Homes along the coast are built on stilts to minimize potential flooding. Raised houses are more likely to survive floods, hurricanes and other storms because ground-level water passes under the home and around the stilts. The stilts, or pilings, are usually made of concrete, because they take up less space than a full home; this presents a smaller, stronger target for flood waters.
In 2013, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued new flood maps and laws on raising homes out of flood zones. These guidelines were a response to destruction and flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rite and Superstorm Sandy. Some areas, like Galveston, Texas, have historically built homes on stilts while places like Greenwich, Conn. require extensive construction to comply with the FEMA rules.
Building houses on stilts comes with financial, aesthetic and legal issues. Houses on stilts can require expensive upgrades like more extensive plumbing, bigger decks, floor insulation, elevators and multiple stairways. Building contractors and designers struggle to make raised houses aesthetically pleasing. Some builders use breakaway walls to camouflage the pilings. Strong flood waters destroy the breakaway walls, but leave the pilings and home intact. All coastal homes must be up to local building codes. However, these codes are subject to change. Homes can be raised up multiple times at the cost of the homeowner, or the local housing authority can declare the home un-inhabitable.