We recently received a call from a homeowner in an area of metro Philadelphia that is a notorious flood zone. In fact, this property owner told us his Schuylkill River waterfront property has been flooded out three times during the past five years alone! This homeowner called us after learning that his insurance company was going to “total” his house unless he could find a way to renovate to flood-proof it. His goal is to be able to power wash the debris away after any future flooding and quickly get back to living. That kind of solution is common at the shore, where we see houses on pilings and with blow-out walls on the first floor. However, the following elements are at play here:
- This house is in a historic area, so The Philadelphia Historic Commission will need to approve the homeowner’s plans.
- The home abuts neighboring houses, so engineering a solution has to take into account the neighbors, as well as the load when the water and mud come through.
- The zoning/use allowed for the building requires plan approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
- Because it is a waterfront property, the Environmental Protection Agency is going to want a say in what solutions are developed and approved for construction.
This is one of the most complex projects we have seen in recent memory because so many disciplines need to be on the same page at the same time in the same space. Adding to the intricacy of this renovation are any potential government regulations for lead, asbestos, watershed protections, neighborhood, city, and engineering issues for structure or unusual circumstances, and so on. This is in addition to the usual various systems that have to be designed and worked into the residential space — such as electrical, water, sewer, and HVAC — and, of course, it has to be a great-looking design that stays on budget.
During our 30 years in this business, we have learned that we like complicated stuff like this because we find it interesting and exciting. This is exactly the type of puzzle we enjoy solving.
Related reading: Fairmount Historic Whole-House Renovation