Natural Hazards

, Volume 85, Issue 2, pp 977–1003 | Cite as

Flood loss models for residential buildings, based on the 2013 Colorado floods

  • Derya Deniz
  • Erin E. Arneson
  • Abbie B. Liel
  • Shideh Dashti
  • Amy N. Javernick-Will
Original Paper


Flooding is the most costly natural hazard event worldwide and can severely impact communities, both through economic losses and social disruption. To predict and reduce the flood risk facing a community, a reliable model is needed to estimate the cost of repairing flood-damaged buildings. In this paper, we describe the development and assessment of two models for predicting direct economic losses for single-family residential buildings, based on the experience of the 2013 Boulder, Colorado riverine floods. The first model is based on regression analyses on empirical data from over 3000 residential building damage inspections conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This model enables a probabilistic assessment of loss (in terms of FEMA grants paid to homeowners for post-flood repairs) as a function of key building and flood hazard parameters, considering uncertainties in structural properties, building contents, and damage characteristics at a given flood depth. The second model is an assembly-based prediction of loss considering unit prices for damaged building components to predict mean repair costs borne by the homeowner, which is based on typical Boulder construction practices and local construction and material costs. Comparison of the two proposed models illustrates benefits that arise from each of the two approaches, while also serving to validate both models. These models can be used as predictive tools in the future, in Boulder and other US communities, due to adaptability of the model for other context, and similarities in home characteristics across the country. The assembly-based model quantifies the difference between the FEMA grants and true losses, providing a quantification of out-of-pocket homeowner expenses.


Riverine floods Empirical loss models Assembly-based loss models Residential buildings 



The authors gratefully acknowledge Dr. Leysia Palen, Dr. Leah Sprain, Robert Soden, Claire Chase, Anisha Lamsal, Devin Marsh, and Dr. Bruce Goldstein for their contributions to this research. The empirical data used for model development were provided by Douglas Bausch (formerly of FEMA) and Chris Trice (City of Boulder). We also benefitted from conversations with Bill Boyers at FEMA and Greg Guibert, Boulder’s Chief Resilience Officer. The material presented is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1441263. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural EngineeringUniversity of Colorado-BoulderBoulderUSA

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