The island of Kaua’i is working hard to make sure that its oceanfront properties stay safe even as seas rise.

The county now requires that new construction be elevated if it’s vulnerable to 3.2 or more feet of sea level rise by 2100.

“This is saying, with projected sea level rise, let’s take these depths and require the built environment to be elevated,” says planning director Kaʻāina Hull.

He says Kaua’i already had rules in place to prevent building in locations that are rapidly eroding.

But as seas rise, high tides and high waves could flood other areas, too. So the new ordinance ensures that building owners prepare for these risks.

The approach is ambitious. Most building codes in the U.S. are developed using historical flood records. But this rule is based on projected future change.

Hull says it still does not address the growing risk of extreme weather.

“This is on the slow creep of sea level rise,” he says. “It’s not actually going to address some of the most destructive events that we will face in our lifetime, like hurricanes or rain bombs or what-have-you. But we think it’s a step in moving in that direction of using modeled data as opposed to historic data to create a regulatory framework.”

Because coastal communities must prepare for a future that will be different from the past.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media