The New Data Stack for Flood Peril

When you are in the business of flood science – determining individual property flood risk, calculating premium pricing, evaluating large scale catastrophe peril – your decisions are a function of your analytics and geospatial data.  Analytics and data are connected – new, innovative and pervasive data propels sophisticated analysis; new analytic techniques motivate the creation of new data products.  

If you’re in the flood peril business you are balancing the operations of your business with continuous improvement.  There is no easy button. You’re trying to improve your analytical decision making while finding the data fuel that powers your analytics.  The data wrangling and data sourcing becomes an immense task that takes you and your organization away from creating the new analytical methods that keep you at the top of your industry.  


At BuildingFootprintUSA, we talk to customers in the flood industry who want a few things:
  • They want access to new information and data that support the increasingly sophisticated decision-making that flood peril analytics requires
  • They want to be able to ingest and use the straightforward datasets while exploring the more complex data to understand how best to utilize it
  • They need to see the value points of these new data solutions – new analytics on top of new data should drive lower implementation costs, more accurate peril identification resulting in accurate pricing and protection against unforeseen loss, and higher customer satisfaction

BuildingFootprintUSA is building the New Data Stack for Flood Peril that supports your flood analytics and decision making.  By “Stack” we mean a set of data that you can utilize and implement at your pace – as you want to increase the sophistication of your analysis, you can draw from additional data components on the stack.  

Let’s look at two properties as we understand what the new data stack for flood peril offers you.  These are two typical properties – a higher value residential home on an acre of land, and a large commercial manufacturing facility.  Both of these properties are in areas of growing flood risk.

Typically, flood determination would be relatively simple, being performed in one of two ways.  The parcel of land associated with each building would be tested to determine if the parcel intersects a flood zone, or a basic geocode (street level, postcode level, parcel centroid) would approximate the location of the building and would be used as the testing point.


In one case an overly large approximation is used to make a high value decision; in the other scenario a pushpin generalizes the center of mass of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars of value of a building.

How can our new data stack provide you with the ingredients that you need to make better, higher accuracy decisions?

1. Rooftop Geocoding 

The starting point for the data stack is the rooftop geocode.  If you only use one thing in our data, use this – a rooftop geocode that pinpoints the location of the building.  At the very least you will know that the point falls on the building and not at the side of a nearby street, or at some location tens or hundreds of yards from the actual building.

2. Building Footprint Geocoding 

When you’re ready for improved accuracy, move up to addressed building footprint data.  Our addressed building footprints capture every structure on the property.  If the address that you are testing has a single building, then the building footprint advantage is that you can test the entire building against a flood zone.  If the property has multiple buildings then you can test each building and come up with an individual risk assessment, or an aggregation based on the sum risk of all buildings.

3. High Accuracy Ground Elevation

Highest, lowest and average High Accuracy Ground Elevation are our foundational elements that help you analyze risk through an understanding of relative height.  Using 1 meter DEM data and high accuracy LIDAR data, we come up with the most accurate ground elevations.  Up until now the state-of-the-art for elevation calculations has been lower quality 10- and 30-meter DEM data; you’ll see enormous differences in the accuracy of elevation calculations using this new data.  Analyze a property against historical and modeled flood stage measurements with confidence.

4. Perimeter Ground Elevation

We introduced this new element of the data stack last year and we are still surprised looking at the detail that this dataset conveys.  The concept of Perimeter Ground Elevation (PGE) is that most buildings don’t have a single consistent ground elevation; they are built on uneven ground and one portion of a building may be a few feet or dozens of feet higher or lower than another point on the building.  Analyzing the specific points that are highest or lowest, or that are greater or less than a specific threshold identifies the level of exposure within or across the building.

5. First Floor Elevation 

Eventually you are likely to want to answer the question “if the building has a high level of peril, what is the specific peril for the first floor?”  If so, you’re ready for the next dataset in the stack.  A First Floor Elevation calculation analyzes the building and determines how high the first floor is above the ground level.  Does the commercial building’s first floor sit right on the foundation?  Is the residential building an urban brownstone with a 10 step (8 foot) walkup, or a colonial with 4 steps up to the first floor (2.8 feet above ground level)?  Our First Floor Elevation calculation provides this detail.

6. Flood Modeling 

We are seeing the development of some exciting commercial and open source flood risk models.  You may be interested in developing your own science and analytic process, yet you still want to use an outside model to use as a control.  You might have your own favorite model, and you want to use high accuracy rooftop geocoding and building footprint data as an input.  Or, you may want to defer to the value of a flood risk model that you can trust.  BuildingFootprintUSA supports each of these three options with the new data stack.

7. Digital Elevation Models 

We’re starting to see very exciting science that evaluates properties with respect to their surroundings, including topography.  We have just the data to fuel this science.  We are building a nationwide, curated 1 meter digital elevation model (DEM) dataset that is easy to use and integrate into a business solution.  Interested in determining if a building is in an area that is lower or higher than the surrounding area, or on a convex or concave surface relative to its surroundings?  High accuracy DEM data fuels this analysis.

8. Assessor Data, Occupancy Data, and More!

The last thing on the data stack is the customizable element – whatever you need to finalize your decision making for your specific needs.  Do you want to understand the specific occupancy of the building, whether residential or commercial?  Do you need to validate the value of the building?  Is it important to understand the building permits on the building from the last three years?  We can assist you with the answers to any of these questions?

Learn More About the New Data Stack for Flood Peril

The great thing about this new data stack is that you can pick from the elements based on your business problem, and the advancements that you want to make and that your customers need. We can provide any of the elements to you for your experiments and what-if scenarios. And the exciting thing is that there is more to come - we’re working on the next ingredients that we can add to the stack for the highest decision making for years to come.

Interested in hearing more about what you’ve read?  Contact us at

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