PCI: Proposed Fla. Building Code Changes Could Weaken Building Standards

September 1, 2004

By changing the wind provisions in the Florida Building Code from the current form to the International Residential Code, regulars could be putting many consumers, especially those in inland counties, at risk by weakening the stringency of wind design provisions in the state, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

“In light of the devastating damages arising from Hurricane Charley, the Florida Building Commission needs to recognize the importance of adequate loss estimations,” said William Stander, the Tallahassee-based regional manager for PCI. “We encourage the Commission to provide the highest of level of cost-effective protection to the largest portion of hurricane-threatened Florida.”

In August of last year, the Florida Building Commission voted to adopt the International Residential and Building Codes with state-specific amendments, which would be enacted in 2005. However, in their current form, the new codes would actually weaken standards in all or part of a number of counties, including the highly populated interior counties.

In a recent letter to the Florida Building Commission, PCI pointed out that even at the lower range of estimates, Hurricane Charley caused hundreds of thousands of claims and billions or dollars in losses. “Unfortunately, events such as Charley are a vivid reminder that probable losses can be real losses, and their likelihood should not be undervalued when we consider the costs and benefits of implementing mitigation measures.”

According to Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) engineers performing structural inspections after Hurricane Charley, buildings that withstood high winds best were the ones that were built under the current Florida Building Code, which went into effect in 2002. PCI supports code modifications proposed by Dr. Timothy Reinhold of the IBHS that would change design criteria by reducing basic wind speed from 110 to 100 miles per hour. This means buildings could withstand basic wind speeds of 110 miles per hour rather than the current 100 miles per hour standard, providing additional protection by requiring buildings to meet more stringent wind provisions in areas where estimated wind speeds are lower.

The current draft requires stronger protection where basic wind speeds are estimated to reach 110 miles per hour. As modified, the stronger wind provisions would become effective in areas where winds speeds are estimated to reach only 100 miles per hour, expanding the areas where more stringent protections would be required.

“The insurance industry has been a long-time advocate for stringent wind provisions in Florida’s building codes and will continue to support these measures because they are in the interest of our customers,” added Keith Lessner, PCI’s vice president of loss control.

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