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Title... Subtitle - Stuff and Things

History ...
of the Florida Building Commission


Topics

Florida Building Commission Statement on Reorganization of State Government Building Construction Programs

History
A Statewide Solution for a Statewide Problem

The Legislature Mandates the Development of a New
    
Building Code System with HB 4181
Foundations
The Code Will Be Supported By Improved Training, Education
     Amendment and Compliance Procedures

Updates and Amendments
Product Evaluation and Approval

Links
Florida Building Commission Website
Building Code Ordering or View the Code Online
Commission Committees
Commission Meetings
Building Code Information System


Related Links
Links page from the Florida Building Commission Website

History


When Hurricane Andrew tore apart South Florida, it exposed more than the interiors of thousands of homes and businesses. The storm also revealed a serious statewide problem: our antiquated system of locally-administered building codes and building code compliance and enforcement.

Thousands of homes and other structures simply didn't stand up to the storm as well as they should have, and the effects quickly rippled out from South Florida to the rest of the state.

Andrew broke all records for insurance losses, and was the direct cause of Florida's worst insurance crisis in history. Insurers suddenly realized that all of their worst-case predictions were grossly understated - Florida was seriously underinsured and overexposed.

In the aftermath, many insurers simply pulled out of Florida and those that stayed felt it necessary to raise rates to staggering new levels in order to avoid the very real risk of sudden bankruptcy following another huge storm. Homeowners all over Florida were affected as they saw their rates rise drastically and found a lack of available new insurance threatening to pull the plug on development in every part of the state.

The secret was out. Building codes and their administration and enforcement was a statewide issue, with statewide implications. Poor compliance or enforcement in a single county could (and did) wreak havoc with homeowners, developers and commercial interests in every corner of the state.

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A Statewide Solution for a Statewide Problem

Andrew was Florida's wake-up call. It was clearly time to begin to make Florida far more resistant to destruction from natural disasters such as Andrew. The manner in which so many neighborhoods had simply blown to pieces drew attention to the building code system. Did Florida need a stronger code? Or was the problem compliance? Subsequent investigation quickly uncovered a pattern of widespread code violations which led to catastrophic structural failures. In July of 1996, the Florida Building Codes Study Commission was established to evaluate the existing system and to recommend ways to improve or reform the system if they found it necessary. During 16 months of study, what the commission found was a complex and confusing patchwork system of codes and regulations developed, amended, administered and enforced differently by more than 400 local jurisdictions and state agencies with building code responsibilities. In the case of Hurricane Andrew, the problem was not weakness in the codes themselves that contributed to the extensive storm damage. Rather, it was the inability to enforce and comply with the confusing system of multiple codes and administrative processes. It had become clear that Florida needed a single, statewide building code system, and the Commission and the Legislature saw to it that Florida would get it.

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The Legislature Mandates the Development of a New Building Code System with HB 4181

The Report of the Building Codes Study Commission made a number of specific recommendations for reforming the building codes system, centered around the concept of a single statewide code. The 1998 Legislature adopted the concept and most of the recommendations as part of House Bill 4181. The law directed the development of the Florida Building Code and instructed that recommendations of the Governor’s Building Code Study Commission be considered during the development.

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Foundations

The Florida Building Code was authorized by the 1998 Florida Legislature to be the sole document incorporating all building standards adopted by all enforcement agencies and state agencies that license different types of facilities.

This code was developed and will be, updated and maintained by a state commission whose goal the law directs to be the consistency of standards throughout the state and full accessibility to information on the standards. The law allows for differences in the standards in different locales based on compelling differences in physical conditions. However, it establishes procedures for administration of the Code at all levels that will constrain unwarranted differences and ensure the availability of information on local differences to all parties throughout the state and nation.

The law established the Florida Building Commission as the body which is responsible for the development of the Code and the other elements of the system which support its implementation. The Commission has 23 members representing Engineers, Architect, Contractors, Building Owners and Insurers, State and Local Government and Persons with Disabilities. The Chairman is Appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the Governor.

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The Code will Be Supported by Improved Training, Education, Amendment and Compliance Procedures

The single statewide Code is the heart of the New Building Code system but it is just one component of an integrated approach to improving the safety and efficacy of the built environment in Florida. In addition to the Code, a networked education and training system and a uniform system for the approval of products statewide will be established for the first time. Also, procedures are established by law for appealing the validity of locally adopted amendments to the Code and local interpretations of the Code to the state Commission and for obtaining binding interpretations of the Code from the Commission. The purpose of these new systems and procedures is to generate consistency in requirements throughout the state. Consistency is necessary for achieving the level of knowledge and skill essential to good compliance with the Code.

Knowledge is fundamental, but compliance with the Code also depends on incentives to adhere to the its requirements. Under the new system, designers and contractors will be penalized for repeated violations of code requirements through assessment of quadrupled re-inspection or plans review fees for third violations of the same requirement. Also, violations of code requirements that pose a significant threat to the health or safety of building occupants or substantial degradation of a building’s systems will subject licensed designers and contractors to fines of between $500 and $5,000, and disciplinary action against their license. All fines and disciplinary action will be recorded on an automated information system for review by permitting jurisdictions.

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Updates and Amendments

By the Florida Building Commission

The Florida Building Code will be updated every three years by the Florida Building Commission. (Please see the following section for discussion on this Commission). The Florida Building Commission may amend the code once each year to incorporate interpretations and update standards upon a finding that delaying the application of the amendment would be contrary to the health, safety and welfare of the public or the amendment provides an economic advantage to the consumer.

By Local Governments (amendments only)

Local governments may amend the code no more than once each six months. However, any local amendment must address a unique local condition and be more stringent than the Florida Building Code. To ensure that the criteria is met, the issues of whether the amendment addresses a unique condition and is more stringent are appealable to the Florida Building Commission. All locally adopted amendments must be transmitted to the Florida Building Commission within 30 days of adoption. The Commission and each local government is responsible for keeping those amendments in a usable format. Adopted local amendments are repealed or incorporated into the code every three years, upon the updating of the Florida Building Code. Local amendments will apply to state or school district owned buildings, manufactured buildings approved by the Florida Building Commission, or prototype buildings approved by the Florida Building Commission. All proposed amendments to the code by either the Commission or a local government must contain a Fiscal Impact Statement.

Interpretations

Interpretations of the Florida Building Code will be made by the local government plans examiner during the plan review process and by the local government building inspector during the construction process. Any disagreement regarding the interpretation will be resolved first by the building official then by a local board of appeal (if one exists) and finally, by appeal to the Florida Building Commission.

Prototype Plans

In order to streamline the permitting process for state- owned buildings, the Florida Building Commission may provide plans review and approval of prototype buildings owned by public entities (e.g., schools, correctional facilities, and state-owned office buildings). Approved prototypes will be subject to permitting and inspections by local government, but will be exempt from the local government plan review.

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Product Evaluation and Approval

All Products must comply with standards established by the code and their use must be approved by the Building Official. Alternatively, certain new products and panel walls, external doors, roofing, skylights, windows, shutters and certain structural components may obtain approval by the commission for statewide use as appropriate.

The Florida Building Commission is developing uniform requirements for product evaluation and approval which will rely upon national and international consensus standards for demonstrating compliance with the Florida Building Code. The Commission will approve product evaluation entities testing laboratories, certification agencies, and quality assurance entities which will have the responsibility of determining products, methods and systems compliance with the code and certifying compliance to the Commission. Once a product, method or system has received Commission approval based on such certification, it can be used statewide as appropriate without further evaluation. A local building official may deny the use of a product if he does so in writing substantiating the fact that the product application is inconsistent with the statewide approval. That denial is reviewable by a local board of appeal (if one exists) and then by the Florida Building Commission. The Commission's statewide approval is also subject to review. A product may be approved for local use only by a local jurisdiction.

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