New Fla. Bill to Toughen Building Codes Circulates

May 25, 2005

With hurricane season beginning June 1, a new bill designed to toughen the Florida Building Code is making its way through both the Florida House and Senate, and is expected to be signed
into law by Gov. Jeb Bush any day.

The bill, HB-835, will eliminate a provision in the existing code, which allows for structures to be built without window protection if certain other building criteria are met. The legislation was inspired by a number of research studies conducted after the 2004 hurricane season. The studies concluded that proper window protection was highly effective but illustrated that the “designing for internal pressures” provision allowed wind and water to enter buildings, thereby destroying contents and creating severe mold problems.

Representative Nancy Detert (R – Venice) and Senator Evelyn Lynn
(R – Ormond Beach) sponsored the legislation and were honored at a recent luncheon in conjunction with the Governor’s Hurricane Conference in Tampa.

Representative Detert accepted a safety award co-presented by the Protecting People First Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving glass safety, and Solutia Inc., a manufacturer of protective interlayers for impact- resistant glass.

Richard Lindstrom, a Floridian who lost his uncle due to wind-borne debris flying through unprotected windows caused by Hurricane Charley, gave the award.

Lindstrom described the tragedy and expressed his gratitude for Rep. Detert’s help in making Florida a safer place to live.

National Hurricane Director Max Mayfield noted, “Florida is entering a period of heightened hurricane activity that could last several decades. Better building codes can help save lives.” Wayne Sallade, emergency manager from Charlotte County, also applauded the work of the legislators. “This legislation provides a safer environment for people who are not evacuated during a hurricane. We need to do everything we can to prevent needless deaths during hurricanes.”

Nanette Lockwood, a professional engineer with Solutia and long-time
advocate for improved building codes, discussed several recent studies that all pointed to the need for mandatory opening protection in the building code.

“If the current Florida Building Code continues to allow the designing for internal pressures as a way to protect homes and businesses,” said Lockwood, “The economic losses from hurricanes will never stop. Once water enters a structure from broken windows, the economic impacts begin. This change was approved in the 2006 International Building and Residential Codes and will now likely become a reality for Florida in the 2007 Florida Building Code.”

But much work is yet to be done, according to Lockwood. Because the current building code only covers new construction and major remodeling projects, approximately 94 percent of Florida’s buildings are reportedly not up to code today. “That’s a pretty grim statistic,” she added.

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