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Voluntary Elevation Pays Off for Office Condo: Builder Wanted to Avoid Liability

BURLEIGH COUNTY, ND - Before breaking ground for the office condominium he built in southeast Bismarck, Scott Beierle, along with his associates, analyzed the flood history and risks at the site.

“We realized the land was low-lying and we didn’t want to risk having the building flood,” Beierle said. “Elevating would lead to a lot less problems down the road.”

Beierle talked to owners of adjacent buildings about the history of flooding in the area and researched past flood levels. He then decided to use fill to elevate the site to 3 feet above the 1976 flood level.

Construction of the 9,000-square foot building at Park and Republic Streets was completed in October 2008 and, by the time of the 2009 flood, Beierle had sold all six of the 1,500-square-foot units, with the exception of one that he rented to a tenant. Services provided by building occupants included heating and cooling, geothermal heating, dry-wall finishing, and auto detailing.

During the flood, the businesses closed for just part of one day to help in the flood fight, but otherwise they stayed open. With the availability of utilities and access, the businesses remained fully operational. “A lot of furnaces went out and these guys went out and were fixing them,” Beierle said.

The businesses were thrilled and thought that locating in the building had been a good choice, Beierle said. As the builder and seller, he, too, was happy. “We were real pleased,” he said.

Before the 2009 flood, some of Beierle’s neighbors had doubted that he needed to elevate quite as much as he did. “They questioned the height a little bit,” he said. But, after all of them lost time and other resources to the flood, he said at least one was taking steps to reduce the risk of future flood losses. Beierle said that the neighboring business will reduce their flood losses by tearing out and elevating sidewalks and walkways in an effort to keep water away from the building.

Beierle estimated his voluntary elevation cost less than $2,000. His conservative estimate of the amount of damage prevented in the 2009 flood alone was $100,000. He concluded his “ounce of prevention” brought a great return and turned out to be a highly worthwhile investment.

Check Before Adding Fill

Adding fill to a site is often an economical way to get a new structure above flood level. But fill on one site can sometimes result in greater flooding at nearby properties as water is displaced. Care must be taken to avoid adverse impacts to other structures in the areas. Builders who are considering using fill would do well to check first with local officials about floodplain management regulations and building codes.

Last updated Jun 3, 2020