The North Carolina Department of Administration (NCDOA) has released a new policy that updates design and construction requirements for new state government and university buildings in flood-prone areas for the first time in over thirty years. The guidance will increase climate resiliency for public buildings and structures, save taxpayer money, protect public investments and promote innovative nature-based design solutions.
“This policy makes North Carolina a national leader in protecting state government assets from the threats of climate change,” said Governor Cooper. “Constructing new state-buildings out of harm’s way from sea-level rise and flooding is the smart thing to do and will save taxpayer money for decades to come.”
This policy was developed in response to Governor Cooper’s Executive Order No. 266 issued in July 2022 which directed NCDOA to work with stakeholders to update the state's Uniform Floodplain Management Policy. The state’s floodplain management policy was last updated in 1990 when then-Governor James Martin issued Executive Order 123. This policy applies exclusively to the development of new state government-owned buildings.
“In the three plus decades since North Carolina’s floodplain policy went into effect, research and real-life events have improved our understanding of floods, flooding, sea level rise, and hydrological best practices,” said Administration Secretary Pamela Cashwell. “In fact, four of North Carolina’s costliest and deadliest storms – Hurricanes Florence, Matthew, Floyd and Fran – have occurred since our flood policy was last updated. It’s imperative that North Carolina establish best practice guidance for smart development that also helps to preserve our environment and resources.”
The NCDOA State Construction Office led the process to update the state’s floodplain policy in consultation with the NC departments of Environmental Quality, Transportation, NC Emergency Management and the Office of Recovery and Resiliency. Dozens of local design professionals, academic researchers, and nature-based design experts also worked with the State Construction Office on the policy update.
The new NC Uniform Floodplain Management Policy for State Property includes proactive and innovative provisions that in many cases exceed federal National Flood Insurance Program-based regulations. NCDOA officials said their goal in developing the new policy was not only to protect state-owned assets and increase the state’s flood resiliency, but to create a policy that could serve as a model for state, local and regional governments. Some of the new policy’s more noteworthy provisions call for:
- Preventing, with narrow exceptions, state-owned construction in what is known as the “100-year” and “500-year” floodplains.
- Increasing elevation requirements for construction in coastal areas to account for increasing storm severity, frequency and anticipated sea-level rise.
- Stipulating that all future state construction projects must consider incorporating nature-based infrastructure into the design to mitigate or minimize any adverse effects.
State construction officials explained the policy promotes sustainable flood risk management measures such as green roofs, constructed wetlands, rain gardens, permeable pavement, vegetated swales and other such strategies as part of the project designs that work with, rather than against nature in order to ensure that state-owned buildings have minimal, if any, negative hydrological impacts to the surrounding areas.
The new NC Uniform Floodplain Management Policy for State Property builds on the Governor’s previous actions to improve the resilience of North Carolina’s communities. Governor Cooper established the NC Climate Change Interagency Council in 2018 through Executive Order No. 80 and in 2020, the council released the NC Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan, which recommends measures to improve resilience in communities and government in North Carolina.
Also in 2020, the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources released the NC Natural and Working Lands Action Plan which recommends strategies for building ecosystem and community resilience, sequestering carbon dioxide, and providing environmental benefits that enhance our economy. Additionally, the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency and the NC Department of Environmental Quality established the N.C. Resilient Communities Program to help North Carolina communities build resilience to the impacts of climate change and reduce damages from future disasters.
About NCDOA and the State Construction Office
The North Carolina Department of Administration acts as the business manager for North Carolina state government. Under the leadership of Secretary Pamela B. Cashwell, the department oversees government operations and advocacy programs. The department's advocacy programs help to promote and assist diverse segments of the state's population that have been traditionally underserved. The State Construction Office is committed to the planning, design and construction of state facilities, including the university and community college system. It also provides architectural and engineering services necessary to carry out improvements to all state buildings.