RISE and Shine: Resilient Enterprise Solutions

First-of-its-kind Home Raising Academy trains public and private sector professionals

RISE Resilience Innovations
6 min readAug 22, 2022

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With sea levels projected to rise significantly over the next three to five decades, cities in Hampton Roads are exploring various ways to mitigate the impact of increasing flooding. RISE Challenge winner Resilient Enterprise Solutions (RES), a Florida-based company, advocates elevating homes above the threat and wants to help train the workforce to get the job done.

Thanks to a $260,000 grant it received from RISE, RES launched a first-of-its-kind Home Raising Academy. Debuting in 2020, it was targeted to Hampton Roads professionals in both the public and private sector: architects, engineers and general and specialty contractors, as well as city planners and emergency and flood management experts.

“The idea is a holistic approach,” says Christine Fulton, who oversees government and community relations for RES. “We’re really training anybody that touches a building elevation.”

Roderick Scott, Christine Fulton and John Sargent

The Academy trainees were offered scholarships to attend for free, money for which was provided through the RISE grant. The goal was to provide the basic knowledge necessary to the people who could ultimately help the thousands of Hampton Roads homeowners who are at risk of storm and nuisance flooding.

By 2030, $238 million in South Hampton Roads properties are at-risk of chronic tidal flooding, according to The Virginian-Pilot. That’s almost 1,000 homes with nearly 2,000 people living in them and $3.6 million in property tax loss. The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission has issued a recommendation that the region prepare for 1.5 feet of sea level rise by 2050, 3 feet by 2080 and 4.5 feet by 2100.That’s approximately 1,000 homes and the nearly 2,000 people living in them and $3.6 million in property tax loss.

According to FEMA, for every $1 spent on mitigation, you can save $6 on future disaster losses. Elevating a home even one foot above its base flood elevation often results in a 30% reduction in annual premiums, making it the quickest approach to lower flood insurance costs.

“There is such a magnitude of homes that are low lying in the area, we felt that there needed to be a ready workforce developed,” Fulton says. “That’s why we proposed the Home Raising Academy, to professionalize and train those people that will need to participate in this industry.”

The idea stems from a 2018 study RES conducted to determine the feasibility of professionalizing the home elevation industry, according to John Sargent, the CEO of RES. In developing the curriculum, they took a “three-legged stool approach,” he says, tying together financing, reduced price insurance, and maximizing public incentives such as tax rebates and grants.

Academy participants attended two-hour-long sessions virtually over the course of four evenings and were introduced to topics such as project management and superintendent skills, ways to reduce homeowner flood insurance rates, and elevation project funding sources.

Students attend a virtual session of the RES Home Raising Academy

“Then we moved into the concept of outreach because you’re not selling somebody a transaction that is a low risk or low investment thing,” Sargent says. “There really needs to be a long-term education and outreach process to the homeowners, too.”

Elevating a home can cost upwards of $150 a square foot for a full-service project, which includes decking and stairway access to the newly raised home, painting and other finish work, and landscaping. It should take no more than three months, Sargent says. There are a few options for state and federal funding in the form of grants or residents can pay for the work themselves.

The academy curriculum did not cover at length how to raise a home. “We provide the basics surrounding it, but we don’t teach how to elevate a building,” says Roderick Scott, RES’ director of training. “That is really an incredibly unique set of skills.”

A recent addition to the course included the process of making a community elevation ready. “We’re leveraging the lessons learned in places like Louisiana, where they’ve got a system down,” Sargent says, including showing ways to make permitting faster and developing design guidelines that can make flood adaptation look more aesthetically pleasing. They say home elevation should be seen as an opportunity for home improvement, not something to be feared because past examples were ugly. Ultimately, it’s not just about preserving the beauty and value of someone’s home, but also preserving the fabric of the community.

“Without RISE we could not have developed the world’s first Home Raising Academy, period,” Scott says. “It would’ve been very difficult.”

“If you demolish homes, they’re gone. If you move homes, where do you move them? People generally want to stay where they live,” Fulton says.

Sargent says the benefit of home elevation is it keeps communities together.

And while Hampton Roads’ has been spared the kind of hurricane devastation experienced in places like New Orleans, Houston and New Jersey, it’s only a matter of time before the region suffers the impact of a big storm, Scott says. Not only are thousands of homes in harm’s way, but so too is Hampton Roads’ military presence.

“Above everything else, you have to do it because you are the most strategic region in our country,” Scott says. “Your role is to support our nation’s military and their families. … You have to help that community adapt.”

Home elevation is something that can be done proactively before a big storm hits, Fulton says, and in the long run can save a homeowner money and heartache. It is one tool in the toolbox and a practical way to adapt to sea level rise as well as nuisance flooding. But it’s not a one-size fits all approach. Each home elevation project is inherently unique — and it’s not a solution for every homeowner.

“We’re the first to say not everything is a nail and we’re a hammer,” Sargent says. What RES hopes to identify, with the help of floodplain managers, are places where un-elevated homes are likely to experience recurring flooding above the first floor, resulting in thousands of dollars in costly repairs and cleanup. The benefit of a community embarking on more home elevation projects is the cost of doing them will go down as competition ramps up, Sargent says.

Roughly 110 people have attended the Home Raising Academy since its inception two years ago. The last set of classes wrapped up in April 2022. “We’re looking at other markets and other opportunities, as well as staying in Hampton Roads and being able to offer this on a paid for basis,” Sargent says.

They say RISE was a big part of getting the ball rolling.

“Without RISE we could not have developed the world’s first Home Raising Academy, period,” Scott says. “It would’ve been very difficult.”

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