PCI Claims Hurricane Ivan Proves Need for Tougher Fla. Building Code

September 20, 2004

Last month’s decision by the Florida Building Commission to add more stringent wind provisions to the Florida Building Code was reportedly especially perceptive in the wake of three – and possibly four – consecutive hurricanes.

“When the uniform state building code became effective in 2002, home builders argued that meeting tougher wind standards would be costly and unnecessary for homes in the Panhandle and the west coast,” Keith Lessner, vice president of loss control for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), said. “Hurricane Ivan has proven that all Florida homes should be built to withstand heavy winds, not just those on the coast, and not just those in south Florida. No area is safe from a hurricane.”

The Florida Building Commission last month changed the existing code by requiring residential builders to adopt more stringent standards in areas of the state where basic wind speeds are estimated to reach 100 miles per hour, changed from 110 miles per hour. The move expands the areas of the state where more stringent protections would be required, such as those that were devastated by Ivan. The change becomes effective July, 2005.

Average wind speeds are based on American Society of Civil Engineers maps showing that wind speeds typically become lower further inland, according to Lessner. “By lowering the provision from 110 to 100 miles per hour, more of the state is protected by the tightened standards,” he said.

According to 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.

“The insurance industry took the lead in convincing the Florida legislature of the importance of tighter building standards,” Lessner said. “With more storms like Ivan becoming a possibility, it was a foresighted move.”

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