Solargon Safety:

Structural Insulated Panels, Flood Damage, and Understanding the FEMA ranking system.

Most of us don't think very often about flooding. The ground beneath us is typically nice and solid, the rivers, lakes and beach areas are pleasant places to be, and water is only something that comes out of the tap. That's the extent of it. But too many headlines have described the unexpected, and typically catastrophic, damage which can be caused by flooding. This webpage is devoted to answering your questions about how Solargon structures would perform in a flood event.

Most countries have some federal department or agency in charge of assessing flood risk, and regulating what types of structures can be built in different types of flood-prone areas. In the United States, one of the agencies charged with assessing and regulating flood damage is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

FEMA is most commonly recognized in this country as responding to flood events and other natural disasters. But part of their mandate is to evaluate materials, locations and situations, then write policy based on their findings. One body of policy is a ranking system for various construction materials, based on those materials' susceptibility to various forms of water damage.

Most people are at least functionally aware of what water can do - it can splash, it can freeze, it can exert force on other objects, it can dissolve and carry substances in suspension. But flood waters are different in several aspects. First, the sheer volume involved with flood waters means that potential damage can go way up even when the water isn't very deep. Second, flood waters carry a wide range of materials and objects, ranging from invisible particulates to logs and cars, which can have their own impact on various construction materials. Third, water infiltration can pave the way for future issues with mold, mildew, and freeze damage.

FEMA has considered those additional aspects, and assembled a ranking system for a wide variety of possible construction and household materials. The ranking system is based on a scale of 1 to 5 - 1 being the lowest rating, and 5 being the highest. While a full discussion of all possible materials is well beyond the scope of this webpage, a comprehensive FEMA document is available for download by clicking here.

FEMA has also compiled a comprehensive map of the United States, and determined several different flood risk zones. A full description of flood risks within each zone is much too complex to cover here. For our conversation, just be aware that the material ranking system described above has been paired up with the flood zones, such that certain materials are required, or discouraged, from certain geographical areas based on their resistance to, or susceptibility to, flood damage. A full discussion of flood zones can be found by clicking here.

Back to our discussion of Solargons. The EPA has given the polyurethane foam core material a rating of Class 4, which is the second highest possible rating. More specifically, Class 4 materials are defined as "Resistant to floodwater damage. Materials within this class may be exposed to and/or submerged in floodwaters in interior spaces and do not require special waterproofing protection."

For more information about FEMA, the FEMA flood zone mapping, and the FEMA materials ranking system, please visit these FEMA webpages:
The general FEMA website:
FEMA flood zone mapping: FEMA Map Service Center
FEMA materials classification system: Flood Resistant Materials Requirements