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Severe floods occurring more frequently

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The scale of the recent Louisiana floods have shown that one of the effects of global climate change is increased rain storms that lead to flooding. Experts say that recent floods in multiple states (from Maryland to South Carolina to Louisiana to Texas) that were identified in the media as a once-in-every 500 or 1,000-year occurrence are occurring much more frequently. These floods have caused numerous deaths and billions of dollars in economic losses.

But why are these storms leading to widespread flooding? One cause is that the U.S. storm water infrastructure was designed decades ago with the assumption that rainfall levels for a particular region could be modeled based on historical data. That assumption is being challenged in the wake of floods that are occurring more frequently than predicted. As we noted in our Management Advisory published earlier this year (“Design Professional’s Duty to Design for Resiliency”), owners and governments are increasingly seeking resilient design recommendations to plan for and take into account climate change effects that are not included in current regulations. Current regulations and codes are based on historical weather data patterns.

For design professionals, make sure that contract language indicates that services will meet existing codes. If the owner wants to explore solutions that go beyond existing codes, it is important to clearly document the owner-mandated requirements. Clear communication with the client is essential to help avoid misunderstandings and claims. Ultimately, the design professional does not have the ability to foresee and design for catastrophic events.

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