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Virginia CZM Program: 2017 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:VA CZM logo



Hampton Roads Planning District Commission 

Project Title:

Development of First Floor Elevation Data for Use in Locality Vulnerability Assessments 

Project Description:

Recurrent flooding and sea level rise have been identified as two of the most significant coastal hazards for the Hampton Roads region and the rest of coastal Virginia. While much work has been done to identify areas vulnerable to flooding or sea level rise, key data and information gaps still exist that limit the utility and accuracy of local adaptation and hazard mitigation plans. Specifically, the regional hazard mitigation plan does not sufficiently address the potential impacts of sea level rise on private property or critical infrastructure. The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) proposes to address this deficiency through the development of first floor elevation data and the analysis of the vulnerability of residential properties and critical infrastructure to flooding caused by sea level rise and storm surge. This project requires three main datasets: first floor elevations, scenarios of sea level rise and storm surge, and critical infrastructure. The HRPDC has access to the latter two datasets. This proposal directly supports the current Section 309 Coastal Hazards Strategy for community resiliency and the priority topic of building natural and community resiliency as selected by the Coastal Policy Team.

The absence of first floor elevation data is a major hindrance to local efforts to plan for and adapt to flooding now and in the future. This information gap prevents localities from accurately estimating the damage from flooding events, since first floor elevation is a major factor in the damage a structure suffers from a flooding event. Without accurate damage projections it is difficult to determine the benefits of many flood mitigation or sea level rise adaptation strategies, since those benefits are based on losses avoided. Having first floor elevation data would allow localities not only to identify which structures are in vulnerable areas but also to estimate damage under different scenarios. Virginia Beach has already performed this analysis for vulnerable properties within its boundaries, and this project will build upon that work.

In addition to the lack of first floor elevation data, local hazard mitigation plans do not currently incorporate sea level rise into the hazard vulnerability assessments. The recently adopted Hampton Roads Hazard Mitigation plan mentions sea level rise but does not include an analysis of how sea level rise may increase vulnerability to either recurrent or storm surge flooding.

This proposal aims to provide information related to flooding increased by sea level rise for local governments in Hampton Roads for current planning, including local efforts related to the Community Rating System, and for the next update of the regional hazard mitigation plan. This project will build on previous work by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and others to develop and implement a methodology (such as a regression analysis) for estimating first floor elevations using existing property data. HRPDC will work with other regional stakeholders, such as the Army Corps of Engineers and Old Dominion University, to verify the accuracy of the methodology through comparison with a sample survey of observed first floor elevation data. Field verification will be initiated in Year 1, and completed in Year 2 if addition data is needed.  Once developed and tested, the methodology will be used to generate estimates of first floor elevations of structures located in areas vulnerable to flooding in communities in Hampton Roads. In Years 2 and 3 HRPDC proposes to conduct vulnerability assessments using the new data and multiple flooding and sea level rise inundation layers.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Ben McFarlane, 757.420.8300; 

Project Status:

10/1/2017 - 9/30/2018; Project Completed  

Final Product:

Developing First Floor Elevation Data for Coastal Resilience Planning in Hampton Roads (PDF)  

Project Summary:

This report describes the methodology used to develop a regional elevation certificate database and the evaluation of statistical approaches for estimating building first floor elevations. First floor elevations are a significant indicator of the vulnerability of a structure to damage from flooding, but for many structures in Hampton Roads this information does not exist. The goal of this project was to pilot a methodology for estimating first floor elevations based on a sample of observations, mainly from elevation certificates filed with a local government.

The regional elevation certificate inventory developed for this project includes information for over 2,000 structures in ten (10) Hampton Roads localities. These elevation certificates were used to develop a statistical model to predict first floor height above ground for two case study communities, Chesapeake and Hampton.

The resulting geodatabase of elevation certificate-derived data has been made available on the HRPDC’s online GIS data portal, The final report documenting the methods and results is available on the HRPDC’s website at 

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to or







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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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