Elevated Living Space
Elevated Living Space
Abandoning floors below the DFE or using them for a non-residential purpose Elevated Living Space Elevated Living Space Elevated Living Spacecan limit damage to critical equipment or living space during a flood.


Description + function


Although elevating an entire house is a feasible strategy for single-family homes in flood-prone areas, it is generally not practical for multifamily buildings.

By eliminating living spaces and mechanical systems below the BFE and incorporating wet floodproofing measures (See Strategy: Wet Floodproofing), buildings may become eligible for lower insurance rates.


Image: Samantha Yost

For new construction, a building even a few feet above grade may be able to withstand significant flooding, but this is often not a practical retrofit strategy for multifamily buildings.

Strategy into action

Parking is a possible use for an at-risk first floor.
Image: Samantha Yost.


Repurpose floors below the DFE.

Convert floors below the DFE to parking, storage or entryways. Ensure equipment in these areas is portable and can be moved to safety before anticipated flooding. In addition:

  • Calculate the financial loss that will be incurred if living space is reduced. Many affordable housing financing programs restrict conversion of living space to non-residential use.
  • Some municipalities allow the addition of residential space on top of the building to offset units lost below the BFE.
  • Ensure there are exits and access above the DFE for those with disabilities.
NFIP requires that space below the BFE is used only for parking, building access and storage.


The deeper a basement or crawlspace,
the greater the hydrostatic pressure
pushing against it.


Fill in the basement.

Filling in the basement will reduce the hydrostatic pressure on the building. This will place enormous stress on party walls of adjoining buildings, so this effort must be coordinated with neighbors a structural engineer. If all buildings on a block share common foundation walls, the entire block will have to be filled evenly at the same time.

Convert the first floor to commercial use.

Repurposing the first floor of a building for commercial use will permit dry floodproofing measures that are not recommended for all-residential buildings.

To determine what elevation and component protection options you can use in your flood zone, see the FEMA manuals in Resources.

Operations + maintenance


Before a storm, move portable equipment out of areas below the DFE. Ask users of space on the first floor to move their belongings. If first floor and underground garages are susceptible to flooding, ensure that residents move their vehicles.

Estimated Cost


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Case Study:
Elevated Housing Development

Case StudyElevated Housing Development


The Carolina and Connecticut Crescent developments in Atlantic City, NJ are two new affordable housing complexes constructed by Community Investment Strategies, a leading NJ-based affordable housing developer. Located in the the AE flood zone, were rebuilt after Sandy to be resilient to future flood damage.


Residential areas were elevated 8 ft. above grade, raising them 2 to 3 ft. above the BFE. Wheelchair lifts were added to first-floor units to make them ADA-compliant. All areas below the BFE use wet floodproofing strategies including flood vents, reinforced foundations and waterproof construction materials.


Funds for the project were provided through a Community Development Block Grant, Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR).

Image: PhotoGraphics Photography.
1353 Mediterranean Ave.
Atlantic City, NJ
9 buildings, 91 units
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