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Architects hope new flood maps help build up their business

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Jack Purvis
Jack Purvis

Many homeowners battered by Hurricane Sandy got some relief last week, when the federal government issued revised, scaled-back flood maps and elevation requirements. For architects working on those homes, it means many long-stalled rebuilding projects may soon pick up.

The new maps shrink the so-called V zones in Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic counties — there areas where homes are most prone to flooding — moving many dwellings to the lower-risk A zones. That likely means simpler, cheaper rebuilding projects and lower insurance premiums, not to mention owners' increased willingness to move ahead after the months of uncertainty that followed the October storm.

"It is good for business, because people are now able to make a decision," said Jack Purvis, state chapter president of the American Institute of Architects. "We've been in limbo for five months since they gave us the first flood maps. People have been waiting for this to happen, so it will actually kick start a lot of construction and a lot of work in the area."

Purvis, whose practice is in the Allenwood section of Wall, has four Shore-area residential projects that will be affected by the changes. While the homes still have to be lifted, he said, they would have required more complex foundation work and special "helical" pilings, which screw into the foundation for added stability.

He estimated one of his projects, in Point Pleasant Borough, will have its costs reduced by about two-thirds. "Now all they have to do is raise the house and extend the existing foundation," Purvis said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency released its new maps June 16. The revisions resulted in reductions in the V zones of as much as 80 percent in the four counties, according to USA Today.

Meanwhile, he said some local governments have addressed another issue in Sandy's aftermath. Towns like Point Pleasant and Manasquan have loosened zoning restrictions for residential heights, allowing homeowners to comply with the federal guidelines without conflict.

Purvis also said he expected the federal revisions to motivate homeowners who still haven't hired an architect. But he also hopes the maps aren't revised further.

"Hopefully, it stays where we're at," he said. "It's the best thing that could happen, to be honest."

Joshua Burd

Joshua Burd

Josh Burd covers real estate, economic development and sports and entertainment. Before joining NJBIZ in 2011, he spent four years as a metro reporter in Central Jersey. His email is joshb@njbiz.com and he is @JoshBurdNJ on Twitter.

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