New report outlines measures to protect commercial real estate owners against floods

The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation is aiming to give Canada’s commercial real estate a safe harbour ahead of a growing storm with a new report by Natalia Moudrak and Dr. Blair Feltmate

Report outlines 20 measures that can be implemented by commercial real estate owners and managers to enhance flood-resilience of existing office towers, thereby reducing the potential for property damage, business disruptions and loss of life

Waterloo, ON (Nov. 19, 2019) – As the commercial real estate industry strives to minimize its exposure to flood risk, a new comprehensive report from the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation provides a list of flood-resilience measures that can be implemented by commercial real estate owners and managers to enhance flood resilience and to reduce the potential for property damage, business disruptions, and flood-related injury or loss of life stemming from extreme rain events.

Flooding is the costliest natural disaster affecting Canadians and is the lead driver in rising catastrophic insurable losses for the property and casualty insurance sector in Canada. From 2009 to 2018, insured losses averaged $1.8 billion annually, compared to $405 million annually from 1983 to 2008.

“The commercial real estate sector has fallen victim to the ravages of flooding across much of Canada in recent years,” said Dr. Blair Feltmate, Head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo. “Such extreme weather, driven by irreversible climate change, will only get worse. Fortunately, direction outlined in Ahead of the Storm offers a timely reprieve to stewards of commercial real estate that will help to ensure business continuity despite a changing climate”

Commercial real estate owners and managers, as well as their tenants, are increasingly exposed to impacts of flooding, such as a higher potential for property damage, business disruptions and loss of life. For example, following the 2013 floods in Alberta, between 150,000 to 180,000 people could not access office buildings located in downtown Calgary for approximately two weeks. This resulted in 5.1 million lost work hours, equivalent to half a billion dollars in GDP loss to the province. In August 2018, when a flash flood occurred in Toronto, Ontario, two individuals almost lost their lives as they became trapped in an elevator of a commercial building and nearly drowned as the elevator was stuck at the basement level, full of water.

Examples of the flood resilience measures include:

  • Plans and Procedures: ensuring that emergency preparedness and response plans include flood event procedures and that building operations staff and tenants are annually trained on these procedures.
  • Equipment and Supplies: ensuring that critical equipment and supplies are available on-site to respond to flood emergencies, such as reusable sandbags, submersible sump pumps, portable generators, fuel, portable lights, extension cords, air dryers, air moisture sensors, dehumidifiers, protective clothing, two-way radios, batteries and medical supplies. As well, retrofitting elevators with water sensors that prevent them from proceeding to flood-inundated levels.
  • Major Retrofits: elevating heating, cooling, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, electrical transformers, switchgear and service panels, as well as communication systems above expected flood levels.

The development of the report was supported by Intact Financial Corporation, the Real Property Association of Canada (REALPAC) and the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada (BOMA Canada) and relied on input from a national consultation with commercial real estate owners, managers, institutional investors, asset management consultants, insurance industry representatives and others.

All 20 measures identified in the report are broadly applicable for implementation across office towers in Canada and should be integrated into risk assessment checklists, acquisition and investment questionnaires used by property managers, owners and institutional investors, respectively.

Furthermore, as the National Building Code of Canada is being revised to incorporate climate change impacts, some measures outlined in this report, such as water sensors that prevent elevators from proceeding to flood-inundated levels, should be prioritized for inclusion in code revisions.


“Bigger storms are yet to come. Those are the chilling final words in the Intact Centre’s CRE Flood Resilience Report, which we were pleased to co-sponsor with BOMA Canada. Most of REALPAC’s institutional, public and private company members are leaders in the sustainability space – but even they will have a way to go to fully manage flood and climate hazard risk in their portfolios coast-to-coast. This report is an important step forward in that management process.”
–  Dr. Michael Brooks, Chief Executive Officer, REALPAC

“BOMA Canada’s members are at the forefront of the effects of extreme weather, and the consequences of climate change on commercial real estate has emerged as a key challenge facing our industry.  Building on our own Resilience Brief, we are proud to co-sponsor the Intact Centre’s CRE Flood Resilience Report with our partners at REALPAC. This landmark report is another vital resource to help our membership meet this pressing issue.”
– Benjamin L. Shinewald, President and Chief Executive Officer, BOMA Canada

“We’re in the business of protecting Canadians and we see the effects of climate change on our customers every day. As such, we are focused on finding practical and effective solutions to build a more climate-resilient society. In the same way that the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation has provided homeowners with easy steps to protect their homes from floods, this guideline will help commercial real estate owners and managers protect people and their assets.”
– Charles Brindamour, Chief Executive Officer, Intact Financial Corporation

Report Brochure:

Brochure for Ahead of the Storm

Learn more:

Read the Foreword:

REALPAC and BOMA Canada are pleased to sponsor the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation’s “Ahead of the Storm: Developing Flood-Resilience Guidance for Canada’s Commercial Real Estate” report.

This is Canada’s first guideline for improving the flood-resilience of commercial buildings. REALPAC and BOMA Canada’s collective membership represent the vast majority of large Canadian commercial real estate companies, which face increasing risk due to climate change.

Extreme weather has become the new normal. As we have seen in recent years, flooding, heat waves, extreme heat, and extreme cold events are increasing in frequency and intensity across Canada. Insured losses related to extreme weather averaged $1.8 billion annually between 2009 and 2018. Of these, flooding was the most costly and impactful.

We recognize that climate and resilience are major risk and business issues. Buildings, which persevere through flooding events can eliminate or mitigate risks of physical damage, disrupted business operations and occupant danger. It is therefore imperative that senior leaders recognize the importance of making their buildings as flood-resilient as possible to avoid major future challenges.

Our industry needs to deepen its embrace of proactive adaptation to climate change, rather than simple reaction to the next extreme weather event. This guideline attempts to do just that: equip building owners and managers with best practices they can use to make their buildings more flood-resilient. In doing so, the Intact Centre has consulted numerous stakeholders and experts, including REALPAC and BOMA Canada members, to ensure that this guideline’s contents and its recommendations are the most relevant and impactful to industry. We thank the Intact Centre for its leadership in creating this guideline and all stakeholders who contributed to it.

We hope that this document is shared across organizations, from senior leaders to building operators. Resilience needs to be implemented not only in our buildings, but throughout our industry mindset and culture. REALPAC and BOMA Canada look forward to continuing to support the Canadian commercial real estate industry in strengthening its resilience so that our built environment can continue to prosper.


Dr. Michael Brooks, Chief Executive Officer, REALPAC
Benjamin L. Shinewald, President and Chief Executive Officer, BOMA Canada

Read more in the full report.

About Intact Financial Corporation

Intact Financial Corporation (TSX: IFC) is the largest provider of property and casualty (P&C) insurance in Canada and a leading provider of specialty insurance in North America, with over $10 billion in total annual premiums. The Company has approximately 14,000 full- and part-time employees who serve more than five million personal, business and public-sector clients through offices in Canada and the U.S. In Canada, Intact distributes insurance under the Intact Insurance brand through a wide network of brokers, including its wholly-owned subsidiary BrokerLink, and directly to consumers through belairdirect. In the U.S., OneBeacon Insurance Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary, provides specialty insurance products through independent agencies, brokers, wholesalers and managing general agencies. For more information, visit

The Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation (ICCA) is an applied research centre at the University of Waterloo. The Intact Centre was founded in 2015 with a gift from Intact Financial Corporation, Canada’s largest property and casualty insurer. The Intact Centre helps homeowners, communities and businesses to reduce risks associated with climate change and extreme weather events.

Intact Insurance is Canada’s largest home, auto and business insurance company, the choice of more than four million consumers. Its coast-to-coast presence and its strong relationship with insurance brokers mean the company can provide the outstanding service, comfort and continuity customers deserve. Intact Insurance is a member company of Intact Financial Corporation. For more information, visit

About the University of Waterloo

The University of Waterloo is Canada’s top innovation university. With more than 36,000 students, the university is home to the world’s largest co-operative education system of its kind. The university’s unmatched entrepreneurial culture, combined with an intensive focus on research, powers one of the top innovation hubs in the world. For more information about Waterloo, please visit


The Real Property Association of Canada (“REALPAC”) is Canada’s senior industry association for owners and managers of investment real estate. Our members include publicly traded real estate companies, real estate investment trusts (“REIT”s), private companies, pension funds, fund managers, banks, and life insurance companies, with cumulative real estate assets under management between $600 Billion and $1 Trillion CAD. The association is further supported by large owner/occupiers and pension fund advisors as well as individually selected investment dealers and real estate brokerages. For more information, visit

About BOMA Canada

Comprised of over 3,100 members, BOMA Canada is Canada’s oldest commercial real estate industry association. It’s members own and/or manage over 2.1 billion square feet of commercial space in Canada and include building owners, managers, developers, facilities managers, asset managers, leasing agents, brokers, investors, vendors and service providers. Together with its eleven chapters, BOMA Canada represents the Canadian commercial real estate industry on matters of national and international concern and provides industry-leading programs such as, Canada’s principal sustainability certification for commercial real estate. For more information, visit

SOURCE: Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo

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