The City of Key West, Florida

The Southernmost City in the Continental United States



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Update: On March 23, 2016, the City held a Flood Mitigation Workshop with professionals from Arcadis Design & Consultancy who have a great deal of experience with the flood mitigation grant process.

 freeboard video graphic  A five-minute video that explains floodplain related terms such as:
  • FIRMs
  • Pre-FIRM
  • Base Flood Elevation (BFE)
  • Freeboard

... and demonstrates the financial benefits to adding freeboard or elevating a building to a height higher than required.

When Building Elevation is Required?

  • New Construction
    • Generally, newly constructed or placed structures in "A" or "V" type flood zones need to be elevated.  (How to Read Flood Maps)
      • Permits for new buildings issued under the Building Permit Allocation System (B-PASS), are required to be elevated six-inches higher than others (1.5' above flood levels).
  • Substantial Improvement/Renovation
    • Buildings constructed prior to the creation of flood maps (prior to 1975) lose their grandfathered status once they've been improved by 50% or more of the building's market value.  (See Substantial Improvement)
      • Elevation of the building is usually required, except for...
        • Commercial use buildings are permitted to floodproof in lieu of elevation. (See Floodproofing)
          • However, floodproofing isn't an option for commercial buildings used for residential purposes: hotel, motel, residential, patient housing, child/adult daycare etc.
        • Historic structures
    • Mobile/Manufactured Homes/Buildings, new or relocated


How High?

  • New Construction
    • Newly constructed or placed buildings in "A" type flood zones need to be elevated to the Base Flood Elevation Plus 1-Foot. (How to Read Flood Maps)
      • However, permits for new buildings issued under the Building Permit Allocation System (B-PAS), are required to elevated to Base Flood Elevation Plus 1.5-feet.
      • In "V" type flood zones, the building's lowest supporting cross-member must be to Base Flood Elevation Plus 1-Foot.
    • Mobile/Manufactured or Relocated Homes/buildings
      • In a mobile home park, must be elevated so the bottom of the frame at least to the Base Flood Elevation level for the site.
      • Not in a mobile home park, the interior Finished First Floor must be to Base Flood Elevation Plus 1-Foot.
  • Historic District
    • Elevation of finished floor above grade Applications for buildings with the first finished floor above the minimum height necessary to comply with federal flood regulations will not be approved unless the applicant demonstrates that such elevation does not interfere with the essential form and integrity of properties in the neighborhood. In situations wherein parking is proposed below the first finished floor, HARC shall consider how visible the parking is from the public right-of-way; either the parking area is enclosed or otherwise concealed by walls louvers, lattice, landscaping or other features; and whether fill and/or berms are used to minimize the gap between the first finished floor and the crown of the nearest road. [HARC Guidelines-REVISED, p.38, Item #2, 2010 ]


Should I Elevate Higher (Freeboard)?

"Freeboard" is the height of a building above the Base Flood Elevation for a specific site. Regulations often require at least 1-foot of freeboard for elevated buildings.

Each foot of freeboard lowers flood insurance rates significantly, up to a maximum of four feet.

Once an elevation project is planned, the cost of raising the building another couple of feet is negligible compared to the perpetual savings on flood insurance.  [Tip: The insurance industry rounds the height measurement to the nearest foot.  So if you can't elevate another full foot, aim for the half-foot mark to get insurance credit for another full foot.]

Watch a five-minute video demonstrating the savings achievable with freeboard.

Cost to Elevate

A rough estimate for the costs to elevate homes is:

  • Woodframe building $72sf
  • Concrete block home $120-140sf

Helpful Publications:



Contact Us

Scott Fraser,
FEMA Coordinator
Building Department
1300 White St
Key West, FL 33040
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