Areas like Garden City saw roads covered by water from 2021 King Tides and strong winds moved into the area. (WMBF) Commercial buildings along Business 17 would not longer be able to use floodproofing as an alternative to elevating.

SC - New building codes take stricter standards beyond the beachfront

New building codes that South Carolina local governments must adopt by Jan. 1 will extend the construction standards required along the beachfront to be used for buildings farther inland, raising costs and making existing structures nonconforming, officials say.

“This will greatly impact businesses along Business 17 in Murrells Inlet. It will render a bunch of them nonconforming,” County Council Member Steve Goggans said.

The International Building Code and the International Residential Code are updated every three years. The state Building Codes Council holds hearings on the changes, and they are approved by the legislature. Local governments are required to adopt the codes.

Georgetown County Council gave the second of three readings to the updates this month, but only after learning that the new codes are more stringent than the flood regulations required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

This issue is further complicated by the fact that the federal Flood Insurance Rate Maps for the county that were drawn in 2015 are not due to be implemented until May 2023. The initial delay was due to an appeal of flood maps by Horry County. FEMA said the Georgetown County maps couldn’t be approved until the Horry maps were resolved. But once that happened, the agency found problems on 11 of the 115 map panels that cover Georgetown County. FEMA started the public notice process again. That was over a year ago.

Georgetown is the only county in the state without current flood maps.

“With those new flood maps come a new – they’re not calling it a flood zone – it’s a new flood area known as Coastal A,” said Steven Elliott, Georgetown County’s chief building official.

It’s an area subject to flooding from hurricanes, but with less impact from wave damage than the beachfront, which is designated the V zone. FEMA encourages local government to enforce V zone construction standards in the Coastal A area, but doesn’t make it mandatory.

The new building codes do.

For residential buildings, that means the elevation required to meet the FEMA regulations will be measured from the lowest horizontal structural member rather than the finished floor. It also means the enclosed area under houses will be limited to 299 square feet. Those enclosures will be required to have breakaway walls.

The code change for commercial structures in the Coastal A area means they will have to be elevated rather than using floodproofing measures to comply, Elliott said.
“A business in that Coastal A zone that has to adhere to VE zone standards loses the ability to floodproof because VE construction standards don’t allow floodproofing,” he said.

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