city’s downtown.

This storm pales in comparison to other events in 2017, when three of the five costliest Atlantic Hurricanes devastated the Gulf Coast and Caribbean totaling more than 290 billion dollars worth of damage.  In 2012, Hurricane Sandy reached as far north as Maine and caused extensive flooding in New York City. This goes to show that the Northeast is not exempt from these storms.

Resiliency is no longer simply an academic discussion or issue for large developers. The updated FEMA flood map shows that a foot of water could enter several regions of Boston during a storm surge.  Examples of how companies are addressing potential storm damage through practical applications are happening every day. Recently in downtown Boston several examples are starting to appear.

One Hereva client recently installed a flood mitigation system to address this issue. Concerns were brought to their attention by their insurance company and internal groups, such as risk mitigation and global real estate, looked to put a plan in place. The client’s risk team worked with their insurance provider to negotiate a reduced rate if an approved Flood Mitigation System was put in place. The project was then handed off to the Real Estate team and Hereva for implementation.

This project had greater design risk than usual due to constructability and existing condition issues that could arise when installing the approved Flood Mitigation System. An integrated project delivery team was brought on board to address the design challenges. Additionally, the client updated their Emergency Preparedness and Response Planning to better understand implications before, during and after a potential flood event.

In conjunction with the Boston Fire Department, the Boston Planning and Development Agency, and the Inspectional Services Department, a full review of Chapter 10 (the Massachusetts provisions relating to safe egress) was undertaken to manage issues surrounding building occupancy during any such time the Flood Mitigation System would be utilized.

During this time, Hereva worked with the contractor to come up with a phased approach to the project.  Since means of egress would be closed temporarily or permanently during construction, this phased approach had to be approved by the Design Teams Code Consultant.  Hereva coordinated with the client’s stakeholders to gain their buy-in on this approach and implement the project.

Although the updated FEMA flood maps and global warming events pose challenges in resiliency planning, Boston is not backing down from developing the Seaport. Organizations are finding ways to design practical solutions to update their current flood mitigation systems, and innovations in new construction show an effort to preserve and protect Boston’s historic waterfront. Examples like these prove that Boston is at the forefront of addressing climate change.

To read about steps that have been identified for mitigating real estate risk through resiliency planning, click here


Nick Parsa is a Project Manager with expertise in cost estimating, construction management, and cGMP change control and project execution requirements. To read more about his extensive experience and background, click here.

*Featured photo by Jim Davis/Boston Globe Staff

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